Alright all you would-be gamers, lets see what you’ve got… I am wrapping up my Saturday-games series in a few weeks so I had to make sure to cover some ground before the end. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back to these in the future, but for a little while, I’m putting them on hold. But that means I need to cover some final classics. Some time back, I sent some of those classics overseas to my pal, Roger. He had never tried the games I’ve played but I knew he liked thinking games. So one of the games I sent was Portal.
Developed by Valve, the makers of Half-Life and Team Fortress, Portal was a blip on a boxed set called The Orange Box. It was released in 2007 as part of Half-Life: Episode Two. And for my money, out-performed everything else that came with it. Portal is what stand-up comedians like Sebastian Maniscalco would call a mind-****. (Play the game, and you will fill in the blanks.)
On Wednesday night, realizing I wanted to talk about this game, I came home, re-installed it, and played it until I completed it. It took me under 2 hours but I had the advantage of having played it before. Multiple times. The game opens with you in a very small cell, having just gotten out of a cryo-sleep style bed. Music is playing on a radio, there’s a clipboard, a coffee mug, and a toilet. On the wall, a clock is counting down. And there’s the voice of a computer speaking to you. 3…2…1… the portal opens and the game begins. For the next “19” boards, you are an unnamed subject running through a series of tests. The unnamed computer putting you through the tests does not give you a name and glitches periodically. There’s a sense of foreboding while playing the game that lets the player know all is not as it seems.
There’s a twisted sense of humor throughout the game too. GLADoS, the computer, seems to make mistakes like saying when the tests are over you will be baked and then there will be cake. Or that the device you are carrying is “worth more than the combined income of everyone in <subject hometown here>”. Oh, the device! Yes, that probably warrants a mention or two…
So early in the game you get the “portal gun”. This is a gun that shoots a portal, or doorway, onto a surface. For the first few missions, you can only shoot one portal, while another stationary one is found somewhere on the board and you use it to cross chasms and solve spatial riddles. Soon, you get the other half of the device. Now you can create your own entrance and egress. Of course I put a portal on the ceiling and one on the floor and fell indefinitely! I also put one on the wall behind me and one in front of me, so I could look at my own back. What do you think?! That’s how I learned that the main character is a female! But there are hints that she’s an augmented female, based on the leg enhancements she wears. (As the game goes on, you learn more about yourself.)
Portal uses physics in a real way, or more precisely, “speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out”. If I put a portal on the ground far below me, and one on a wall high above, when I jump through the one on the ground, my momentum will send me rocketing through the one above me. This is useful when one needs to get across a vast space. Throughout the 19 missions, there are other additions. A companion cube, a little square with a heart on it, ends up having multiple purposes on one board, but you have to carry it safely with you throughout. There are turrets too, that will target you and kill, unless you can find a way to disable them. Bear in mind, you do not get a gun that does harm – only one the creates a doorway.
For fans of Half-Life, there’s still the signature Half-Life feel. These offices are constructed in the same universe as that classic. In fact, Black Mesa, the top secret organization from Half-Life is a real thing in this game as well. The game is amazing and in 2011 a sequel came out now with multiplayer functionality and far more boards. The game is an utter classic and will probably always be in the top 10 must-play games of all time. I bought Portal for $20 but it retails now for $10. Oh, and at the end, the credits roll to a now-classic piece of music that even my wife loves (I love when I catch her singing it!) I hear it sung by tons of different people when I have Pandora on, and it always amazes me that it was so popular. Enjoy this training video. It’ll give you an idea what to expect. Enjoy opening those portals; its so much fun to watch yourself as you leap through them! ML
Alright all you would-be gamers, lets see what you’ve got…
PS: I found this online some time back and it amazed me. I think it was the work of a genius. Enjoy this too.