That headline is probably a little unfair. Really I wanted to title this post ‘A Bridge over the River Kawaii’ but, as badass as that pun is, I could find no way to draw a line of relevance between a French author’s rip-roaring World War II novel and some assorted thoughts on an iOS game about civil engineering.
No, Bridge Constructor isn’t a bridge too far, even though I cannot make it past the game’s halfway point. More accurately, it’s a bridge too inscrutable (although that is a movie title that would never have done very well at the box office).
It’s a straightforward name for a straightforward game. You construct a bridge by drawing beams and cables onto a gridded environment and then press a big green ‘play’ button in order to send two cars across its bulk.
If they make it to the other side without the entire construction collapsing into the river then you win a medal. Yay medals! If you’re feeling especially confident in your arrangement then you can elect to send a lorry across, the additional weight requiring a more solid, thought-through construction. Turns out lorries represent god-mode difficulty in the bridge construction world. Perhaps Eddie Stobart is the final boss?
Initially you are limited to using wooden beams to construct your bridge. Later, you gain access to different materials allowing you to create stronger, more efficient bridges.
Difficulty is introduced by limiting your resources. Each beam and cable costs money and, with a limited budget for each bridge, you can’t simply fill the river with gold-plated concrete to progress (in my head gold-plated concrete is the ultimate building material). Rather, you need to spend your money efficiently and in ways that complement the laws of physics, rather than push against them.
This is where the game becomes inscrutably difficult – at least, for those players without a degree in civil engineering. In the absence of a solid grounding in the theory of bridge building, you’ll be left floundering and frustrated. Rarely have I experienced a game that so effectively shines a light on the gaping holes in my knowledge of basic physics.
At one point I ended up studying the game’s home screen icon (which shows the side of a bridge) for clues as to how to, er, build a sturdy bridge. Video games have taught me many things over the years. Theories of tension, compression, bending, torsion and shear are not amongst them.
I guess the problem is that Bridge Constructor doesn’t teach me them either. It just gives me a playpen in which to show off my wild ignorance by sending an endless parade of lorry drivers to a watery grave. Rarely have I longed for a basic introductory tutorial to a game.
A bridge too far? No. A tutorial too few.
Have a degree in civil engineering? Head here to show off, clever dick.