Originally released as part of the orange box collection on PC and Xbox, then later on PS3, MAC and Linux – Portal is an exciting puzzle game based on physics. Now some people might be thinking “Puzzles and Physics? Exciting?” but all that reveals is that in the 7 years it’s been available, you haven’t played it, the real question should be “Why not?”
The game is set in the same universe as “Half Life” (something which you can see references to everywhere) and is in first person perspective. The controls are your typical first person shooter as you use the thumb sticks (or arrows and mouse on PC) to move and the shoulder buttons (or left and right mouse button) to fire. You are not wielding any typical gun in this game though, you a gun that fires portals. You must then use these portals to solve the physics based puzzles laid before you. This could be as simple as moving a box from one side of the room to the other to more complex puzzles that involve you being fired through the air in order to reach an obstacle. If you’re not all that into puzzles then it won’t really be motivation to play a game based solely on them, however there is another element to the game that should reassure you – the story.
You play “Chell” the only surviving test subject within Aperture Science laboratories and you’re being forced to undertake “Testing” by the artificial intelligence life form that’s now in control of the nearly destroyed laboratory – GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System).
Although your protagonist is silent, GLaDOS is in fact quite the contrary. You are constantly hounded throughout the game by the snide remarks and hilarious quips from this sarcastic bit of A.I who constantly seeks to put you down and see you fail the testing. In fact, in later tests you are lead to believe she is in fact actively attempting to sabotage you, which some believe is an excuse not to give you the cake you she promises you upon completion of testing.
Some of things you meet along the way range from the inanimate objects like the “companion cubes” and laser bridges which serve as one of your primary tools and obstacles when solving puzzles. They are also small robots that stand on three legs and talk (and later sing) in high-pitched innocent voices; making them some of the most lovable things about the entire game, however it would be silly to count them out as obstacles. These things may be small, cute and adorable but they are also deadly. They are still primarily turret guns and seek to shoot you in your smitten face before you can finish your testing.
As stated before, the gameplay is basic but far from simple. Portal eases you into the puzzle system extremely well and in a completely (and purposefully) patronizing way via your “mentor” GLaDOS. She will introduce you to each different test and give you some of the most de-motivating pep talks in the world whilst she talks you through each new obstacle . Sometimes she “conveniently” forgets about them until you have had to deal with them. You learn to love and hate this character as the game goes by, the script writers did so well in keeping her entirely lovable and engaging that you can actually forgive her for (SPOILER ALERT) trying to kill you and feel bad as you seek to dismantle her in the end (SPOILER ALERT) .
Portal is possibly the only game of the last decade that manages to make the puzzles you find in adventure games like “Tomb Raider” look like a ten piece jigsaw while simultaneously making them so fun that you forget just how complex Portal is in relation to a standard video game. It’s so successful with this that Valve launched the “Learn with Portals” Educational initiative based off the ridiculously fun Portal 2. A puzzle game that is fun, challenging and funny with first class writing filling the blank vacuum left by the silent protagonist. With all this being said there is only one question to ask, “Are you going to play Portal now?”
(PC, MAC, Xbox 360, PS3, LINUX) Valve (2007))