Bridge Constructor Playground is a physic puzzle game in which players build bridges from a few simple materials to span progressively wider gaps. The game features 32 levels in total, with each level having 5 badges to complete. Badges cover constraints such as load tests, cost restrictions, stress limits, and material constraints. Bridges are tested in a physics simulation with visible stress level indicators per piece.
Release Date: July 2nd, 2014
Publisher: Headup Games
Format: PC Game
First playthrough time: 2 hours
All badges play time: 6 hours total
- Simple mechanics that are easy to pick up
- Decent physics simulation
- Multiple solutions to each level
- Some humor in the fate of your poor test drivers
- Repetitive levels
- Unable to move connection nodes once placed
- Large difficulty spread
- 2 out of 5 level badges are meaningless
- No new mechanics after the first 10% of the game
The mechanics of Bridge Constructor Playground are easy to pick up and simple to learn. You decide how you want to build your bridge, construct it on the grid with the four materials, test it in the simulator, and repeat until you get the desired badge. There are a few constraints such as where you can attach pieces on the surrounding ground and the fact that the surface the vehicles drive on must be horizontal. You can also save and load bridge designs to easily test ideas. On PC the game is entirely controlled with the mouse. This mostly works fine, except that I wish you could move connection points after you place them. There were quite a few times I created a tower with many cables from the top only to realize I need the tower to be shorter or taller and my only option was to delete the tower and all the existing cables and recreate them again.
Some of the levels of Bridge Constructor Playground felt repetitive. This is mostly because no new materials are introduced after the initial four in the beginning levels. The basics of a level are to create a platform of wood or steel spanning the gap and then use various pieces to support it from the top or bottom. The gap is always equal height on both sides, the vehicles weigh the same, materials cost the same, no connection material options, there are no level specific gimmicks etc. What changes in a level is mostly based around the details of the badges, the span of the gap, and the extra anchor points you get beyond the ones at the edges (if any). If you’re just trying to complete the levels without getting all the badges, a basic suspension bridge adjusted for the gap size will get you through the whole game. No exceptions.
Obviously the whole game is not a suspension bridge simulator though. Every level has multiple ways you can solve it. The badges in the game will give you some requirements to guide you toward some of these multiple solutions, but even these badges can be acquired multiple ways. You can build everything from a see-sawing bridge, to a bridge that becomes a ramp and launches your cars across the gap! Some levels are also not symmetric, so depending on the type of bridge you’re building, you may have to get creative with distributing load.
Every level has 5 badges, 2 are awarded for creating a bridge cars and trucks can cross respectively. Then there’s a badge for building a bridge trucks can cross that’s under a certain cost. Next there’s a badge for building a bridge trucks can cross without a single piece going above a certain strain percentage, also with a cost restriction. Finally there’s a badge for building a bridge trucks can cross with a restricted material set and sometimes a cost or piece number restriction. As you can see, the main focus of the badges is on trucks, making a bridge for cars is basically meaningless because you’ll unlock this badge if trucks can cross it anyway. And getting the badge for trucks crossing is usually just a side effect of getting (or gracefully failing to get) another of the more restricted truck badges. Which makes 2 out of 5 of the badges kinda useless unless you’re just really done with a level and want to move on. In which case, like I said before, a suspension bridge will get you a basic clear on any level. If you make it big enough, it’ll get you through with trucks on every level too, so there’s no point to ever simulating cars on your bridge.
The physics simulation of the bridges is good. You can see strain on your bridge on a piece by piece basis and a percentage at the top will tell you the max strain value across all the pieces in your bridge. It’s fun to watch the stress move across your bridge with the vehicles and helps you identify weak points or pieces that might be safe to remove. One wish I do have though would be the ability to hover over an individual piece and get the stress information for that piece in detail. Such as: Is it about to fail in terms of compression strength or tensile strength? The simulator does a good job of keeping track of this information, but it’s not easily available to the player as your bridge comes crashing down.
When your bridge does come crashing down, there’s some humor in your poor test drivers. Not that they talk or anything, but despite the clear signs that they should stop and hit reverse (if not hit the emergency eject button), they will very dutifully continue to drive at the same speed to their demise. Or at least try to. Once they’re up-side-down or wedged against a rock underwater, their dedication doesn’t do much but kick up mud. It would’ve been kind of fun (although a little morbid) to have a counter for how many test drivers never made it to the other side.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably lose a lot of test drivers. This might seem an odd statement given I’ve already said twice that you can complete all the levels with one basic bridge design. However, to get all the badges (and thus all the achievements if that’s your thing) you’ll have to build a lot of failures. The difficulty spread across getting all the badges is pretty large. On some levels the low cost bridge would be easy, on other levels I felt like doing math to prove to myself it was even possible. All three of the meaningful badges were like this, it probably depends on the player which ones they’ll find easy and hard. I would’ve preferred a more linear curve in difficulty so that island 2 levels didn’t feel harder than island 4 levels when it came to badge completion.
Overall I found the game simple and enjoyable. The game has a lot of potential to create some pretty interesting “bridges”, but most of this is up to the player. Badge challenges encourage players to try new styles and ways of solving the level, but these can vary a lot in difficulty. There are some quality of life changes I’d make, but the game is solid and physic puzzle enthusiasts can easily spend a good amount of time building the perfect bridges.