Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Portal

I tried to think of a witty title for this post, but I was up late playing the aforementioned game, and I'm too tired now at work to be creative.

Portal is part of The Orange Box, a 5-game pack from the makers of Half-Life. In addition to Portal, it includes the previously released Half-Life 2, as well as two follow-up "episodes," and Team Fortress 2, a multiplayer shooter game that involves characters with different roles (medic, engineer, soldier, 6 others). While I'm excited about playing the rest of the games in the suite, Portal is the only game I'm going to discuss right now.

The basic concept of the game is one of solving puzzles. Think of a first-person version of The Adventures of Lolo or Solomon's Key. The equivalent of Solomon's wand in this game is the Portal gun, which you don't have fully together until level 7 or so. Using the portal gun, you can create two ends of a portal, one orange and one blue. The two portals link to each other, so you can transport yourself to many different places in the world, and you'll have to do just that to progress in this game.

The first 15-20 challenges are refined, constructed rooms, designed specifically to test the player in a training sort of context. There are still deadly foes, so your life is on the line, but the game auto-saves after every minor accomplishment, and it offers a manual save anywhere in the game, so you won't have to worry about "lives" like in old NES puzzle games. After the final "test" room, you begin the more intense and more Half-Life style portion of the game. You still use your portal gun to move forward in the game, but things are much more dangerous, and you'll have to dodge bullets and pistons to stay alive.

One of the more endearing aspects of this game is GLaDOS, the artificial intelligence that guides you through the test rooms, and becomes the main antagonist by the end of the game. It's a robotic female voice that offers advice, quips, and sometimes outright lies about your progress in the game (such as the one room that she states is impossible). She's very funny, as are a few other aspects of the game, such as the machine gun drones who whine when you disable them. GLaDOS also sings a song at the end of the game that really embodies the attitude of the game. If you're itching to hear/see it, YouTube has got a bunch of videos of the end credits (the song is called Still Alive). For those of you who own Rock Band for the 360, it's a free download to add the song to your game.

The one shortcoming of the game is that it's very short. I played for two hours one night, then beat it the following night after another hour. But even though the game doesn't last very long, it's got a decent amount of lasting appeal, as I could definitely see going through the game again in a month.

A link I've found when reading about the game is here. It's a blog with a lot of Portal-inspired media, like songs and sound clips. Some pretty neat stuff on there, worth checking out I think.

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