*SPOILER ALERT* This blog will discuss various aspects of Portal - and while I don't specifically reveal any critical bits of information that would otherwise reveal the ending or other vital components of the game, I do mention some thoughts, feelings and emotions the game can produce. Read at your own risk.


I almost hesitate to call myself a gamer admitting that until just a few days ago, I never really played Portal. In my defense, Portal came bundled in Valve's "The Orange Box" (I play it on the PC version), which was chock full of gaming goodness. Other than a casual observance of the first few minutes of game play, it sat there in my Steam Browser while I was busy playing Half Life Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2. As time soldiered on, new games came out that caught my attention, demanded my time and refocused my efforts elsewhere.


For those who may not know the premise behind Portal (which I can't imagine there is anyone who doesn't), here is a brief summary:


Portal is a single-player first-person action/puzzle video game developed by Valve Corporation. The game was released in a bundle package called The Orange Box for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 on October 9, 2007, and for the PlayStation 3 on December 11, 2007. The Windows version of the game is also available for download separately through Valve's content delivery system Steam and was released as a standalone retail product on April 9, 2008. A stand-alone version called "Still Alive" was released on the Xbox 360 Live Arcade system on October 22, 2008; this version includes an additional fourteen puzzles.


The game consists primarily of a series of puzzles that must be solved by teleporting the player's character and simple objects using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device ("ASHPD", also dubbed the "portal gun"), a unit that can create inter-spatial portals between flat planes. The player character is challenged by an AI named "GLaDOS" to complete each puzzle in the "Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Center" using the portal gun with the promise of receiving cake when all the puzzles are completed.


The portal gun reminds me of the old Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons with the Acme portable hole (there's that originality issue peeking through again). Oh, the shenanigans of those two. Am I the only one who ever wondered if the coyote had money to buy all these fancy gadgets to catch dinner, couldn't he just buy a pizza?


(I know, it's not a portable hole - but Google could not find it...honest. So I improvised.)

Game Informer recently broke the news of a Portal 2. The community is buzzing with excitement. And even though the mention of a holiday release is still months away, I decided now was as good of a time as any to fire up the original and see what it was all about; finally understand the whole, "The Cake is a Lie" bit.


Three days later. It's done. I'm finished. I'm blown away. I want more. I'm longing for Portal 2. I understand now. I understand and feel guilty for not giving this jewel more attention when it was first released.


It was a powerful experience. It's the kind of game...scratch that...I don't know that you could even classify it a game. It's more of a virtual reality simulator, but for the sake of the discussion I will continue calling it a game. On the surface it might appear to be nothing more than a simple puzzle game, but it is truly so much more. The feelings and emotions that it made me feel in an otherwise sterile and bland environment is simply amazing. By bland and sterile, I only mean that there are no big flashy weapons, no diverse alien races and no exotic maps or levels. Yet, as I played through the puzzles, I became so engrossed with it, I didn't even notice.


Any developer who can create a game that can inspire a bond between your character and an inanimate object (in this case, the Weighted Companion Cube) should stand up right now, take a bow and pat themselves on the back. I was so absorbed with GLaDOS and listening to her guidance that when it came time to destroy my personal Weighted Companion Cube, I was angry. I went back through the whole level looking for an out, but could not find any way to preserve and protect my beloved cube (if there is one, please tell me). Eventually, I succumbed to the inevitable task of destroying it, yet I was angry for having to do so. (I'm sure that is the affect the developers were hoping for).


Later in the game, there are these little (what I call cute and cuddly) automated turrets. Granted they are ferocious little buggers with machine guns. They will tear you a new one in no time flat, but if you pause for just a moment and listen to their sweet angelic voices, you (or at least I did) become somewhat attached to them and feel a tingle of guilt as you dispose of them.


While I can tell you they say phrases like, “I don't hate you; Please put me down; Are you still there; and Could you come over here“ - Unless you hear (or have heard) their sweet and innocent little voice boxes purr, you have no idea what I’m talking about.


I read a blog here at GIO a few days ago that asked if a game ever made you cry (I'm too lazy to search for it now). I can't think of a game that made me cry (though I thought the opening to Max Payne was pretty upsetting) and Portal certainly didn't come close to making me cry, but the emotion I felt over this game was unique and quite refreshing. It created such an unusual bond with the various components; I can’t even really explain it. Words simply don’t do it justice. Of course, the more you play it you become aware that everything is not what it seems until finally, just when you think the game is over, it really begins.


Now that I've beat it...I don't know whether to feel relieved...or betrayed.


One thing is for certain...the cake is a lie.


Still Alive? (Nice song by the way)




If you have played Portal (or perhaps another game) and have a similar experience as far as the emotional connection, feel free to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them.