Portal

Review

posted 10/25/2007 by Jennifer Yan
other articles by Jennifer Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
The three games that Valve Software offers in The Orange Box might just be one the best values around right now. Today I'm going to talk about one of the three high quality games and it's the most unique of the three. Portal is the name and getting to the cake is what you want to do in the game.

You start out waking up in a very odd room whereby a toilet, radio, and a sleeping chamber is all that encompass the space. Not long after, a mysterious computer voice, GLaDOS, comes on to give you some simple instructions. The computer presides over the complex called Apeture Science. Thus begins your experience as a lab rat trapped in a unique puzzle ladened environment. Your job is to use the portal gun to navigate through a series of rooms. Starting out very simple, the game gets progressively more difficult as the complexity of the rooms increase through 19 levels of pure fun.

As Chell, the female protagonist of the game, you proceed through the level at a walking pace. There's no running involved here but you can jump and crouch. A pair of leg springs are attached to you so that you can fall long distances without taking any damage. You'll definitely experience a few levels later in the game where you will fall from a great distance and the designers of the game put the leg springs on your character to explain why you won't die when you fall. Perhaps the leg springs prohibit Chell from running but there were a few times I wish I could pull a Forrest Gump and run from one part of the level to another as pieces of the leg springs fly off in slow motion.

As for GLaDOS, the voice actress who portrays her is absolutely perfect. Ellen McLain does a superb job exhibiting such an incredible personality backed by great dialog. The way she talks to you and the computerized effects used to achieve this makes GLaDOS one of the best computer voice companions since SHODAN from System Shock 2. While GLaDOS starts out pretty reasonable, you'll enjoy her transformation into something a little more vindictive. There's some great black humor exhibited by GLaDOS and you'll both laugh and be haunted by what she says to you as you progress through the game.

You won't get to use the full power of the portal gun at first as you'll only be able to create one portal at a time but that's in part to teach you how to use the gun. Portal gives you various visual clues on how to accomplish your tasks and it's these simple little cues and the vocal instructions you receive that lets you learn how the gun will benefit you. Create two portals, walk into one, and walk out from the other side. It's a pretty simple concept. Speed is preserved between portals so if you fall from a good distance into a portal, you'll emerge at the same speed from the other portal. You'll use this strategy to build up enough speed to launch yourself over certain obstacles by using gravity to increase your speed. You can also create portals for objects to fall through. Overall it's not a complicated concept and you'll get the basics down pretty quickly through trial and error from the first few levels.

Each level consists of trying to get to the elevator to the next area by navigating through various obstacles mostly using your portals. Not all walls or floors can have portals created on them and you can see which ones are this way by the different texture appearing on them. Some levels contain energy spheres that you need to redirect to the destination to power up a platform or enables a shift in a level's wall. Others contain a life threatening substance so when you fall in you die and have to start the level again at a saved point. You'll also run into lethal turrets that have a personality of their own. You can knock these turrets over to render them harmless by dropping an object on top of them, pushing them over yourself, using a portal to drop it in another area. It's pretty funny to hear some of the comments the turrets shout out when they are disabled such as "I don't blame you." I wish these turrets where in Half-Life 2 as they have great personality and it would've been fun to carry these things around in a level hearing them talk.
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