James Ireland On October - 15 - 2009

“Why can’t games be non violent?” come the cries of those too old or too stupid to not understand computer games and the ever expanding world they represent.
“Why are they always violent? Why do you have to kill so much? Can’t we all just get along?” they continue, “These games are corrupting our young and innocent!”
These people would love Portal. But we won’t let them have it and we certainly aren’t gonna tell them about it! Because Portal is just too cool.

Portal is a puzzler game made by Valve. It is a game based around a gun. A gun that shoots portals that allows you to enter and exit them. And you have to solve puzzles with these portals. Simple? You sir (having guessed yes) are WRONG!

Portal is one of the most intelligent, adult and well humoured games to have ever been released. It’s a game developed and made for those of us who enjoy a good challenge and won’t give up until our psyches have been worn away by frustration and far too much caffeinated beverages. Its a puzzler but not as you know.

You start in a test chamber within the walls of the Aperture Science laboratory and you are woken by the sing-song voice of GlaDOS. GlaDOS is the Aperture Science computer system and she is here to guide you through the world of portals and the testing chambers beyond.

The controls feel solid and easy to learn if you have never played an FPS before. For those who have many a headshot under there ever expanding belt of achievements and trophies, this will be a second nature. One button to shoot entry portal, one to shoot exit portal, one button to jump and the analog sticks/WASD mouse configuration is the same as most FPS games. Simple!

You escape your room when a portal in the glass wall is activated. This action, in all its humbleness, is one of the best sequences in computer game history. I can almost guarantee that everyone that played this game did a Keanu Reeves “Whoa!” when they saw this. It’s a simple portal out of the room on the wall but it doesn’t show what should be on the other side of that wall. You can see the hall way adjacent to your glass walled room and you can also see this wall from your room. With the exit portal on the wall showing what is on the other side of that portal which just happens to be your room…and yourself!

Ahhhhhhh! Brain meltdown!

As the game says, thing goes into portal, thing comes out of portal. Think of it as a door that opens anywhere. The game is very cleverly designed to allow you to get your head around the structure and the use of portals. You don’t start with the gun only with standing portals. You then get a gun only being able to shoot the entry portal but not the exit portal which is already placed in the test chamber. You get an upgrade that allows you to control the entry and exit portal after your understanding of the portal mechanics have sunk in.

You won’t get over how cool it is to shoot a portal on each side of a cornered wall. And being able to run in a “circle” and see yourself running in front of yourself or putting a portal on the ground and one on the ceiling above you and then “fall” through an endless, eternal string of portals. In reality you’re just falling the same 10 feet over and over again but it looks too cool.

The environment of the game is mostly the testing chambers you’re put through. Sterile white test chambers with water hazards, drops and objects to move. It never becomes boring as every test chamber is large and will take you several minutes to take it all in. new objects and barriers keep coming at you and keep the levels fresh and prevent repetition.

There are no “enemies” in portal, just obstacles placed in the test chamber. Some time though they are turrets that will shoot you. In that respect, I have never been so happy to be shot by a gun turret. It’s typical of Valves “in-house humour” to have a turret sound…cute? Possessing only a portal gun to overcome these most adorable of foes is tricky but infinitely more fun than using a missile launcher. Making a portal appear below them and then manifesting another in the ceiling and watching it crash through to the floor below is very amusing and there is almost infinite fun to be had with the portals and the gun turret. Use your imagination! But there is something about disabling a gun turret that makes you feel guilty. It will chime things at you like, “I don’t blame you” or “Goodbye” as it fades into robot death. I’m a bastard…

That’s what makes this game great imagination and originality. You will not find anything like this game out there. It makes you use your brain and your imagination. You won’t survive with out it. It’s a challenge and the puzzles can really make you think and sometime frustrate, but this is off set by the humour and hidden back story. It becomes an interesting adventure with hidden secrets, dangerous revelations and cake.

Only issue I would have with this game is the length. You could do it in about 4 hours but if you are really stupid 5-6 (any longer and we need to talk after class). But this is off set by the price which is nice and low if you buy it on its own or a fucking steal if you get it in the Orange Box Set (which every gamer needs regardless of issue).

The “feel” of Portal is a strange one. Like all of Valve’s games, it has a certain atmosphere to them that makes them just better. Does Valve employ some type of wizard or necromancer to enchant their titles? They always feel solid and that you are part of a larger universe. There is almost never any point that makes your subconscious ring a bell that goes; “It a game” that permeates most games out there.

You can’t really go wrong with Portal. Its cheap, it’s great and it’s memorable. We just all hope that Portal 2 is multi-platform (knowing Valves hatred for the ps3) and doesn’t suffer from Half Life 2, Episode 3 production time (any good gamer will know that greatness takes time but, seriously? How long?). Buy it in the Orange Box Set or stag. Game reviewed on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. The cake is a lie….


Categories: PC Reviews, Recent News
  • https://?u=dontmovephoenix Alex Witney

    Great game, I like the games length, if it had been too long it probably would have dragged on a bit.

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