Portal Review

Does the length of a game matter if it provides the user with an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience throughout its entirety? Analogically, is a short film as viable as a piece of that medium as a feature-length film? Most would agree that the answer to the latter is a definite "yes," but to the former, the most common response is a rather hesitant "yes." With Portal, Valve and its team of Digipen graduates seem to be on a one-developer crusade to change our attitudes towards how long a game should be, intentionally or not.

When compared to most games, Portal is short. Most people should be able to run through it in under 3 hours and some might even be able to rush through it in under 2 hours. But during those few hours, the player takes part in an experience that is wholly unique and somewhat unexpected.

New methods of interaction that end up being the very foundation on which a game is built can either make it or break it. Valve knows this, and in Portal, you don’t simply walk through portal A and exit portal B and complete the training segment. Oftentimes, you’ll have to jump off a 30ft ledge into portal A and use your momentum to exit portal B to reach a ledge that was nearly out of sight.

Without giving too much away, before long you will be using your portals to quickly navigate across moving platforms and knocking out deadly machine-gun wielding robots that nigh apologetically say "I don’t hate you" after you render them incapacitated. It’s this almost unsettling human quality of the most inhuman of things that quickly becomes the glue that holds the entire experience together.

Throughout the game, you are somewhat guided by a computerized voice that seems a bit…unnatural. After completing a challenge, the voice congratulates you and "awards" you with some unusually dry humor. Whether you find it funny or not, the things that the voice says are always so irreverent that you may in fact start anticipating the next level not for the puzzle/s that it may hold, but for the voice’s next lame attempt at a joke. The writing and presentation are really that good.

It’s hard to find something not to like about Portal. Everything, from the gameplay to the presentation, are top-notch from beginning to end and makes it more than a worthy addition to the level of quality presented by the other titles in the Orange Box.


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Author: Kyle Stallock View all posts by

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