Thursday, October 18, 2007


Title: Portal
Author: Valve
License: Commercial

I have to get this out of the way: in order to play Portal, you have to use the steam client. I hate steam. I hate the ads that pop up when I shut it down. I hate that it collects supposedly anonymous data and reports it back to the mother ship. I hate that it has root privilege. I hate that people have come to accept this sort of crap. I hate that to play a great game like Portal, I am willing to allow steam to run on one of my computers.

Portal is an amazing 3D puzzle game using the HalfLife2 graphics/physics engine. Your goal is simply to get to the exit. Your tool is a portal gun. Using it, you can open a portal opening on a wall, floor, or ceiling which allows you and certain objects to pass through to some other part of the map, the other portal opening. The entertaining part is that your orientation can change while passing through a portal and cause a change in the direction of gravity. Often, you can look through a portal and see yourself, from a different angle.

The maps contain obstacles. Some have switches which need to have boxes dropped on them to activate. Other switches need a ball of energy to hit them. Portals can be used to redirect these balls. Sometimes, you just need to figure out how to place the portals so you can get from A to B. There are also objects to avoid, laser and poisonous floors.

There are several great ah-ah moments in Portal where you start to understand the game. It is worth it for these moments. There are only 19 levels which feel like a tutorial. The portal effect does take some time to get used to. Just as I was really feeling comfortable, it was over. I hope that more levels are on the way. A level editor is not included.

The graphics are amazing. The audio is amazing. The background computer voice dialog is great. The only down side, besides the evil steam and small number of levels, is that some levels require timing and quick thinking. For example, you have to do a timed platform jumping. However, it is not too difficult.

You are purchase Portal directly through steam. It is also included in the Orange Box.

Anybody who likes Portal, will probably also enjoy Kiki The Nanobot, and vice-versa.


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