Portal – I Came Late to the Party, No Cake was Left
Portal had won numerous accolades, and if I had to describe what kind of game it is, it’s a puzzle game, and as many puzzle games, it’s also a platformer. It’s a 3D platformer, but that’s not entirely new, as there had been Rayman 3(D) before. It’s also a first person platformer, which is slightly rarer. Here is a 2D platformer flash based version of Portal someone made online. The maps from this version were later added to the actual game.
Portal, is a game that in a way is based on the physics engine of Half-Life 2, and is a game where you have two weapons: Your wits, and the portal gun. Do try to keep your wits about you. Your Portal Gun (Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device) is capable of shooting two portals, one for entry and one for egress. You can easily cross chasms or walls in this manner, or leap a great distance forward.
Most of the game is designed like regular puzzle games, where you’re met with a challenge, and in order to pass it must utilize both what had been learnt before and add something else on top. Some stages merely teach you new things (like dealing with balls of energy) in order for you to be able to utilize them in the tests to come.
Tests, yes, for you are a test-subject, and aside from messaged scrawled on walls in the later stages, the only company you’ll keep is a voice that will give you instructions, details, and advice. Well, sort of. You do get a Companion Cube for one stage, but it’s not much to speak of.
I’ll be honest, the game had got much accolades for its “story”, but there is next to no story to speak of. What there is is a bare-bones story that could be covered in the space of, 3 lines? Probably. What the game has, and this is why I also consider this post to be something to consider when thinking on the issues of “Story versus Story-ful” (some posts/thoughts I plan, don’t know for which blog yet), is atmosphere. The game has a lot of atmosphere, and due to also being relatively short (you can finish it in 2-3 hours), the very bare-bones story and the very rich atmosphere do make you feel as if you’re engaging in a story, in a world with depth.
In a way, Portal is cool. It is pretty cool, but I feel it’s been blown out of proportions, ala the “Scott Pilgrim kind of cool“. It makes you think, and the stages add just enough to help you feel like making progress, and short enough to not get bogged down.
This brings me to the small down-side to Portal: The last two stages. The last two stages are both harder, and much longer than those who came prior. You do get distinct “areas” within them, but still. The stages are long, and it’s a bit tiring. Well, the stages before don’t have much of a down-time either: Finish a stage, enter an elevator, depart from same elevator and begin the next stage.
The other small caveat is that this game is a puzzle game, or is for most of the game. Lava pits and such are something we’ve all known for many years, but at some stage you must avoid stationary turrets who shoot at you, and the game ends with a boss fight which doesn’t really fit the mood and the flow of the game up until that point. It is a sort of a platformer boss-fight, where you don’t really fight the boss but need to puzzle out how to beat them, ala Rayman or say, Zelda.
This game is fun, and I came to it late, and there was no cake left for little old me (This is obviously me drinking from the geeky kool-aid). Portal 2 is apparently expected this holiday season.
Portal gets 8.5/10 jumps through the time-warp. A good way to spend a couple of hours, and there are bonus maps and challenges to do as well if you just want a little more time with it.
Next post is the blog’s 100th post! I’ve got something planned, and as always, sharing is loving, so please share the post if you like it.