The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Amongst the glut of sexy trivia games and Minecraft
knock-offs that plague the Xbox Live Indie Games portal, an occasional gem
shines through. Gateways is one such game, aptly translating the spatial
puzzles of Valve's hit Portal into a 2D environment. If you think that axing
the third dimension would neuter the challenge of Portal's space-jumping puzzles,
fear not; a trio of other portal guns transforms the formula in more mind-blowing
ways than Valve's own sequel.
Gateways gets off to an underwhelming start, in part due to
its primitive presentation. The graphics, animations, and sound effects are all
basic, and the story is virtually nonexistent. You play the role of Ed, a
scientist who must find a way out of his sprawling laboratory, which is split
up into Metroid-style branches that open up as you gain more powers.
Most of the puzzles involve opening doors via a series of
switches or sensors, and those built for the first gun are easy for Portal
veterans. Luckily, each of the three subsequent guns you unlock adds new and
unique twists to the formula. The size portal gun allows you to shrink or
enlarge your character, the time portal gun lets you travel back in time and
coordinate your actions with your previous self, and the gravity portal gun has
you flipping the world around.
These new abilities have you crisscrossing your laboratory
as you figure out previously impassible puzzles. Remember that pressure plate
on the ceiling you couldn't reach? Use the gravity gun to flip your world
upside-down and stroll right up to it. Couldn't figure out how to split a laser
to activate two sensors at the same time? Shine it through a time portal, then
jump in after it and use your clone to aim the second beam. Find a door with
four pressure plates? Repeatedly jump back through your time portal until you
have a quartet of clones to hold the door open for you – just make sure you
don't bump into your copies, or you'll rip the fabric of space-time and
collapse the portal.
Just when I figured out all of my powers, the game switched
things up one final time; the last power-up gives you the ability to use multiple
portal guns at the same time. Gateways becomes awesomely challenging at this
point, and the last few puzzles are a mental marathon, requiring you to set up
eight different portals simultaneously and orchestrate your movements across an
army of clones. One puzzle requires you to shrink yourself down, then jump
through a gravity portal and run up a wall to trigger a miniature switch – then
enlarge yourself and hightail it back to the time portal before it closes to
create another clone for the next step in the solution. These are the kinds of
mind-expanding challenges I had hoped to see in Portal 2.
As much as I love Gateways, I have a few complaints. I never
really got used to the disorienting preview effect portals cast, and despite a
network of shortcuts, I still spent a lot of time backtracking to puzzles I
couldn't complete earlier in the game. Gateways also features only one real enemy
type (floating contraptions that you jump on to defeat), and they're rarely
ever incorporated into the puzzles. Instead, they're meant to spice up the
occasional platforming sections, but they don't help much. Thankfully,
platforming isn't the point.
My biggest complaint, however, is that Gateways eventually
ends. While the length of the game is perfectly acceptable (it took me about
six hours), I would've gladly stumbled my way through countless more puzzles. This
addictive and rewarding gameplay makes recommending Gateways a no-brainer.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.