Engineering simulators need to walk a fine line between education and enjoyment. After all, engineering isn’t what most would call an easily accessible discipline. To turn the basic tenets of math and physics that lie at the core of the engineering sciences into a fun game on any platform, is no easy feat.
Some of the best engineering sims — Kerbal Space Program comes to mind — are enjoyable precisely because they’re educational. Players can learn about the fundamental forces that tie our universe together. Some of the worst engineering sims — and no names will be revealed — are unenjoyable because they rely too heavily on engineering. No one wants to sit through hours of drafting meetings during a video game. And then there are some engineering sims that are boring because they don’t inject enough science into the fray.
Anyone can build bridges out of imaginary bricks and mortar, but if there’s no physics to complicate matters, what’s the point?It’s in that mix of engineering and enjoyment that ClockStone Software’s Bridge Constructor Portal truly shines.
It’s a game that speaks to the core principles of bridge design — even offering quick lessons on concepts like angles of incidence and reflection — while providing players with the kind of dopamine-triggering gameplay we’ve come to expect from video games. Make no mistake, Bridge Constructor Portal is a video game first-and-foremost, but it shines because it faithfully upholds the values of it eng-sim roots.
What then of gameplay? Players take on the role of a new employee at the Aperture Science computer-aided Enrichment Centre tasked with building and testing bridges. Over the course of 60 levels that slowly and steadily increase in difficulty, players will be forced to use walkways, platforms and joints to deal with obstacles like lasers, walls of blue beaming light, lava and, of course, portals.
As an engineering sim, the game is relatively straightforward and that’s partially why some players will be drawn to this title. All you really need to do is build bridges that don’t fall apart, while remembering that the triangle and its associated shapes are nature’s sturdiest creations.
Granted, it’s the game’s Portal theme that sets Bridge Constructor Portal apart from its eng-sim siblings, as well as the other titles in ClockStone’s Bridge Constructor series. In many ways, the Portal elements are just a fresh coat of paint on an already enjoyable series.
But the addition of characters like GLaDOS — a merciful shortening of Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System — who serves as the game’s narrator and is fully voiced by series staple Ellen McLain, as well as the dark comedy that the Portal franchise is known for, keep this latest bridge-building entry fun and fresh.