GLaDOS’ style of personnel management might be mean spirited, but it gets the job done… most of the time. Sure, there’s the odd bad apple intent on spoiling her experiments, but she can always try and try again to get those results. While there’s no sign of a third mainline Portal game, her influence has occasionally spread outside of Valve’s internal studios. There were the levels and seemingly canonical story in LEGO Dimensions as the most notable example, but now she’s back for more fun with portals and poorly constructed bridges.
Bridge Constructor Portal is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s Bridge Constructor mixed with Portal. At its simplest, you need to build a basic bridge between two fixed points, positioning struts in a manner that creates a self supporting bridge and lets little cars head safely across to get from A to B. At it’s most complex, you’re building ramps, having to stave off collapse as a convoy of cars hit a particular spot, and use elements of trial and error to find the best structure.
Throw Portal into the mix and you have cars driving into portals and being spat out in completely different parts of the level, speed up gel, bouncy gel, turrets, companion cubes and more to worry about. It takes Bridge Constructor and throws a ton of new and interesting variables into the mix, introducing them gradually over the course of its 60 levels. The first ten or so levels race through the fundamentals, with GLaDOS pestering you along the way in her usual manner, and accepting the conceit that entrance and exit portals need to be similarly colour coded in order to let you deal with your crippling lack of clairvoyance. Sadly the one trick the game doesn’t give you is the ability to place portals, you’re restricted to just the bridges.
Some of the scenarios are really quite tricky, with paths that criss-cross back and forth, requiring you to trigger buttons and doors, dispatch turrets and more, so it’s understandable that the game keeps the passing grade quite low. All you need to do it get one truck from start to finish, meaning that your shonky construction can collapse as it drives over and still get to the exit. This unlocks the next level, but if you want to prove your mastery, you can send a convoy of vehicles through and cross your fingers that your design holds up. While the game counts how much you’ve been spending and suggests that you want to keep this as low as possible, there’s no pay off to this, no incentive not to over-engineer your bridge.
Constructing is relatively straightforward, regardless of your platform. On phone or tablet it’s tapping and holding to interact with the joints of your construction, while on PS4 it’s sticks and buttons and a healthy dose of snapping to interactive points. Before sending trucks across, you can switch to a test mode that simply applies physics to the world to check that your structures can support their own weight. As stresses are applied, the elements closest to breaking start to glow red, indicating where you might need to shore things up and strengthen.
The game looks pretty great and feels at home on smartphone and tablet – an iPhone 8 and an iPad Mini 2 respectively – but it doesn’t seem to make good use of the PlayStation 4 Pro’s extra power. It doesn’t seem to run at 4K, or at least some of the art assets like the silhouetted Portal characters haven’t been pushed to that resolution, but then there’s also some noticeable screen tearing when panning around the level with the camera. It’s a touch disappointing, but hardly a deal breaker when the art style nails the look and feel of the Portal universe in a pleasing fashion.
I do feel that GLaDOS might be starting to wear a little thin as a character. She’s snarky and her dialogue can put a smile on your face, but after a while I was just skipping past to get to the puzzles. Portal 2 tried to add to the character, putting her in peril, making her almost empathetic in a way, but it likely won’t be until a potential Portal 3 that we see her evolve further.
The Bridge Constructor series gets a lot out of being combined with Portal, resulting in a quirky and engaging new twist on this physics-based puzzler. It could have gone further, whether upping the challenge you can aim for or actually giving you the portals to play with, but what’s here is pleasingly inventive and has more than few tricky brain teasers.
Versions tested: PlayStation 4, iOS