Portal was an experiment game from Valve studio, makers of famous Half-Life. To differentiate from typical point-and-shoot games, but reuse the same 3D engine, creators of Portal just stumbled upon idea – what if we could shoot portals instead of bullets? And that’s how Portal was born. In Portal, you carry a special gun that’s capable of shooting two potals, a blue one and orange one. And they are, indeed, portals, which means that you shoot one here and the other on a wall a kilometer later – and then you pass through the nearby one, just to appear there. So the distance has been dramatically voided. It still exists, but portals create these magnificent shortcuts – if you now throw a ball into your portal, it will continue its flight that kilometer further. But not only it’s about distance, but also maintaining the momentum. Quoting the game: “In Layman’s terms: speedy thing comes in, speedy thing goes out”. You can shoot one portal at the floor, and then the other at the wall and then drop your ball above the portal, just to see it flying quite fast from that portal in wall. It’s really mind-boggling and hard to explain in words. The game will help you to take the leap and after several puzzles, “you are now thinking in portals”. The whole game is really just a 3D fps “shooter”, where you encounter spatial puzzles you have to overcome to just proceed further.
That would make a nice game with a new interesting concept, but that’s not what makes Portal so unique. It’s, picture that, the story and characters. You act as Chell, a young girl who is apparently a captive test subject in a weird company called Aperture Sciences. You are guided by a computer A.I. voice going by the name GlaDOS. It (or rather she) will accompany you through the so called “test chambers” causing you to laugh histerically from many comments and remarks she makes on the way. She tries to maintain the conversation, but also drags you down into some depressed state, like you cannot win anyway. You will also meet the adorable Weighted Companion Cube with pink hearts drawn on it and Wheatly – a robot in a shape of a ball with big nervous eye and funny accent. Wheatly will help you, but he has his own agenda… You will also find that GlaDOS isn’t just a testing computer, but wants to take control over the universe… you know, the old stuff.
Portal is a source of many internet memes and cultural sayings (i.e. “the cake is a lie”). People buy plush companion cubes, make their own portal guns, quote GlaDOS all over the place. Unique humour of the game made the sequel, Portal 2, almost a guaranteed insta-success maker. And indeed, the game did not disappoint. Portal is a good example that games can explore law of physics and be interesting, but also maintain a solid chunk of self-distance, making joke about itself or games in general. Nothing is really serious in Portal and that’s brilliantly expressed in ending credits song in both games. Here, the ending song from Portal 2 – pay attention to lyrics :)
More about Portal 2 –