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Chronic Logic's Bridge Construction Set is a cross between a civil engineering tool and a virtual erector set, with a touch of demolition derby thrown in for fun.
The program presents the user with a series of increasingly challenging chasms to bridge. Starting with narrow river gorges and simple car bridges, the program slowly adds difficulty in the form of wider, deeper gaps, and heavier loads like railways. In each instance, the user is first presented with a 3-D animation of the setting, then is allowed to move into the design tool. Here the user is told what building materials are available, the type of bridge required, and given a construction budget.
The fun begins once a design is complete. Clicking on the word "simulate" returns the user to the animated view. Assuming the design is stable under it's own weight, the program then allows the user to run dynamic tests, where cars or trains traverse the bridge, drawbridges open and close, and earthquakes shake things up. Structural failures are accompanied by the sounds of wrenching metal and water splashes. Options allow the user to visualize which bridge components are under the most stress, and change lighting and viewing angles.
Bridge Construction Set provides for a largely self-taught educational process, because there is very little design instruction contained in the program or manual. Rather than presenting mathematically-based engineering equations, Bridge Construction Set has automated all the calculations and built a tool that lets the user experiment to find solutions that work.
Bridge Construction Set is fun for kids (and adults) who like to design and build things, but not those who need explicit instructions, nor those that get easily frustrated. Several parents of teenage testers reported that their kids needed 'encouragement' to come to dinner, or return to studying instead of spending more time designing the next bridge.
Bridge Construction Set installed easily on our test machine. The program requires the user to register during the installation process, and requires the keying in of a 25-digit activation code. Program navigation is relatively intuitive. What's not necessarily intuitive, however, is how to build a bridge. To that end, the program includes a short manual in the installation package, and links to a user forum on the publisher's website. Our testers utilized trial and error as their primary guiding principle.
Bridge Construction Set is a fun program that illustrates the application of civil engineering design principles, and allows users to experiment to find the best solutions. It is best-suited for those that like to design and build things, but don't need much instruction.
PC: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, AMD or Intel 500 Mhz processor or faster cpu, 64 MB RAM, Nvidia TNT2 or Voodoo3 class of graphics card, CD-ROM or downloadable .return to top of page
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