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Review of "Bridge Construction Set" - Game Software

by Jane Thomas, AAUG member
Reviewed 1/05

Bridge Construction Set is a unique bridge designing game. I love it! So many computer games focus on varying versions of shoot-m-up themes, not my idea of entertainment. (I even use the standard Nanosaur game to play my pacifist's version, Gaundi-saurus, where your goal is to save the world without firing a single shot. But I digress.)

When playing Bridge Construction Set, your goal is to build a bridge to span the distance between two land masses, using the available construction materials, within the prescribed budget, that can sustain a given number and weight of vehicles. It's like having an erector set in your computer.

Here's what you do for each session:
- Review the requirements (type of bridge, weight of vehicle that must pass, budget, available materials, distance to span, wind and current speed, surrounding terrain) - okay that sounds like a lot of info, but many of those parameters don't need to be considered until the more difficult levels.
- Build a bridge.
- Check the stresses to see where you might need to add more beams or use different material. You can see where the week spots are, where the solid construction is by the color of the beams.
- Test the bridge by running the vehicle(s) across it. See what happens.

If the bridge is strong enough, the vehicles will pass right on over it with no damage or undue stresses. If not, the bridge and vehicles will crash into the river. If you build a bridge that's not strong enough to even support its own weight, the bridge starts collapsing as soon as the test begins, before the vehicles are in sight.

The collapses are dramatic and quite interesting to watch themselves, with dangling beams swaying and other bridge parts or vehicles splashing in the water. If you happen to forget to put a vehicle deck on your bridge (I only did it once so far), the test vehicles drive right over the bank and into the water. When the dust settles, you have information to better the next design. Lucky for all of us, I'm not a structural engineer. I don't design bridges for a living, just for fun.

There are 40 levels, each with different challenges for you. Depending on the level you're on, you can build tressel bridges, suspension bridges, or drawbridges that actually raise or open up, allowing vessels to pass underneath. You can even create custom levels with the landscape, wind and current conditions, type and number of vehicles to test bridge, construction materials, and budget. I'm still plenty challenged with the levels provided, but some day I'll get into the custom stuff.

Don't worry if you're not a civil engineer or architect. As you get to more difficult levels, you'll need to apply all that you've learned about bridge design and physics. A basic knowledge of physics will get you to the higher levels sooner. But by reading the manual, using a bit of intuition, and some good ole trial-and-error, you'll do just fine even if you've never had a physics class in your life.

The graphics used in Bridge Construction Set are pretty basic. But they're just fine for this type of game; fancy graphics wouldn't add much.

The Chronic Logic website promotes a free demo of Bridge Construction Set. I downloaded it to check it out. Unfortunately, the program downloads as an exe file, good for PC folks, but not us Mac users. I bet if they get enough comments (at feedback@chroniclogic.com), a Mac-friendly free demo might just become available as well.

In the program and its documentation I found a couple of other examples that apply to PC users but not Mac users. For instance, the instructions for hardware configurations direct us to change the configurations via the Start menu. Macs don't have a Start menu. Those sorts of choices are generally taken care of via the program preferences. I never did figure out how to select a full-screen view. The help menu directs you do use Ctrl (Control) R or Ctrl F for certain functions, but on my iBook, what worked was Command (Tim hates it when I call it the Apple key) R and Command F. Other than lacking a few Mac-specific descriptions, the instruction manual, ReadMe file, and help function were very helpful, giving me enough information to dive into bridge building. And the program worked just fine on my iBook.

For more experienced bridge designers, architects, and others who really get good at this game, Chronic Logic has some contests of bridge design. Check out the website for info on the current and recent contests.

If you enjoy simulations, puzzles, or strategy games, or if you like building and testing you construction, you'll like Bridge Construction Set. It's quite fun, challenging, educational, and well worth the asking price of $19.95. Enjoy!

Minimum system requirements:
OSX 10.1+
G3 500+ Mhz processor
Nvidia TNT2 or Voodoo3 class of graphics card
64MB of memory
Mouse and Keyboard

Recommended system requirements:
OSX 10.1+
G3 800+ Mhz processor
OpenGL VideoCard with 64 mb of memory
128MB of memory
Mouse and Keyboard

cover shot
Software
Bridge Construction Set
Developer
Chronic Logic
Phone
E-mail only
Web
www.chroniclogic.com
Price
$19.95
Pros

Many levels and customization options to challenge you.

Cons
Documentation and free demo could be more Mac-friendly.
Moose
Rating
1 - 5
5 moose
(Terrific!)
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