When I think back to some of my favourite games on the PlayStation 3, one which stands out for me is Portal 2. I still remember the surprise of Gabe Newell coming on to Sony’s stage at E3 2010 to announce the game, while playing through Portal 2 was no doubt one of my best experiences on Sony’s last generation console.
Since then we’ve had a lack of Portal really, however, thanks to Headup Games, PS4 is about to get its own little taste, albeit with a Bridge Constructing twist.
Bridge Constructor Portal does what it says on the tin, it takes the premise of the popular Bridge Constructor games and melds it together with everything we love about Portal, including GLaDOS, portals, propulsion gel, repulsion gel, aerial faith plates, cubes, sentry turrets, acid pools, laser barriers and switch puzzles. Things start out quite simply, with the premise being to get your Bendies (scientists) and their cart from one end of the lab to the other. This is done by building bridges using the supplied material. Generally, this involves using metal poles which you can arrange and support using various methods of structural design, while also having the choice of steel cables to support your structures from above. The method you use just depends on the layout of the level.
As with all Bridge Constructor games, things are easy at first, lulling you into a false sense of security and making you “think this is all pretty easy really,” but oh how wrong you are. As you can see from the video I have edited below of some of my earlier attempts, things don’t always work out the way you’d expect when building your bridge and testing it out. A lot of the time glorious failure awaits, although when things do work out, the victory is all the more sweet for it.
Once you have got used to the premise things really start to kick off thanks to the slow introduction of portals. At first, you’ll use portals to get from one area of the lab to the next, building bridges to help you reach them, however before long other mechanics are introduced, such as switches you’ll need to push to open the gate blocking your path or even multiple portals, which at first confuse matters. Really though it’s all about sitting back, taking stock of the situation you find yourself in and planning out the best way forward. If you do that, then nine times out of ten you’ll get out of the lab and move on to the next.
It’s only when Bridge Constructor Portal kicks it up another notch that you’ll really start to struggle. Suddenly you’ll find yourself having to deal with sentry turrets while having to hit a switch to drop a cube, which will then fly through the air to hit another switch and open the gate, all while having to build the bridges which will create enough traction to fly your cart through the air in a jump to the exit, all while trying to avoid the burning green acid below. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Thankfully, it’s a lot of fun too.
Luckily when you build a bridge you can test it real time. This immediately gives you a clue if it will fall down or not, although it’s not really until you send your first cart over it that you’ll know for sure. To make matters worse, if you really want to prove your building skills then you’ll need to send the convoy over. It’s all very well testing your strategy with one kart, but doing it with five or six at a time is a different matter entirely. If you can’t manage with the convoy, you’ll still get to the next level providing your first cart got to the exit, but you really do want to test yourself, right?
There are some aspects of the game which Portal fans may grumble at, for instance, you don’t actually get to place portals yourself, instead, they’re located in various locations throughout levels, with multiple colours representing each portal, with matching colours interlinking. There is also a lack of the type of humour you’d get in Portal 2, although there are occasional comments from GLaDOS which will bring a smile to your face, both during the levels and within the rare cutscenes. The main premise is the bridge building and obstacle avoiding, so the compromises all make for a better puzzle game anyway.
What I love most about Bridge Constructor Portal is just the experimental nature of it all. You can spend an hour building a bridge only to then realise it’s not going to work. There’s so much to take into consideration, whether it is the simple mechanics of how your bridge will work or the added ‘Portal’ elements which throw a spanner in the works and require you to think outside the box.
Blending the whole game together is a rather impressive presentation. It was never going to be of ‘AAA’ standard of course, but the console version of the game really does a great job of bringing each level to life, allowing you to immediately assess the situation and start making plans to solve the riddle. The 2D plane is clean and crisp and the audio wonderfully presented, even going as far to include the authentic voice of GLaDOS. The Portal assets look fantastic and translate well to this new environment, making it feel like the franchise is meant to be part of the game, rather than just an afterthought.
Bridge Constructor Portal is a wonderful puzzle game. It’s challenging, well designed and it looks fantastic. The Portal elements are integrated as well as can be and the levels benefit greatly from this. It’s hard to find fault. Sure you will get frustrated at times, but that’s all part of the learning curve and so when you eventually do solve the level you’ll be jumping for joy, just like I was when solving those Portal 2 puzzles. I can’t recommend Bridge Constructor Portal highly enough, whether you’re a Portal fan, puzzler fan or just someone looking for something new, it shouldn’t be missed.
*Code was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes*