Holy hell Portal is way older than I though it was and up until now I’ve never actually played it. No reason for that, just other things to do at the time (I mostly played a lot of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade) but I there was a strong part of me that wpuldn’t give Portal a chance due to the amount of bellends screaming about cake that always put me off playing. It’s sad when collective douchebaggery puts you off a game but that’s where we are.
Portal is a First Person Puzzle game that uses basic game engine physics to task you with a series of puzzles using various portals to allow for 4th dimensional travel within your three-dimensional space.
You take on the roll of Chell the silent protagonist that is woken from stasis after an undefined period of time. The game begins when Chell is woken up by the AI overseer of the Aperture Science Testing Facility, GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System). GLaDOS tasks you with completing a series of tests with the reward being Cake and grief counseling.
Other stuff happens that you may know, but it’d be a bit spoiler-ey to say them, other than NO. THE FUCKING CAKE ISN’T A LIE! GO AWAY DICKWAD. But Portal does fall into the category of not much is explained with endless fan theory about the events.
As you proceed through the levels with ever friendlier talk of cake the puzzles become increasingly chin scratchy and moustache twirling-ly perplexing. You move from basic move box from A to B using one portal. To using two portals, to using momentum physics, and redirecting energy beams to trigger a door. Everything is taught to you in a fair and simple way. Left trigger is assigned to one portal gun, and the right trigger is assigned to the other. This doesn’t mean entrance and exit, but orange and blue portals enter one. Exit the other. It is a simple mechanic that is nailed first time.
In fact the best way to look at the main story mode is that the whole mode is a tutorial for the advanced maps and challenge modes. There are a few points where the answer is obvious, but stopping taking a breath and studying the room will often lead you to the answer. In fact the standard mode is very well telegraphed as it actually tells you at the start of each level what types of puzzles are in the level so if you pay attention you’ll know what to expect and that will lead you to the solutions.
You see the game is perfectly balanced, and that is a rare thing for a puzzle game. You’re never treated like an idiot, the hand holding is minimal, but each level builds on the previous, slowly introducing new mechanics and increasing the difficulty. It is all so subtle too, you go from Chamber 00 to Chamber 14 (19 Chambers in total) in about an hour and in that time you go from learning how to shoot the portal gun to momentum flinging yourself across the map, to zapping multiple portals while flying through the air to pick up enough momentum to fly 200ft. Yes you’ll stumble, you’ll die, you won’t immediately so the solution but you will. You feel smart, and the game just continues.
Thankfully failure isn’t overly punished, with death a mere inconvenience that will set you back to the previous checkpoint.
At some point you realise the AI overseer isn’t all happiness and cake, and it is at this point the obnoxious loud person will step up and scream their favourite quote. But as the story progresses you realise the Grief counselling might not be what you need.
Go listen to Still Alive if you haven’t already. Not the version sang by GLaDOS, but the proper version by Jonathan Coulton featuring Sara Quin. I pretty much listened to it on a loop for 4 hours after beating the game.
Portal really was a revelation, considering it was originally seen as “the other game” by pedants before release and didn’t nearly as much hype as the over rated Half-Life 2 (plus Episode 1 and 2), or Team Fortress 2 it certainly carved out its own deserved legacy.
That’s it really. Portal is short and sweet, as mentioned the first 15 levels will probably take you an hour with the final 4-5 levels taking another 90 minutes to 2 hours. After that the game can be extended with various challenges such as complete a level quickly, complete with fewest portals, and least steps with the standard bronze/silver/gold medals awarded for your skill. I am always hit and miss with these features as I appreciate people like them but they are not for me and once I beat the main game I didn’t really feel a need to replay Portal. The joy comes from thinking you’re the cleverest person alive, and that is obviously diminished the second time you play that level which caused you serious trauma only to piss through it in 30 seconds.
But, Portal falls into the Silent Hill 2 category for me. I don’t want to play it all day every day. I want to forget about it, and stick it on again one night many moons from now and play the game as fresh as I can just to try and capture the magic I felt on my first playthrough.
Pros: perfectly balanced, GLaDOS.
Cons: a little bit short
Back in the Day
Originally released as part of the Orange Box Portal would receive as much if not more than its fellow brethren in Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2, Portal was praised for it’s sense of humour, and dark twists. It would ultimetly go on and score 90%+ and currently holds a 90% on Metacritic.
Portal also smashed the 2008 Awards ceremonies taking it’s fair share in Games of the Year awards, as well as best puzzler and best characters (GLaDOS).
It was good yo.
Also available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, OS X, Linux, Android