The first thing to note about BCS is that it is not one of those titles in which the title has little to do with the game. There's only one thing to do in Bridge Builder: Build bridges! The second thing to note is that this game is hard! For those of you without any prior knowledge of physics, engineering, and bridge building, this game is a great way to learn. For those of you who are not looking to enjoy a game that requires learning (and don't already have a civil engineering degree) go play Gish (their other title about a squishy ball, but that's another review).
So, what is so hard about building bridges? Well, there are four basic factors that you encounter with BCS. First is the length and type of the bridge. For instance, a bridge may be 80 meters across or it may be 200 meters; it may be a car bridge or a rail bridge. Second, you have the available materials. In certain maps you may have access to things like heavy steel, suspension cables, and hydraulics, while in other maps you may only have iron to work with. Third, you have the quantity of money you can spend. A lot of the real strategy comes into play trying to make you bridge without going over your budget. Finally, you have anchor points. Anchor points are where you can start building bridges. Some maps have as many as 3 or more per side while others may only have 1. These anchor points vastly change the way you have to build your bridge.
Armed with these 4 factors you must build a bridge to stand the test of time… or at least survive a train or two going over them. The strategy in this game is as complex as the physics involved. As you build a bridge you must be sure that no single beam or cable is supporting too much weight. To help you determine that BCS has a neat simulate button that shows you how much stress is on each part of your bridge. When you think your bridge is solid enough to survive whatever test the game has in store for it, you click "run test" and pray the poor people involved with your professional negligence survive. If they do you advance to the next, usually harder, level.
One of the nice additional features is the ability to do a variety of things with the bridges and the bridge environment. For instance, you can create an earthquake while the cars attempt to drive over a bridge (sometimes resulting in the poor drivers falling to their doom). You can move the direction of the sun and shadows and change the textures as well. While it plays no real part in the creation of a bridge, it is sometimes interesting to stress test your design under 8 levels of earthquake or to see it at sunset against a mountain range.
There were many times I would become frustrated with a level. Only once in the game did I actually have to go online to read the manual because I didn't understand what I was supposed to be doing. The rest of the time I learned through trial and error (and since I was an engineering major briefly in college) and a little prior knowledge to construct some of the worst, yet successful, bridges of all time. So what did I learn from all this? I learned that Civil Engineers probably spend most of their time thinking about how to build a better triangle… since triangles make the bridges go round.
BCS has a somewhat active community and a bunch of map add-ons for you to download if you purchase the full version. In the genre of bridge building simulations BCS stands second to none in my mind, somewhat because this game is good. Somewhat because it is the only bridge building game I know!