Inside Pulse 12

Review: Bridge Constructor: Trains Expansion Pack (PC)

Bridge Constructor: Trains Expansion Pack
Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: ClockStone
Genre: Construction/Physics
Release Date: 5/24/2016

If you have ever built contraptions and bridges out of matchsticks, string, and false hope; the Bridge Constructor: Trains Expansion Pack will likely bring back some memories, whether they are fond or not probably depends on how good of an engineer you were. The expansion takes place in the “Choonited Kingdom” and features 3 new islands and 18 levels for you to join together with mouse clicks and ingenuity.

Building your bridges is pretty simple (all it takes is a mouse), but making them strong enough to withstand tons of twisted steel as it chugs down the tracks can be a lot more difficult. You get some basic building materials; wood, steel, concrete, and cable. On some levels you may get them all: on others you may only get one or two. You can’t go building all willy-nilly as you do have a budget to adhere to. Each piece has its own attributes, such as length per piece, tensile strength, cost, and so on, and they all have their ups and downs, meaning you need to find the proper balance to be successful.

When each piece ends, it makes a white dot which you can connect the next piece to. When you feel it is time to test it, just click your mouse on the “play” icon and you can see the stressed points in red, or choose which type of train you want to glide down your rails. The passenger train is shorter and lighter, while the cargo train is long, heavy, and explosive. My most gleeful moments in Bridge Constructor are when my structure fails and a cargo train suffers for my sins. It will explode, cartwheel, shoot across the screen, and fall in a river, sometimes all of them in one run. It just feels so good, and the cacophony it makes is a delight the ears.

The game can be hard and frustrating and it isn’t very helpful at teaching you. If you have played bridge building games before, you know what to do; if you have not, you may want to start elsewhere and work up to this. Even the core game that is required for this expansion doesn’t do much guiding for new engineers. If you are a person who likes to build, but prefers direction, you can probably look up a guide and build your creations as if it were a LEGO set.

Trains is very good at creating the addictive “one more try” feeling as you rack up failures and are dying for a win, or when you have hit a groove and it all seems to go your way. I found myself pumping my fist when I finally overcame a tough challenge, or when I managed a success on the first try. There really can be great feelings of accomplishment, especially when the locomotive makes it across your Frankenbridge just as it all comes crumbling down.

The graphics are sharp and clear for the most part, but the backgrounds can be a bit fuzzy and low res. It is all pleasant enough to look at, but it is fairly sterile and lacks personality. It started its life as a mobile game 4 years ago, and it shows. The sound effects are simple but great; hearing train chug across your bridge before your latest masterwork collapses in a heap with the dulcet tones of steal and wood colliding as they make their way to the canyon floor, train included, just makes you feel good.  Meanwhile, the music is serviceable and makes for decent background noise, but I found myself turning it off after a while.

The game could really use a sandbox type mode, one where you can build regardless of budget. Sometimes you just want to have fun and build a monstrous nightmare bridge, but the game keeps you in check. The progression could be a bit friendlier, as you have to take on levels in a mostly linear order. This means that if one stage has you stymied, you may just give up on the game. If you had more choices you could go and get refreshed, then come back and tackle the problem anew.

For a $2.99 expansion, Trains features a good amount of content. Even though it doesn’t change the core game much, there is something supremely satisfying in failure when it leads to a cargo train flipping cartwheels in the sky as your bridge dissolves in to so much kindling. The ridiculous physics for the trains is much more enjoyable to watch than the cars and trucks in Bridge Constructor ever were.

Short Attention Span Summary:

If you like playing civil engineer there are worse ways to spend your time than Bridge Constructors: Trains, then again, there are also better ways. Trains gave me about 8 hours of entertainment that was addictive and rewarding, but the entire time I played I couldn’t help but feel it was unnecessarily restrictive too. If you really want to test your mettle by helping trains cross chasms, this is the place to be.

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