Bridge Constructor Ultimate Edition
Developed By: ClockStone
Published By: Headup Games
Category: Puzzle, Simulation, Strategy
Release Date: 01.31.20
After two expansions and a surprise Portal tie-in, the Bridge Constructor series has come back to its roots for a compilation edition of the core series. Bridge Constructor Ultimate Edition for the Nintendo Switch contains the base game plus the two paid DLC expansions Trains and Slopemania. It also has the free seasonal DLC that’s only accessible at certain times of the year. It’s a pretty dang impressive collection of content that should keep players engaged for hours on end, provided its specific type of challenge is something you’re up for. Personally, I ran hot and cold with it, but let’s get into that in a little more depth.
The base game sees players assuming the role of a bridge architect hired by the government of the Camatuga Islands to, uh, construct some bridges. Yeah, that’s about as deep as the story gets, but it’s a puzzle game not a narrative adventure so there’s no way to hold that against it. Every bridge location has a number of anchor points at which players can begin connecting bridges made of the game’s four construction materials; wood, steel, cables, and concrete. Concrete can only be used at special yellow anchor points, if any are present on the level.
The challenging part of the game comes from the fact that you have several restrictions placed upon you in each level. First, the materials you can use are frequently restricted; some levels will only let you use wood, for example, which is the weakest of the materials you can incorporate into your bridges. Every level also has a budget to which you must adhere. Balancing the strength of your building materials versus the cost of said materials is what facilitates/forces players to use their creativity to bridge the gap in each level.
Fun, Fun, Fun, Til Daddy Takes the Concrete Away
I found myself enjoying the general idea and execution of the game, for the most part, but occasionally I would just get frustrated by the many restrictions placed on some levels. I’d feel like I was just one small support away from a stable structure, but the budget wouldn’t allow for it, or I’d feel like I’d just need a cable, which can stretch the farthest and costs the least of any material, but the level limited me to just wood and steel or concrete or whatever. Having my access to materials limited was more frustrating than a small budget because I couldn’t really see a reason to do so. Why introduce all these materials if they’re arbitrarily unavailable for half the game? The budget alone would have been sufficient for the game to remain both fun and challenging.
Measure Twice, Truck Once
There are three ways to test your bridge. You can choose to run cars, trucks, or eventually even bigger trucks across your bridge when you think you’ve built something stable. Before you run anything across, you can view a stress test and see where your bridge is under the most pressure. If you’ve got too much weight pressing on one point, you know your bridge is likely to collapse under heavier weight. Cars are the lightest vehicles, obviously making them the easiest vehicles to get across. Trucks are heavier, with the tanker trucks obviously being the heaviest. You get points at the end of each level based on the amount of money you have left over and the heaviest vehicle which you tested on the bridge. You only need to get cars across to advance to the next level, but I always felt like a failure unless I could get the trucks across. You gotta have pride in your work.
Expand Your Portfolio
The game’s two expansions introduce new elements into the game that make for additional challenges. Trains introduces, well, trains into the equation in the place of cars and trucks. Trains are, believe it or not, generally heavier than cars and trucks, so building a bridge that can support them requires all of your bridge-building prowess. Slopemania introduces the concept of hills into the game, which are conspicuously absent in the base game. Connecting bridges on different levels requires different strategies and support frameworks than building a straight-across bridge, so it’s a pretty neat and somewhat subtle change to the gameplay that still feels rewarding.
I’m No John A. Roebling
My quibbles about access to building materials notwithstanding, I did generally like my time with Bridge Constructor Ultimate Edition. The game looks presentable enough; certainly it’s not at the pinnacle of graphical achievement, and being a few years old puts it even farther behind in that category, but anyone would be hard-pressed to say it looks bad. The graphics are good enough that they don’t detract from the game’s main strength; it’s a pretty original idea for a physics-based puzzle game that is very well-executed (again, minus my one complaint about overbearing limitations). Most crucially, the physics system always feels consistent, and failing to do that has been the death knell for so many similar games. If you enjoy laid-back, physics-based puzzles, Bridge Constructor Ultimate Edition should be pretty high on your list.
Buy Bridge Constructor Ultimate Edition
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.