The Portal concept

Although the present gaming era is one of huge budgets and epic productions, there has been a sizable insurgency of simple yet fun gameplay-oriented titles.

These games are most readiily available via digital distribution avenues such as Xbox Live Arcade or the good old internet, and are most often created by small, independent developers.

Games such as these, which are rarely technical marvels, usually thrive on the strength of one or two key gameplay concepts, which are either completely fresh ideas or are purposefully pushed to their limits, squeezing as much raw gaming utopia out of them as possible.

A recently released retail "box" included a gaming experience much like these simple flash titles or thumbdrive-sized downloads, but also happened to be created by a big-name development studio, and happened to run on a sophisticated 3D game engine.


The package, of course, is the critically-acclaimed Orange Box, and the specific game in question is the brilliant Portal. Portal, even though it is essentially a series of rooms that all set the same goal for the player (find a way to the exit), relies on a fresh new concept with nearly infinite possibilites. Yes, Prey made use of portals long before Valve’s first-person puzzle game, but Portal has now given the player the freedom to navigate space in just about any way imaginable.

This game is not an exercise in "walk through portal A and exit portal B FTW" — it is a complex, thought-provoking process of flying through portal after portal, making use of elevation, momentum and general laws of physics to access areas that otherwise seem impossible to reach.

Just like other, more simple concept games, the joy of Portal lies in the manipulation of the tools and gameplay mechanics offered to the user, with all else becoming unnecessary. It is an idea-driven game, rather than a content-driven one, and it works. To me, Portal could even be equated to the timeless classic Tetris in this regard.


Even without the excellent voice acting and dry humor found in the game, Portal stands as a great example of a well-developed concept driving a game to greatness. It is a joy to play, from beginning to end.

Like the song says, "This game is a triumph. I’m making a note here: huge success. It’s hard to overstate our satisfaction."


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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