STAFF REVIEW of Bridge Constructor Portal (Xbox One)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Bridge Constructor Portal Box art There’s no denying that Portal is going to stand the test of time and forever be on many top gaming lists well into the future. It’s got such a fan base behind it and has become synonymous with puzzle games. You could seemingly attach its premise to almost any other game and strike gold. Well, someone has already thought of this, mashing up Portal and Bridge Constructor, aptly titled Bridge Constructor Portal. I know for myself, if GLaDOS is included, count me in. Luckily that’s the case here!

Bridge Constructor on its own was an entertaining game, but once you attach a huge license with unique gameplay like Portal, it takes it to a whole new level. Not only must you create structurally sound bridges, platforms and ramps, but now you’re going to have to manage with propulsion gel, turrets, and of course, portals. Simple triangles and engineering won’t be enough to complete your objectives, so bring your thinking hat, because the puzzles here are going to take some serious thinking.

Once again, you find yourself in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, though this time instead of being one of the test subjects, you’re instead a manager of sorts, in charge of ensuring that your subjects get their forklifts to their destinations in each level, though doing so will take some craft bridge engineering skills to complete. You need to make sure your test subjects arrive safe, and to do so it will test all of your portal and bridge crafting abilities.

While the story itself is your standard GLaDOS affair about testing subjects, for science of course, the bridge making aspect does add a neat twist to it. Gameplay is on a 2D playing field, but don’t let that fool you, as each test chamber comes increasingly more difficult and challenging as you progress. While Bridge Constructor Portal may not be narrative heavy, it makes up for it in charm and challenge. It may only be sparse, but the fact that Ellen McLain is once again reprising her role as the iconic GLaDOS brings that extra authenticity, really making it feel like it truly belongs in the Portal universe.

What Bridge Constructor Portal does great is that it blends both games together, nearly seamlessly, forcing you to not only focus on your bridge and platform making abilities, but factoring physics from portals, placing companion cubes on switches, disabling turrets and more. Not only must you factor in all of this, but you also need to make sure your forklift vehicle, on its own set path, makes it out of each test chamber safely. Easier said than done.

Each test chamber has an entrance that your forklift will automatically drive forwards from, as if the gas pedal is stuck, and you’re simply tasked with making sure it gets to the exit tube to reach the next test chamber. Problem is there’s always a gap or some other obstacles in your way that makes that simple objective much more difficult. Your only tools at your disposal are planks (and supports) and support cables. You’re only able to attach to specific nodes, so that’s where the challenge comes in, as you’re restricted with specific points already laid out for you.

Planks can only reach a certain distance, though you can place as many as you wish without limit, so it’s not really a factor. Support cables seemingly don’t have the same restriction, but again, you’re only able to attach to certain nodes. Where the challenge comes in is with the bridge creation itself, as you can’t simply lay out a line of flat planks, as it needs support, like real bridges. This is where triangles become your best friend, as they are the strongest shape you can use to create the support needed to keep your bridge up.

When you’re placing your planks, you’re going to want to angle them and distance them exactly the way you think will work best, the problem is though that getting that perfect angle or length isn’t always as easy or fluid as it should be. You can zoom in, quite close actually, to make absolutely perfect placements, but this requires some getting used to when making fine adjustments. While you’re about to place a plank, it will show you if you’re able to attach to any other points within distance, which allows you to make decisions on how many joints you’ll need for what you’re trying to build.

I found on quite early that the bulk of your gameplay will be trial and error. You’ll have this grand idea for a platform or bridge, create it, only to find out it can’t handle its own weight and buckle, or some other oversight. You’ll see stress points on specific supports and joints if it’s about to break as it turns red, and the smallest change can make a huge difference in not only keeping your structure upright and together, but making sure your test subject makes it to the goal. Luckily there’s no limit to how many pieces you can place, so you can try and make something elaborate, though I found early on that the simpler, the better. Luckily there’s a helpful guide in the menus that will show you the best ways to create supports, and even suspended bridges should you require some tips and best practices.

So you’ve finally built your structure and your forklift has made it to the exit; awesome! Well, that’s only half the challenge, as you can move onto the next test chamber, or you could challenge yourself to send a convoy of vehicles to the exit in succession. Sometimes it’s only 3, other times up to 10 or so. But you’ve already built your bridges and figured out the solution, so what’s so difficult you ask? Well, many of your structures will probably work for about one vehicle, as its weight adds stress to the joints, as I’ve had many fall apart after one or two forklifts cross them. You also need to factor in that vehicles may be crisscrossing in air or on ramps, so some carnage can occur if not setup just right.

Levels start out very basic and quickly ramp up in difficulty, and I mean quicker than landing on some propulsion gel. You simply start getting from A to B, then working with portals, throwing in turrets that shoot on sight, companion cubes for switches and more. Anything you did in Portal will also be included here for the most part. Trial and error is luckily not too difficult to tweak your platforms, as you can make minor adjustments with the press of a button, or completely delete it all and start over from the drawing board if something simply isn’t working.

You’ll be challenged with 60 levels, of which I’m still working on trying to complete, as the difficulty randomly spikes quite harshly. You’ll need to navigate multiple portals pathways, and while it’s not frustrating as some other puzzle games, expect to spend quite a lot of time on a single level trying to figure out the perfect placements and angles for all your platforms. The main issue I found was that the majority of my ‘play’ was the platform creation, not so much the puzzle solving itself. I put more time into trying to perfect my planks and figuring out how to keep them stable, more than solving what I need to do for the test chamber itself.

I was kind of surprised that more materials don’t come into your disposal as you progress. Planks and cables is all you need, so it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make those work for what you’re trying to do so you can get from point A to point B in a very convoluted way. Whoever came up with the idea of mashing up the two games is genius, as it simply works. The bulk of the gameplay is still Bridge Constructor, but the whole Portal element and backdrop adds a whole new aspect to the gameplay.

Sure, having something with more narrative and GLaDOS would have been welcomed, but like most puzzle games, I accept it for what it is, and you’ll get what you want out of it if you’re a fan of the genre. It would have been easy to simply throw a Portal paintjob on top of the base game itself, but they’ve gone beyond, adding many of the core mechanics from Portal and implemented them in clever ways, especially since this is played in 2D. Bridge Constructor Portal feels as though it belongs in the actual Portal universe, and that’s no small feat, even with its high difficulty. Now if you’ll excuse me, I was promised cake.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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