These bridges were made for walking.
If you build it, they will come.
Did I use that line the last time I reviewed a Bridge Constructor game? I'm going to assume I didn't. So, hey, this is my second go at one of these games, and one of the really interesting things that means is we can put some additional context to what we're looking at. Contrast and comparison is going to be the name of the game today, I think.
The dead rise
So what are we working with today? You can pretty much turn that colon in Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead into a dividing line, because we've gotta talk both just a bit. Fair warning, I've never watched an episode nor read an issue of The Walking Dead before this review, but...I mean...The title's fairly self explanatory. There are dead people. They're walking.
So yeah, it's one of those kinds of things! With the walkers, as the franchise calls them! You know what I mean. You knowwwwww. Elbow elbow, nudge nudge. Classic terrifying monstrous apocalypse scenario, complete with people scrounging and scavenging to survive in the cruel and heartless wastes, but the only way to survive is together. A tale as old as time.
As for the Bridge Constructor half, the initial premise of the franchise is equally straightforward: Some stuff is over here, it wants to be over there, build a bridge to get them there. It's a simple, solid little physics puzzle that has enough interesting wrinkles to keep it from getting dull.
Where this gets more interesting is actually these licensed games, I think. Because like any good licensed variant, the Bridge Constructor games change up their whole vibe based on the mechanics and setup of their new patron franchise. We first saw this in BC: Portal, where they used the eponymous teleportation-holes to make bridge puzzles that utterly mocked physics in all its stuffy sensibility.
So what does BC: The Walking Dead have that's special to it? ...I mean, it's, it's right there.
Walking and running
Yeah, it's got walkers. This simple thing presents a very interesting set of problems to solve, because a mission no longer simply involves getting your lovably alive characters from point A to point B...It also involves ensuring no walkers eat them in the process, or even after they get there.
This can mean a lot of things. Sometimes, it means you have to build a bridge that's only good enough. I've absolutely won missions by building intentionally crappy bridges that could support a human or two, but collapsed under the weight of the dozen or so walkers behind them.
Oh, speaking of the humans, that's the other mix! These aren't just generic NPCs in cars, they're specific people, sometimes even on foot! And that means they come with gear, abilities! You've got hero characters that can smash through a couple walkers in their path, you've got techies who can work machinery or plant decoys...And all of this means that a BC: TWD mission quickly becomes not just executionally complex, but conceptually.
Instead of just "get the humans from A to B", it can quickly become "get the humans from A, B and C to D while blocking walker hordes X and Y", turning into two distinct puzzles; the physics, and then the back-and-forth of prepping instructions to ensure everything goes off at the right time. It's like trying to build a Rube Goldberg machine with white glue and popsicle sticks.
The good news is, all of that's a really fun time. The missions become a multi-layered puzzle box, as you work out the next step from where you stand. Okay, you've gotten this guy here, but now you need him over there, so how do we get a bridge in place after things start up...And bit by bit, the plan comes together.
A deep hunger
The bad news is, there are a lot of stuff you have to get figured out in a short period of time. It's not so much its own fault, as...Well, because each game in the Bridge Constructor franchise has built on the previous ones, we now have quite a few layers of mechanics and complications packed in here. The game does its best to introduce the mechanics one at a time, but it is a lot.
Despite the game's casual-looking presentation, this is something you're going to have to really sit and chew on at times. There are still missions where I have absolutely not found the idealized, intended, gold-star solution and just had to jank my way through.
Now, that isn't to say that getting through those learning curves isn't worth it. This is a really solid little mix of physics and programmatic puzzles, that kept me coming back to try and figure them out. I had a really good time with this. But I do have to acknowledge that it kind of has to get you swimming in the deep end of the pool really fast, especially if it's your first time playing one of these.
There's also the presentation itself, which is a bit limited. The graphics have a nice charm, but they're definitely sitting in a space between "low-poly aesthetic" and just plain basic. And the audio side of things seems quite basic; while I don't exactly need amazing sound work for my physics puzzles, it would sure be nice, you know?
I also had a couple minor bugs, mostly involving tutorial elements not acknowledging I'd done what they asked. Small things, but having them right at the start was definitely more jarring than if they happened after I was deeper in.
Water under the bridge
Ultimately, the real question in my mind comes down to this: How does the game do at being what it's trying to be? Strip away all the questions of how good X or Y element is compared to different genres, peel away the question of the license. Just as a game in the Bridge Constructor franchise, aiming to do interesting physics puzzles around bridges, does this work?
Absolutely. It's not perfect, but in terms of doing what it wants to do, Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead hits strong. Once you actually come to grips with all the mechanics, there's all sorts of really interesting problems you can try to solve in all these different ways. It's a rich, layered experience in its space, even without knowing a thing about the license that inspired it.
I had a good time here. And I think you will too.