Bridge Constructor Portal (Switch eShop) Review
Take Bridge Constructor, put it within the Portal franchise and you get the obviously-named Bridge Constructor Portal. Portal is a series that hasn’t existed on a Nintendo platform (outside of a table on Pinball FX3), and it has traditionally been a first-person puzzle game, using portals to overcome obstacles. Bridge Constructor- style games have more often been about making bridges across large gaps, making the most of anchor points and limited resources to make a bridge capable of holding vehicles of varying size. So when you mash the genres together, does it hold up or fall apart, like so many poorly build bridges I made over the course of the game.
The Bridge Constructor part of the game has you building bridges (just like the title of the game suggests!). Armed with as many girders and cables as anyone could ever need, you’re only limited by space and the anchor points you can build from. You are a random Aperture Science employee, and your job it is to get forklifts with passengers from point A to point B. Across 60 levels you’ll encounter all sorts of elements from the Portal games – the titular portals, sentry drones, companion cubes, propulsion gel, faith plates and more. If you’re worried about not knowing enough about Portal, the game does fill you in on what everything does. At the beginning of levels that introduce new concepts, GLaDOS, the primary antagonist from Portal, appears giving you advice (and a little snark).
The game is good with getting you used to the basics of bridge building quickly before it starts throwing more and more elements from Portal. Early on, it’s simple bridges and guiding your forklifts through portals. Mid game is where it becomes a lot more challenging. I found puzzles taking up to half an hour when the solutions weren’t as obvious. The puzzles begin demanding a higher level of precision. You have to make sure you’re keeping momentum, not clipping obstacles, and that your forklifts are hitting each other as they’re shot around the level. By the last third of the game, all the different mechanics have been introduced and you’ll find yourself building more complex structures as the game throws more busywork at you. In some cases, the game just throws more of everything at you and while it’s a great feeling working out what you need to do, it’s another matter actually putting it together.
The more complex levels can easily exceed that half hour point. The more girders and cables there are, the more frustrating it is having to tweak the smallest thing – you know what you need to do, but it all falls apart as soon as designs are off by the tiniest fraction. Sometimes I found the game’s physics tended to change between runs, and on more than one occasion my forklift would fail one time, whereas another it would make it. It becomes worse when you’ve been spending so long and there so much going, it’s hard to pinpoint the one tiny adjustment that turns it all around.
Most of the puzzles are fun. Sometimes, it’s a relief to just be able to get one forklift with enough speed to jump a ramp, bounce on the gel to the right platform, knock over the sentry drone and land in front of the level exit. The real test of your building skills is to allow a convoy of forklifts to navigate your hellish construction. If you’re lucky your bridge holds up. If not, everything will fall apart and forklifts go everywhere. It’s a satisfying sight to see 5 forklifts narrowly missing each other in a delicate ballet taking place in a test facility where the wrong move can have you barrelling into a laser beam. It’s also fun seeing it all come undone.
With so many levels, some taking up to an hour to solve, there is a lot of gameplay here. I had a good time for at least three-quarters of the game, and that took a fair time to run through. Not everyone coming into this is necessarily going to be Portal fans, but for fans of Bridge Constructor games, it has a lot of new challenges to offer. A lot of levels play on mechanics that you don’t find in bridge building games. It’s great if you’re looking for a change to the formula, and it’ll be interesting to see if there are other mashups in the works (psst Headup games, please get to work on Jurassic Park Bridge Constructor)
For Portal fans, it’s a mixed bag. The obstacles and mechanics that are pulled from those games work well in another puzzle setting. If you’re looking for a GLaDOS, with funny and menacing dialog as you work on your bridges, you won’t find it here. While the game has nailed the look of Portal and successfully combined it with bridge building, it has done so at the cost of its soul. It may be asking a bit much to have a game of this genre slowly peel away the façade of a clean test chamber, to reveal something more sinister. You get nothing; GLaDOS serves as little more than a tutorial to explain new mechanics at the beginning of a level. There is music reminiscent of those games and the game definitely looks the part, it’s just such a shame that the personality of the Portal series is known for isn’t present too.
You can play by the joy con or by using the touchscreen. When using the Switch in handheld mode the transition is seamless. I found the touch controls work alright, although I found the game can get a bit confused between zooming in/out when you have other objects to manipulate. Using a combination of the joy cons and the touchscreen worked best to keeping everything running smoothly.
Looking across the different digital storefronts, I have found that Bridge Constructor Portal is the most pricey on the Switch (at least in Australia). This is disappointing as this version doesn’t appear to have any extras over any of the other versions. Even portability isn’t an excuse when the cheapest version can be found on mobiles. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for the game to be the most expensive on the Switch. If you’re on the fence about the game, it’s definitely worth waiting for it to go on sale.
Bridge Constructor Portal is a fun puzzler. There’s plenty for bridge building fans and if you’re missing the Portal series there is enough of the aesthetic here to enjoy. While not everything from Portal makes it over here, it’s good to see the GLaDOS is still alive, and the mashup of games really does make a good fit. I would have given the game four out of five, but the price of the game on Switch compared to the mobile versions is nearly triple the price without justification. If you can overlook the price differences, it really is a good game and will keep you busy while we wait for Half-Life 3.
- Portal's obstacles and mechanics keep things fresh
- Interesting Puzzles
- Plenty of content
- Most expensive version
- Later levels involve lots of building for little reward
- Strips Portal of its personality