I have played an awful lot of building games. Ever since Armadillo Run awakened something in me with its physics-based armadillo manoeuvring, I’ve had a fascination with physics in games. I’ve played Elefunk, which was about building bridges for elephants to walk across, and World of Goo, which was about building bridges out of goo, among many others. What I haven’t played before, however, is a game about building bridges to help survivors in a post-apocalyptic wasteland avoid and/or crush undead walkers.
Enter Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead, which is exactly that. It’s a novel combination of ideas, and it’s one with obvious promise – after all, the best way to deal with hordes of the undead is to avoid them and bridges seem like a good way to do that. Exactly how you’d be building them without falling into said horde is anyone’s guess, but let’s ignore that in favour of some physics-based puzzling.
The Bridge Constructor side of the game is exactly as you would expect if you have any experience with the series or genre. You have a side-on view of a gap or hole that your characters need to get across and a selection of materials with which to build. The building is simple enough, using anchor points as a foundation and building up supports for your path until it looks solid. Then you press play and it falls apart under the weight of your stare and you realise you need to redo it all. That’s just part of your process, of course! Once you’ve fixed things up a bit, your characters make it to the other side and you move on to the next level. You can also aim for more than mere survival and try to ace each level, ensuring you don’t use too many materials and go over the maximum cost for them. Not meeting those requirements won’t stop you progressing, but might stop you from bragging about it.
There’s a few control niggles, but nothing so bad that you can’t learn to live with in ten minutes as you get to experience some surprisingly varied puzzles. One level you might be dropping a container on some walkers, the next you could be collecting petrol for a car, or building an actual bridge for that car to cross a canyon like it’s classic Bridge Constructor.
Where BCTWD differs from the series’ norm, however, is that you have a small group of characters to guide through the levels, and the walkers that are everywhere. The group mechanics are particularly interesting. Each character has particular abilities, such as Daryl being able to shoot his crossbow, and this offers yet more opportunities for challenging puzzles. You’ll often have multiple characters doing different things at the same time or, more likely, at carefully staggered times to enable what can only be described as a comedy of successes.
These include things like shooting Daryl’s crossbow at a zombie to knock it into a platform which then breaks, releasing a barrel that rolls towards a character, who is already running and gets over the hump in my bridge just in time for the barrel to bounce off it, over him, and into the small group of walkers that were inches away from a delicious meal. It’s moments like these, where the combined efforts of multiple characters have been carefully timed and your constructions are finely tuned, that Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead shines.
Unfortunately, the rest of the game feels a bit bland. The cartoon aesthetic makes it looks like any one of a hundred mobile games, though it’s admittedly one of the better looking examples of this. The music is a bit dull too, to the point where I eventually turned it off and played my own songs in the background. Worst of all, though, is the dialogue.
The story itself isn’t anything worth paying attention to beyond the setup for the level you’re about to complete, but the dialogue is difficult to even bare. Whilst most of the characters, including Daryl and Michonne from the show, are forgettable at best, Eugene – also from the show – comes across as someone with a thesaurus pretending to be clever. That might be fitting, but it’s impossible to take seriously because it is far too over the top. The result is cutscenes that begin a little dull and ultimately start to grate on your nerves, so you just skip them instead.