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Review: Bridge Constructor Portal – Solid physics puzzler mash-up

Developer: ClockStone Games
Price: $4.99/£4.99
Size: 157MB
Version: 1.1
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Bridge Constructor Portal

Bridge Constructor Portal mashes together two very different video game properties in ClockStone’s mobile-focused Bridge Constructor and Valve’s hit Portal games for console and PC.

Both could loosely be described as physics puzzlers, but that’s about where the common ground ends. Despite this fundamental disparity, though, there’s a distinct sense of harmony to Bridge Constructor Portal.

Support struts can be changed to roads with a touch

It’s Bridge Constructor that lays down the solid foundations for the game, with Portal on hand to provide a slightly exotic flavor – not to mention a welcome dollop of humor – to each level.

As a new Aperture Science employee, your job is to build a series of bridges and supporting structures to enable a forklift truck-full of live test subjects to get safely from one side of the room to the other.

You can test that your bridges stand alone before starting

Building those structures is a simple matter of touching and dragging out girders and cables through a basic UI. These components readily affix to one another, and to each level’s smattering of anchor points.

You’ll need to observe the limitations of basic real-world physics, or your hastily built bridge will fall to pieces as soon as it’s subjected to the rigors of gravity and load. There’s a handy guide to basic bridge building principles in the menu, but much of it is pretty logical stuff – spread the load through multiple struts and anchor points, try to build in triangles for added rigidity, and so on.

There’s always a list of bridge building principles to hand

Portal provides the darkly whimsical setting for these experiments, with psychotic computer GLaDOS providing instruction in dispassionately menacing fashion. More importantly, it provides some of the wonderful gadgets from Valve’s brain-warping sci-fi world.

Chief among these, of course, are the portals themselves. Pretty soon you’ll need to reroute your test subjects through colored warp gates, jumping them across the level in an instant. They will retain any momentum carried through, setting up some irresistible moments where you have to build jump ramps or construct a means to manage the descent of a free-falling fork-lift truck.

Turrets, comparison cubes and catapults are all here

You’ll also encounter murderous gun turrets that need to be knocked out from behind, companion cubes that need to be redirected onto switches, and catapults and bounce pads that introduce unpredictable propulsion to many of the 60 levels.

It all hangs together very well indeed, even if we found ourselves quietly hankering for the ability to manually add portals of our own.

Portals introduce criss-crossing paths

Such an expansive feature would doubtless break Bridge Constructor’s rigid, occasionally brittle framework. Indeed, the tougher levels here can become rather laborious as you constantly iterate on a single idea. You’ll spend a lot of time adding or subtracting individual components, or moving them slightly in a bid to subtly shift the balance.

Bridge Constructor Portal’s controls, too, can be a little fiddly on iPhone. We found that we often needed to pinch-zoom into individual sections to get the required precision, as the game’s semi-automated anchor point lock-in system is a little flaky in the default view.

Joining anchor points is easier when zoomed in

But those are as much quirks of the Bridge Constructor formula as outright flaws. You’ll need a certain temperament to fully enjoy Bridge Constructor Portal, and a willingness to fail repeatedly as part of the creative process. It’s not built to supply quick and easy thrills, despite its breezy presentation.

If you can live with its cycle of iteration and repeated failure, though, Bridge Constructor Portal is a thoroughly absorbing physics puzzler with a welcome dose of imported charisma.