Time Capsule Review: Old Games in the Modern Age – Portal - bigcollin Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Time Capsule Review: Old Games in the Modern Age – Portal

I’m 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.

 

 

Xbox360/PS3/PC/MacOS

Version Played: PC

Release Year: 2007 (part of The Orange Box)

Played: January 2012

Developer: Valve

Genre: First Person Puzzle/Platformer

ESRB: T

 

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 history.

 

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.

 

The 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.

 

Gameplay-wise, Portal 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 player.

 

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

 

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