Valve’s Portal series is one that most Nintendo gamers likely never expected to see on their console, yet here we are with an oddly inventive spinoff that makes a surprising amount of sense. Bridge Constructor Portal is a puzzle game at heart, though here it trades first-person shooting for a more methodical approach that employs many similar mechanics. The end product is something that doesn’t quite hit the same highs as the series it was inspired by, but still does a great job in its own right.
Gameplay in Bridge Constructor Portal is simple, though not easy to master. You’re given an infinite amount of girders and cables, and must build bridges that are stable enough to guide a forklift (or many) through all manner of hazards. Each stage gives you a limited number of anchor points to work with, and as you work your way through the 60 stages, you must become increasingly more creative in your approach. If you fail - and you will fail a lot - it’s a simple matter of making adjustments to the construct and hitting the drive button again to see if you can scrape by this time.
Bridge Constructor Portal excels in teaching you the relatively complex mechanics of this through a well-paced tutorial that ensures you’ve properly learned the concept. Though objects will remain static when you’re in build mode, physics are applied as soon as you test it with a forklift, and any flaws in your design will likely result in watching the forklift careen into an acid pit. Regardless of how many girders or cables you throw at it, a poor design will always result in this outcome, which means you must apply basic architectural techniques and think about things from a problem-solving perspective. If this engineering mindset doesn’t come naturally to you, a handy guide is always available to explain some broad techniques that will likely help. This helps to make the game much more accessible to players of all skill levels, and we appreciated that the game doesn’t rush the player, but also doesn’t coddle them.
Though the levels are straightforward at first, it doesn’t take too long for all sorts of obstacles from the Portal games to be introduced. Things such as propulsion gel, sentry drones, weighted companion cubes, and the titular portals are all present and accounted for, and the game makes sure to take time to introduce each new concept in a measured and manageable way. Even so, later stages are a little busier than we’d like, and they can tend to cross the line into tediousness. In a game as finicky as Bridge Constructor Portal, too many disparate obstacles can prove to make stages drag on; while earlier stages only take about ten(ish) minutes to clear, later ones can take upwards of an hour.
This tediousness extends to the building of the bridges as well, and though it isn’t game breaking, it can be frustrating in longer play sessions. You can switch between button and touch controls at any time, and both are completely adequate, but the issue lies in how many separate actions you have to make in building a bridge. Zooming the camera in and out to select nodes, swapping between materials, connecting girders to supports, etc. all require precision that’s not quite as intuitive on a console as it would be with a keyboard and mouse, and the sheer volume of ‘clicks’ required can be tiresome. Though it’s serviceable, and you quickly build up a sort of muscle memory that helps speed things along, there’s a lingering sense that things are taking longer than they should because the control inputs aren’t suited to the game.
Another, less important, aspect of the game that we found disappointing is the rather halfhearted usage of the Portal license. Granted, one can only expect so much out of a simple puzzle game centered around a basic premise, but it still feels as though the Portal aspect of the game is a bit of an afterthought. The half-hearted jokes don’t land quite like they did in the original and though Ellen McLain does a great job reprising her role as the cold and snarky GLaDOS, the overall experience feels like it wouldn’t be very different if the Portal wrapping was taken away. Once more, this doesn’t necessarily detract from the game, but it feels like there was a missed opportunity here.
Bridge Constructor Portal is a fun and engaging puzzle game that does a great job of appealing to players of all skill levels while offering a relatively hefty amount of content. Though it sometimes feels like an awkward port and it doesn’t always make the most of the crossover potential, it gets the core mechanics of puzzle solving right, and there’s more than enough quality here to satisfy those looking to scratch that itch on the Switch. We’d give Bridge Constructor Portal a strong suggestion to anybody looking for a fun puzzle game on the eShop; this is a game that constantly makes you think outside the box, and there’s nothing else like it available at the moment.