Saturday, December 01, 2007

Portal Revisited

A month ago, I had an entry on Portal. I did not realize at the time how much traction this game would get in the mainstream media, well the mainstream PC computer media. It has gotten many positive reviews. Some examples are in GameSpy, IGN, ShackNews, and GameSpot. The Maximum PC podcast crew even mentioned Portal when talking about possible games of the year. More interestingly, Portal is getting attention outside the usual gaming sources. For example, John Dvorak has mentioned it on Cranky Geeks and TWiT. Ok, he mentioned how much fun his kids were having playing Portal.

Do these people know they are playing a puzzle game? It is great to see so many people enjoying a puzzle game. Over the last five or more years, puzzle games have been equated with casual games such as Bejeweled and Big Kahuna Reef. This has really hurt the puzzle game genre. The developers lost sight of the hardcore puzzle gamers leading to a dearth of such games in the usual distribution chains. The best thing about Portal is that it shows developers that there is money to be made in puzzle games.

My opinion of Portal has not changed, "Portal is a great idea, needs more levels, steam sucks." I have learned a couple of things about the game which I wanted to mention. Basically, I just wanted show my excitement that a hardcore puzzle game is getting some attention.


I am just not a fan of Steam with all its ads and DRM crap. The website has another example of the dark side of Steam. I realize I am a crank and no one else cares. Still, I have to say it.

Narbacular Drop

The development team at Valve that built Portal largely came from the group of DigiPen students that made Narbacular Drop. It is an impressive if flawed game. As you might guess, the basic idea is the same as Portal: get to the exit by forming portals in the walls, ground, etc. I remember playing it briefly when it was released. It had very dark graphics and was too easy to get suck. So, I did not give it much of a play. Luckily, someone at Valve looked past these flaws and saw the potential of the portal idea. Narbacular Drop is still available for free if you want to take it for a spin.


My main complaint about Portal is its length. I shot through the game about 10 hours. Admittedly, I did not replay the levels in difficult mode. That is a rookie way to make a puzzle game harder. Many players have spent 30 hours getting through the 17 levels even in basic mode.

I mentioned that a level editor was needed. Despite a lack of a built in editor, people have been generating levels on their own. One repository of these levels is Now, to access these levels, you have to manually load them using the console. It is a cumbersome process and directories in the directions were not correct for me. Stick with it and you will have a bunch of new Portal challenges. Unfortunately, the quality of the levels at varies. It would be nice if the levels were rated similar the rating for DROD holds.

To really take off, Portal needs a simple way to load maps. There is some information on how to make Portal levels on Steams development wiki. I really hope this encourages people to make their own levels. Time will tell.

Weighted Cube

The weighted companion cube which plays a special roll in the game has become a fan favorite. A template for paper model of the weighted cube can be obtained at and There is even rumors of a plush toy version being available at Steam Store sometime soon. This would make for a nifty stocking stuffer for any Portal fan.


Post a Comment

<< Home