Thursday, May 27, 2010

Seriously—Everyone Need To Play Portal

Back when I was High School a little game came out: Wolfenstein 3D

This little game changed the face of Electronic Gaming. It wasn't the first first-person-shooter, but every first person shooter since has pretty much been the same (Except for some six degrees of freedom games: Descent, Forsaken). The next big one after that was Doom, and I haven't really played a First-person-shooter (FPS) since then. I played Halo and Halo 2 a few times, but frankly they seemed about the same to me.

When I first started playing Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, it gave me headaches, but the play style was so new I just played through it and eventually got used to it and didn't have the problem any more. Then I stopped playing because every new FPS game was just more of the same, and now if I play FPS games the headaches and nausea manifest themselves almost immediately.

Some time ago, a game called Half Life came out. I don't know much about Half Life. What I understand, is that it introduced some puzzle elements to the FPS. Then Half Life 2 Came out, and my understanding is that it had really great modification tools available, and people were building completely new games based on Half Life 2. In fact, I think I knew people that bought it so they could play the Modified versions rather than the actual published game.

Then this thing called The Orange Box came out. It was a compilation of games all based on the same engine. (Half Life 2: Episode One and Two, Team Fortress 2 and Portal) I think that Most People Bought it for the Cartoony Team Fortress 2, and were surprised at the awesomeness of the new puzzle game Portal.

I don't play as many video games as I would like to, but I try to keep up with the news. Portal was all over the place for a while. Since it was first person I read about it (Since I knew I would most likely never play it, and I wanted to understand the jokes).

In the game you wake up in a cell and shortly thereafter a portal opens to let you out, then you are challenged with a puzzle to exit the area. For the most part there is nothing that directly threatens your life and you are just challenged with passing obstacles and opening doors to get to the next challenge. During your travels from level to level, a computer voice speaks to you and you feel as though you are being watched by some Big Brother Entity. Frankly, I felt like a rat in a maze—there are frosted glass areas that are high up and give you the impression that you are being watched.

The Puzzles all involve the use of portals that are linked (Walking through the Orange Portal, you exit at the location of the Blue portal and vice versa). For the first couple levels, the portals open and shut for you. Then you are able to obtain a portal generator that generates the blue portal, while the Orange portal is stable and cannot be manipulated. Then later your Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device is upgraded to allow you to create both the Blue and Orange Portals, this is where the game gets interesting.

As the computer continued to announce things, I started to get the impression that this was an experiment gone horribly horribly wrong. The computer voice would short/cut out right as it was about to give vital information. It started lying about its monitoring of the tests, and eventually was offering me cake to just give up.

This game was a short, but brilliant ride. It consists of nineteen levels. Eighteen of them, I would consider to be tutorials that teach you all the concepts that you need to know in order to get through the last level.

It's a good story. I'm sure I'm missing out on a lot because I get the impression that it takes place in the Half Life Universe, which I know nothing about. Still, I think it stands on its own quite well.

What prompted me to actually play this game?

I certainly wasn't going to buy it, given my history of physical illness when playing first person games. There is a service called Steam from which you can purchase and download full retail versions of games. May 12–24 they had Portal as a FREE download. (Apologies, I meant to get this written before the deal was over—now it's $20, which is a fair deal if you ask me.)

My daughter loves playing this. She makes no attempt to do what the game asks you to, but she gets a kick out of putting a portal in the floor and the ceiling and falling infinitely; she also likes making portals in corners so she can see herself.

I'm excited that there is a sequel planned, and I'm planning to get it.
In fact, I've wanted to play new content enough that I've downloaded some fan built levels, but they aren't as fun as the real deal, if anyone knows of any pro quality MODs for portal, let me know.

I know I'm late to the party on this one—the game came out in 2007—but for anyone that missed this, you really need to try it out.


  1. I love how Moira plays the game (with the open mind of a child). You forgot to mention how she totally solved a problem you had in a pretty clever way (that probably would have taken you a while to come up with).

  2. I totally agree with your opinion. I usually get bored of FPS games...i'm just not good at them...but I played portal, and finished the game...and I'm waiting for the next one...will there be cake?

  3. Excellent capture of the coolness of portals.

    Orange Box was the album that I only wanted one song. I never purchased it.

    Thanks for the tip on the free download.