Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bridge Constructor Review (XONE)

When the endless sea of indie 2D platformers gets you down, occasionally something different comes along to snap you out of your doldrums.  This week’s shining beacon of indie innovation is Bridge Constructor – a physics-based puzzle game where you build bridges.  A fantastic concept, right?  Too bad the execution is a little weak.  See all of the details in our full review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Headup Games
  • Developer: Clockstone Studio
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: Building / Puzzle
  • Pros: Satisfying when everything works; easy to use interface
  • Cons: Not a lot of room for experimentation so it gets old
  • MSRP: $10

Bridge Simulator is exactly what the name implies.  You build 2D bridges and then test them out by having cars and trucks drive over them.  You build and test and build and test until the vehicles can pass safely.  Each level has a slightly different layout of anchor points and spans to cover, budget, and different materials to use to build, so every level is a new and interesting challenge.  The Xbox One version of the game also comes with a SlopeMania expansion, which adds much more difficult levels with more extreme elevation changes.

Gameplay is surprisingly simple here.  The game is viewed from a 2D “side scroller” angle, and the building mode is set up in a grid pattern.  You start by placing a piece on an anchor point, and then continue building from there.  The physics are actually fairly realistic, so real world knowledge of construction and engineering actually does help quite a bit.  The game does a great job of showing you how weight is transferred through your structure, but knowing how to fix it is where the challenge comes in.  Each level only gives you a limited budget for materials, and some levels only let you use certain materials.  You start our with wood and then move on to steel beams and eventually concrete pillars and cables and figuring out how to use them properly is all part of the appeal.

My main issue with Bridge Constructor, however, is that there really isn’t any room to actually have “fun” with the game.  The best solution to pretty much every level is to be as straightforward and simple as possible.  You never, ever, ever have enough budget or materials to actually build anything crazy or interesting, so the game starts to lose its luster fairly early on.  There is so much potential here to just goof off and build crazy stuff to send cars flying all over, but the game doesn’t let you do it.  A sandbox mode or creative mode or something would have gone a long ways towards making Bridge Constructor more enjoyable in the long term.  As it is, you get tired of it pretty quickly, which is a shame.

Presentation here decidedly bare bones.  The game was originally a mobile title, and those roots still show here on Xbox One.  The menus are simple and clunky, the in-game graphics are bland, and there isn’t much variety to the environments.  The sound is also very understated and in a bizarre move, the game starts with menu music disabled so you boot the game to total silence.

When it all works out Bridge Constructor can be pretty enjoyable and you’ll want to love it, but the game just doesn’t ever give you the freedom to really go crazy and have real fun with it.  The $10 price tag is also a little steep for how simple and bare bones everything is.  All of this adds up to a game that isn’t bad, but is also hard to fully recommend.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.