Aperture Science technology adds some crazy paths to victory in this smart puzzle game.
As a puzzle game, Bridge Constructor Portal comes as a breath of fresh air. Its Lemmings-like rules are simple and intuitive, but mesh together to create a lot of interesting depth and challenge. Plus, getting to revisit Aperture Laboratories in some form for one of the few times since 2011’s Portal 2 was a welcome treat.
The dubious science to be done in Bridge Constructor Portal involves safely guiding a vehicle with its gas pedal permanently floored across a set of clever obstacles to an exit point using metal girders and suspension wires to – as the name suggests – construct bridges. The challenging part is that the bridges, ramps, and towers you lay down can only attach to the level at set anchor points, and the realistic physics system requires that you distribute weight efficiently so that they’re able to hold up under stress.
Portals create some really crazy paths to victory.
The major twist separating it from previous Bridge Constructor games is, unsurprisingly, that many levels include paired sets of portals through which you can hurdle cars and other puzzle-related objects (such as the trusty companion cube), preserving their momentum. Especially in the later levels, they create some really crazy paths to victory that involve precisely tilted ramps and overlapping lanes of travel where you have to time everything just right if you don’t want your test subjects colliding with each other in a giant fireball.
While some of the harder puzzles are nothing short of mind-boggling on first glance, Bridge Constructor Portal allows you an unlimited number of dry runs to try and get it right. This creates a satisfying progression, as you can focus on just getting the first part of the track sorted and then troubleshoot in steps. I always felt like I was making progress towards a solution, even when everything was going up in flames, and reaching the end of a level left me with a strong sense of satisfaction that was the culmination of many tweaks and “A-ha!” moments.
Convoy mode earns you the ultimate bragging rights.
There’s also a clever mechanic for scaling difficulty, in that each level can be completed either with one vehicle or a longer convoy of them. The added weight of multiple cars means you have to build your structures more solidly, and there’s often a risk of collisions on levels where reaching the goal involves crossing through the same lane more than once in different directions. You can progress to the end just fine in single-vehicle mode (which is still appropriately challenging), or choose to try to clear convoy mode for the ultimate bragging rights.
The portals could get a bit frustrating on levels that involved more than a few color-coded pairs, though. There were a couple instances where I had to really zoom in and squint to tell the difference between yellow, light orange, and a slightly lighter shade of orange – and I’m not colorblind. But if you are, you’re going to have an even worse time because there isn’t any kind of colorblind mode. I was also a bit disappointed that the portals are always static, and there aren’t any puzzles that involve placing them like you can in the first-person Portal games.
The aesthetic and sound design is very reminiscent of those classics, right down to Ellen McLain enthusiastically reprising her role as GLaDOS. The humor doesn’t quite hit the mark, however. It’s more like a cover band playing the hits than a new album. We’re presented with the predictable callbacks to Cave Johnson’s exploding lemons and GLaDOS’ thinly veiled disregard for human life, but nothing stood out as more than a quiet chuckle moment. On the other hand, the music is great and the levels look very crisp and detailed for such a simple, lightweight puzzle game.