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back with another Time Capsule Review. This one is a game that I played not too long
ago, and that many gamers hold very dear to their hearts. Arguably thrown into The Orange Box as sort
of an afterthought, this short little expedition into physics-bending fun has
come to arguably eclipse the 2 games it was packaged with. Although it was held
as an extraordinary piece of gaming genius upon release, has this much-loved
instant classic weathered the years to remain great even today? There’s only
one way to find out.
TIME CAPSULE REVIEW: PORTAL
Drawing I did for this review. I'll try and do one for all of my blog post.
Version Played: PC
Release Year: 2007
(part of The Orange Box)
Played: January 2012
Genre: First Person
Portal is one of those
games that came out of nowhere and took everyone by surprise back when it
released in 2007. Part of Valve’s The Orange Box, along with the also-beloved
Team Fortress 2 and Half Life 2, as well as Half Life 2 – Episode 1 and 2.
Alongside these sequels to 2 beloved games, no one predicted that the true gem
of this collection would be the roughly 3 hour long puzzle platformer developed
by a small team within Valve as a spiritual successor to the freeware game
Narbacular Drop, the development team of which had since been absorbed by Valve.
Screenshot from Portal's spiritual predecessor Narbacular Drop.
To kick things off,
lets me start out by saying Portal is a short game. I beat it in a single 3 to
3.5 hour sitting, and I wouldn’t want it any longer. Portal is perfectly paced
to keep you from growing bored of the mechanics, while still delivering an
amazing package in terms of a complete story that doesn’t feel rushed or cut
short, a delicate balance that far too many games fail to achieve.
Portal as a game emulates the various puzzles that make it up in nature: short and satisfying, but you'll have to use your brain to make it through.
On the subject of
story, Portal’s is incredible. Similar to a classic short story such as the
Most Dangerous Game or Harrison Bergeron, Portal’s story is based around a tiny
cast of characters and a few important lines or moments within the game, but
ultimately delivers a huge impact that far outweighs most full-length titles
today. The story begins with Chell, a young woman who will be the playable
character and protagonist of the game, waking up in an isolated chamber with no
visible doors in or out. After a brief message from a robotic voice emanating
from some unseen intercom system, a portal materializes in the wall of your
cell. You step through this portal, and thus being your journey through a
series of testing chambers in which the game’s spectacular puzzles take place.
Early on you get the portal gun, a device which allows you to create your own
portals, and it is with this nifty gadget that you will work your way through
the remainder of the game. As far as
memorable characters and moments go, without spoiling anything, I’ll just say
some of the lines and characters rank among the most memorable in gaming
I've read that Portal supposedly takes place in the same universe as the HalfLife series, but having yet to play Half Life (I own them and will get around to playing them at some point, and when I do you can expect some reviews here) I cannot personally attest to this.
narrative is woven through a terrific world that perfectly sets the tone of the
game. White paneled hallways lead you
between the various puzzles that make up most of the game, and gradually give
way to a drastically different side of the facility where the true tone of the
game is defined. While not on the same level as worlds like Rapture in Bioshock
or Tallon IV in Metroid Prime, the testing facility definitely provides a
unique backdrop that helps further a deep and meaningful story.
The unadorned, paneled hallways of the testing facility serve as the backdrop to the majority of the puzzles you will complete throughout the game.
ranks among the greatest games I have ever experienced. The brain-bending
physics puzzles are ingenious, and the difficulty always seems challenging
without ever becoming frustrating. The platforming can be a bit rough in a few areas, but overall
it’s a very small complaint in what is otherwise a near-flawless experience. I
never had a checkpoint that I felt was unfairly placed, neither too far from
nor close to the point of death as to make the game overly easy or difficult.
Besides all of this, in my opinion the best aspect of Portal’s gameplay was
that it included something that almost no modern game I can think of has: a challenging final boss. In general, across
all genres, almost any game I have played since the early 2000’s has had either
a pathetically easy final boss fight, or no final boss fight at all, with some
obvious exceptions. Portal delivers a truly challenging final boss that gives
the end of the game a terrific climactic feel , without ever becoming
overly-difficult to the point of frustrating,
and ranks among my favorite boss
battles of all time.
Don't assume that just because it's a puzzle game, Portal is going to be easy. There are a myriad of ways to die within the games testing chambers, many of which you will almost certainly fall prey to.
The only real flaw I can
point out about Portal is the platforming. At some points in the game the impreciseness
inherent to almost all first person games with regards to platforming rears its
ugly head. It’s only in a few areas where the limitations of the first person
view cause problems to a significant degree, and all of these problems are
surmountable with only the slightest bit of perseverance on the part of the
It can be very easy to get snagged one the edge of one of these portals. Not the greatest platforming to ever grace gaming, but still better at it than the vast majority of first person titles out there.
All in all, this game
is absolutely spectacular, and one I would rank as an absolute must-play for any
gamer. A bite-sized piece of digital genius, Portal provides one of the most
unique, exquisitely-crafted, nearly seamless, and overall exhilarating
experiences in the history of games, an experience that every gamer should be
able to behold.
So go play Portal now. Unless you think what I've told you is a lie.
Original GI Score: N/A (The Orange Box Score: 9.75)
My Score Today: 9.75
Similar Titles I Have Played (If you like these, you will
probably like Portal): None