Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Ultimate Puzzle

I remember the first time I played Portal, I was a sophomore in high school and was having a LAN party with some friends. Before people showed up I decided to play the game that Zach had installed on my laptop last time he was over. I started the game with no idea what it was actually about, at the time not even the name hinted anything to me, I thought it was sort of generic. I had never played any of the Half Life games so not even Aperture Science meant anything to me.

Once the game booted, I choose new game and started the first level of the campaign. You start out in a glass cage with a no door, a strange pod and radio that is playing a speed up version of "Still Alive." I looked around and saw a timer on the wall counting down from a minute, I didn't know what was going on but I just sat there and waited for the timer to run out, and when it did I heard the voice of a robot that will surely go down in history as one of the evilest video game villains of all time, GLaDOS. She started giving her introduction speech and then started counting down from three. Once she reached zero my life would change forever as she opens my first Portal.

The concept was simple, walk through the orange portal, come out the blue portal and vice versa. However, slowly they start introducing new ways of thinking with portals, such as "how a portal affects forward momentum, or to be more precise, how it does not. " Most of the game sort of acts like a tutorial, in fact, if you play the game with commentary (which I recommend everybody does at least once) the developers state that Portal is a test to see if they can teach players how to think in portals, it's like a test within a test! As we all know their experiment was a huge success. Seriously though, have you ever played any other first person puzzle game even remotely similar to Portal?

The concept of Portal still blows my mind, in a mere twenty levels a robotic voice teaches you how to think in what I like to call Portal Logic, how to get from point A to point B in the most ridiculous way possible. By the end of the game, when you see a fifty foot wall, the first thing you look for is a way to launch yourself to the top. Once you really understand the game, you find yourself thinking in portals. I could walk up the stairs, but if I only had a portal gun I could just teleport to the second floor with portals, sadly I actually do think about these sorts of things.

Aside from portals themselves, there is one more element of the game that I love so much, Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System or GLaDOS. GLaDOS is to Portal what Hal was to 2001: A Space Odyssey. While at first she is your guide to the game, she quickly becomes the antagonist trying to murder you. The brilliant dialogue of the evil machine sends chills down your spine as you slowly realize she is just leading you to a fiery death. The evil bitch took my best friend away from me! It should have been me who died in the incinerator, you had so much to live for!
At this point you might be wondering why I am writing a video game review on a three and a half year old game. Well with the upcoming release of Portal 2, I want everyone to consider replaying the fascinating game. I want everyone to relive the excitement and frustration. To me Portal is one of those games I think everybody should play at least once, seriously, everybody. Because while it may just be a puzzle video game, it teaches us to think with a new perspective on how we get from point A to point B. Dad, if you are reading this, this suggestion applies to you too, I know video games are not your thing, but if I could ever ask you to try only one video game, my answer would be Portal in a heartbeat.

Lastly, as some of you may have already noticed, for the next 15 days in preparation for the release of Portal 2, I will be posting some of my favorite GLaDOS quotes on my Facebook wall, hopefully reminding people how great the original was and giving it one last go before it is replaced. If you haven't seen some of the awesome new things in Portal 2, check out the links below in which they introduce a few of the new concepts.

Propulsion Gel
Repulsion Gel
Pneumatic Diversity Vent
Aerial Faith Plate
Excursion Funnel
Thermal Discouragement Beam

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