Another week rolls around and Codec Moments continue our mission to test out games that might be interesting and entertaining, whilst costing you less than your cappuccino. This week we’re looking at Bridge Constructor and Bridge Constructor Playground from Headup Games.
Bridge Constructor is a bridge building physics simulation for Android and iOS, which lets you play as the architectural engineer in charge of reconstructing a series of crossings, after the country of Camatuga suffers an earthquake that destroys all of their bridges. The game looks nice and features 40 levels made up from five themed islands of eight bridges, which need to be reconstructed from the available materials: Wooden planks are cheap and light, but weak; steel girders are strong, but they are heavier and more expensive; steel cables have great tensile, but little compressive strength; finally, concrete can be used to create strong towers to support your structure, but it’s expensive and can only be used in certain places. You start each level in engineering mode where you must construct your bridge to be strong and stable, using only the specified materials for that level and within the fixed budget; it’s not as easy as it looks, especially when you have to balance the use of more expensive materials and longer bridge spans.
When you have built your bridge you can enter simulation mode and test your spanning skills by seeing if it will stand, or if gravity and its own weight will bring it crashing down into the valley below. If you pass that first basic test, you can earn a grade for your bridge by driving cars or trucks over it, possibly sending them spiralling to their fates as your faulty construction fails around them; there is a third grade available (tank trucks) when you make all of Camatuga’s main traffic routes passable, adding some replay value if you’re persistent. Sadly, the game’s tutorial is really not sufficient to teach the skills needed in later levels to build bridges, within budget, that will successfully distribute heavy loads. As such, the game quickly becomes a frustrating sequence of trial and error, however you get 10 coins when you start the game, allowing you to buy hints revealing a small section of the bridge structure (1 coin) or the full thing (2 coins). The trouble is, there’s no way to earn more coins other than by buying them with real money, making the system feel like a cynical attempt to shoehorn in micro-transactions rather than a mechanism to help players progress. The restriction of materials and budget makes the game feel constrained and really saps the fun that you should feel from freeform physics, there is a sandbox mode to be unlocked removing budget and material restrictions, but once again it’s only available by paying with in-game or real-world currency.
Also available for the same price is Bridge Constructor Playground, the spiritual successor to Bridge Constructor, which gives you more of the same and a little extra. The game looks the same as the original and features four islands, each with eight bridges. It has a better tutorial, but features the same process of construction and simulation; the difference this time is that budget and material restrictions are gone and the scoring has been overhauled. Instead of simply obtaining a car or truck rank for your bridge, each level now has five goals that you can strive to achieve: Safe for cars; safe for trucks; cheap (come in under or at a low budget; safe (come in under or at a higher budget but don’t exceed a certain load); materials (only use recommended materials). As you can imagine, you probably can’t beat all five goals with a single bridge design, so there is more immediate replay value and it’s a lot more fun. What’s more is that with the restrictions lifted, it’s easier to over engineer to simply get cars and trucks over making the game less frustrating and eliminating the cynical micro-transactions.
Both games are available for £1.49 each on iOS and Android, but the material and budget constrictions combined with the poorly implemented micro-transactions mean that I can’t recommend Bridge Constructor. On the flip side, Bridge Constructor Playground is everything that I wanted from this kind of physics sim as it’s fun, informative and really encourages you to play around with different designs in order to achieve the five medals for each level. There is a better tutorial, but actually, the freedom to try things out without the constraints imposed in the original is a far better way to learn the principles of bridge building; it’s trial and error without the tribulations. At just a few pence more than a small latte macchiato, Bridge Constructor Playground is a testing physics game and well worth it if you like that style of game; if it’s not your cup of tea though, best stick to that cuppa joe!