Bridge Constructor

Physics-based puzzle games are a thing that, in my opinion, the Xbox One is sorely lacking. Yes, there are kitschy iPhone games for that sort of thing, but developers should be able to do so much more using a console. I wanted Bridge Constructor to help fill the dearth of solid, physics-based building games. While I wasn't expecting the same level of detail as in a simulator (like West Point Bridge Designer), I did hope that Bridge Constructor would keep the fun of building bridges that are so complicated, so over-designed, that they work despite being physically unfeasible. Unfortunately, instead of a quirky physics game, Bridge Constructor is a slow, awkward puzzle game that should have stayed on the small screen.

There are really two big problems with Bridge Constructor that I'll go into, but both of them combined unfortunately greatly outweigh the few positives that the game has going for it.

The first major issue is controls. The cursor almost feels like it gets stuck in one place, completely unwilling to move until you jerk the thumbstick right over, and then the cursor goes flying halfway across the level. I know that controllers are less accurate than a mouse, but sometimes it seems that the game is actively trying to stop you from building where you need to build; even something as simple as dragging your cursor across the map to build a flat section of road, for example, feels more like serving a punishment than playing a game.

And when you've finished working on a small section and want to move your cursor elsewhere to build support structures? Well, the game doesn't automatically deselect anything for you: the instant you move your cursor, Bridge Constructor rather unhelpfully tries to build an extension from the last connection point you were on, to where you moved your cursor... often accompanied by a 'clunk' sound because the game won't allow you to build a piece that stretches as far as your cursor. So then you have to press 'X' in an empty space to clear your cursor (if you press 'X' whilst hovering anything you've built, it'll be deleted) or 'B' to deselect the point you were last working on. It's something you could probably pick up as second nature if you spent enough time in the game... but you won't spend enough time in the game for it to become habitual. The primary reason this is irritating is because I never saw it explained in the game, so I had to figure it out myself.

The second major negative point for Bridge Constructor is its severe limitations on what you can do. One of the things I love most about West Point Bridge Designer is that you can go completely overboard, designing a bridge so complicated that you can't help but think it was designed by a team of government bureaucrats from twelve different agencies. In Bridge Constructor, you have a strict budget and, as soon as that budget limitation is reached, you can't build anything more. This leads to another restriction: within the confines of the game's physics engine and budget limitations, there are rarely more than one or two viable solutions to any given puzzle. Coming in under budget should be a way to improve your ranking/score, not an exercise in figuring out what parts you can delete to build that extra support your bridge desperately needs to pass the weight/stress test.

And speaking of that... there's really no incentive to complete any of the puzzles anyway. Each puzzle in the game is very similar, with the only variable changing throughout the game being three building materials unlocked (in addition to wood, which is your starting material). The only real competition is a scoreboard for Xbox Live. But even then, there is exactly zero incentive to go back and try to improve your design by making your bridge cheaper, because there's absolutely nothing to show for beating your own score.

As for the developer's claim of "realistic physics"? Well, if realistic physics are programmed into the game, I've yet to see them. I have, however, seen trucks do backflips when knocked by falling bridge debris.

Bridge Constructor just isn't a very attractive game. Its puzzles are frustrating not because they are hard, but because cost-management means you spend more time trying to figure out what parts can be deleted so you have can build elsewhere. There is little margin for playing around to find what works, and what doesn't, and there's certainly no room for 'fun.' In fact, as much as I hate to say it, the hardest challenge in this game is forcing yourself to try and keep playing it.

I don't think I ever won a single fight in Soulcalibur II. Thankfully, I'm marginally better at reviewing than I am at fighting games.