Sim: Bridge Construction Set (by Chronic Logic)
Game: Bridge Construction Set (formerly Pontifex II)
Release: Fall 2002
Website: Chronic Logic
System Requirements: 500mhz or greater, 64 MB RAM, Open GL compatible, Voodoo3 or TNT class or better video card Win 98/ME/2K/XP & Linux
Imagine yourself in a car crossing what you thought was just another river...when the bridge you are on buckles and crashes downward. As your car plunges into the water, you think..."man I should have worked more on that bridge design."
Honestly when I first got Bridge Construction Set, it wasn't at the top of my list for games I wanted to check out. When I thought about bridge-building, too many High School physic's assignments came to mind. It was hard for me to picture playing this game and finding it to be anything more than learning invading my entertainment time. BOY was I wrong!
Bridge Construction Set seems simple enough on the outside. It has a usable but not fancy interface with solid graphics. The object? Build a bridge. Ok, no big deal. I choose from the available materials, cable, iron, steel, suspension cable, heavy steel, hydraulics, and iron & steel decks. Put together a bridge, switch to test mode...and immediately my bridge bends, twists and breaks under its own strength. Watching that first bridge fall was a moment of frustration and joy. I decided to maybe go check out the tutorials before playing the game on its hardest setting and then started to understand what I was really doing.
Bridge Construction Set is broken into 5 sections: Easy, medium, hard, complex, and extra. The tutorials are wonderful at getting you started, but information you'll get from the "manual" on their website is even more useful in helping you understand how to make bridges that work. The basic game challenge is to do more than build a bridge. The bridge must pass several tests that are individualized for the bridge.
All bridges have a stress test. Extra stress is put on the bridge by cars, trucks or trains passing over it. Basically if you can get past the test, you pass the level and go on to the next one. Each level offers you a variably sized body of water or canyon that you must build over. Specific materials are supplied for the job. You play by choosing a material from the list and then placing it on the screen to the left. You can attach the different pieces together in different configurations to create your bridge. I personally enjoyed creating bridges with suspension cables the most, and I absolutely hated the bridges that used hydraulics.
Hydraulic bridges are drawbridges. In addition to getting a car to pass over the bridge, you also have to have the bridge lift up and let a boat pass down the river that the bridge is spanning. After the boat passes, the bridge will then lower itself down and again a car or train will have to pass over it to prove that it is worthy. Most of the time I tried these, I created amazing crashes with twisting steel spinning around hydraulic beams. It is nearly as much fun to watch a bridge break down while cars go flying into the river as it is to build a bridge that works. Since the game also gives you the option to have a first person point of view, you can watch through the front windshield as the car speeds along the bridge of doom that will soon topple under the extra stress.
Beyond destruction, the real fun in the game comes much as it does in other simulations. Completing a single simulation will only wet your appetite for the next one. I found myself finishing a level, thinking I would let it go for the night after finally making it past such a difficult level, but I couldn't go to sleep without at least seeing the next level. Once I saw the next level I had to at least give it a quick try...and then another half hour or so passed with me totally hooked...finally passing the next level, and I started the process all over again.
With a fairly active community, Bridge Construction Set has a lot of replay ability. The game includes a level editor so that you can create your own levels. In addition, a map pack has recently been released to make your custom levels look even more original. Bridge Construction Set is an addictive game that has been built to keep your fix going for a long time!
The in-game graphics are all done in 3D and look quite nice. They are not as polished as some games you will see, and the graphical interface certainly could use some work, but overall you'll be surprised by how good the graphics are. The view out the front window of the various vehicles is well-done graphically and gives a very good first person feel to your accomplishments.
There is not a lot of sound in the game. No busy music takes up the background, and the only time you'll really hear sounds is when you are running the test of your bridge. Still, the sound of the metal stressing and crashing into the river is quite delightful.
Game Play: 9
Since this is a sim, we have to take game play from a different angle. The game provides good game play that is easy to grasp. It does a good job of simulating the process of building a bridge and making it a fun undertaking.
I cannot imagine any other options being needed in this game. The tutorials are wonderful and the many available levels of play give the game most everything you would expect. The level creator takes the game a step beyond by giving it a high level of replay ability.
This is a wonderful game that shows off the greatness of independent games. It is hard to imagine that a game with this concept would get sold in stores even with the mass of simulations that do get published. This game is completely original, and though I thought the concept would be boring, Chronic Logic has created an addictive monster of a game in Bridge Construction Set.
The first time I sat down at my computer to play Bridge Construction Set, I figured I would give it a run for 20 minutes before heading off to bed. 3 Hours later I had to be pried away from the computer. The game is that much fun. I've played it in awe every time, as it is really hard to explain how or why this game is so enjoyable to play.
If you have any interest in sim games, this one should be an automatic for you. I've been a fairly big builder fan. I enjoyed Sim City 3000, Roller Coaster Tycoon and even Zoo Tycoon to some point. I think any fan of those games would find this one enjoyable, though it is a completely different type of game, the challenges and failures you experience while playing the game make it a very good title. Added: January 13th 2003
Reviewer: The Mole
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