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Bridge Constructor

Bridge Constructor

Written by Chapel Collins on 9/16/2015 for XONE  
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Bridge Constructor began its life as a mobile app, eventually found its way to PC, and has now its way to the Xbox One. The object of the game is about as simple as it could possibly be. It's a literal "point A to point B" journey, but the road between these points, suspended upon whatever combination of triangles and wires you deem to be the sturdiest, is far more complicated. You're given a few tools with which to repair all of the bridges in the island nation of Camatuga, whose bridges were completely destroyed by a recent earthquake. Each level has a specific set of parameters and a budget that you must follow, limiting your options and forcing you to work with what you have.

As it was once a mobile game, Bridge Constructor has pretty modest visuals and audio. Neither are bad and are perfectly serviceable and inoffensive, though the music could be better. The game begins with the music muted, actually, which I thought was strange, but after listening to it for a while I went back and muted it again. It started to get a little repetitive. The visuals have been remastered in high definition to support being played on consoles, and though they are cartoony and simple, they're nice and colorful and get the job done. The water actually looks really good on some of the levels in the city. The view of your bridge can sometimes be impeded by the borders of the UI, and sometimes your beams aren't as clear as they should be. You have a grid of 4x4 squares that you use to match up your beams, but sometimes the grid can become hard to see when the arrangements of beams get more complex, which is the time you need to see the grid the most. By and large, though, the presentation is fine, if unimpressive.

The first thing that hit me when starting up Bridge Constructor was the almost complete lack of tutorial. Aside from a quick overview of the controls, and a hint telling you that triangles are the best shapes to build, there is very little in the way of instruction. Thinking I missed something, I opened the help window, but it just takes you to the Xbox help. After that, I assumed it would be one of those games that teaches you by showing you different methods of bridge building in the first section of the game, but it wasn't really that either. You are pretty much entirely left to your own devices to figure out how to build these bridges, and, unfortunately, that throws a monkey wrench into the workings of the whole system.

Everything about the game is simple except for the physics of the bridge building. This is a good thing, and no puzzle game should be easy. The only problem is that they're so complicated that you really need some guidelines for what you need to do. The game all too often will spring a level on you requiring a completely new type of bridge that you were previously unaware existed, or an extreme permutation of a bridge you've already made. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. For example, one level requires you to build a suspension bridge to cross. While never explicitly stating this, you are given several clues that lead you to figure it out. The water level is too high to build the necessary beams underneath. You start to look for ways to support it from above, and notice that you can build some steel beams going straight up from a secondary anchor point on each side of the chasm. These two clues will likely lead players to realize they must use these steel beams to run wires to the actual platform of the bridge. These are what the best moments of Bridge Constructor are: moments of innovation, and not moments of fine tuning and tweaking.

There is another side to that coin, however. Sometimes, the direction for the bridge is given in the clues around you, but other times the solution is completely out of left field and unlike any bridge you've ever seen in real life. Other times, you'll know what you need to do, but getting everything situated just right will take multiple trials and errors before solving the problem. There is nothing wrong with trial and error on principle, but the way Bridge Constructor handles it means it's often more frustrating than it is informative. Many of the bridges require a veritable spiderweb of support beams, and if just one of these is out of sync in the slightest bit, it will cause the whole bridge to fail. On principle, not a problem. The problem is that this becomes what you are primarily doing, just tweaking little things here and there rather than actually using critical thinking. In addition, the controls are very imprecise, and for a game that requires such high levels of precision, it will be a source of constant frustration, both mild and severe. It's pretty clear in this way that the game is a port, as it doesn't feel natural on the Xbox controller. The grid does help to mitigate this, as does the fact that weakening beams change from green to red as they get closer to breaking, but it never feels as smooth as it should be.

The last major problem with Bridge Constructor is the pacing. It hurries along too quickly in the beginning, making new players feel lost, but then it hits a plateau not long after that. After you get the last new piece of construction equipment, everything levels off—really even until the final level. The problem with this hearkens back to new problems presenting themselves before players are ready. As it stands, you will have (theoretically) learned everything you need to know by halfway through the second island, and then you spend the rest of the game honing in those techniques. If the first half of the game, or maybe even a little more than that, had been spread out more evenly, players wouldn't feel like the game was always one step ahead of them. The Xbox One version does come with the expansion, SlopeMania, which makes all of the puzzles suddenly much more complicated and over the top. These puzzles, while appealing to the more fun and ridiculous side of the game, are still subject to all of the same problems the core game has.

There's an important thing to note regarding all that, though. Some people may find that sort of on-your-own, figure-it-out approach to puzzle solving to be just what they want. There's nothing wrong with the system; it's just that Bridge Constructor doesn't implement it as well as it could have and should have. Part of me likes the bare-bones, basic mechanics of the game. But another part of me thinks it's too rushed and too vague for the learning curve to be intentional. And it's because of that that Bridge Constructor occupies a weird pocket between the dimensions of real physics-based simulators and little indie games designed to be played for a few minutes at a time. If physics with a steep learning curve is something you want, and you're a veteran of the genre, you may be able to work with the poor controls and user interface to glean some satisfaction from this title. If you're new to the genre, then start elsewhere. There are better games than this that you haven't played yet.

If physics with a steep learning curve is something you want, and you're a veteran of the genre, you may be able to work with the poor controls and user interface to glean some satisfaction from this one. If you're new to the genre, then start elsewhere. There are better games than this that you haven't played yet.

Rating: 6.5 Below Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

One of my earliest memories is playing Duck Hunt on the NES with my older cousin. Pokemon Yellow and Ocarina of Time were the main time sinks of my childhood, and both series remain two of my favorites to this day. Xbox Live got me much more interested in FPS and other competitive and cooperative games, and nowadays I find myself enjoying cooperative games more than any others.

Aside from video games, I spend my free time writing, playing, and recording music and ritualistically binging on Netflix. View Profile