So here’s how the game goes. You wake up in what appears to be a cryogenic stasis tube in a small glass-panelled room. There are no visible exits to the room. An AI computer voice hopes that your “brief detention in the relaxation vault” has been pleasant, and informs you that the testing is about to begin. And then a portal opens up on one of the walls of your cell.
This portal doesn’t work like other video games or sci-fi, though. If you look through the portal, you can see everything on the other side of it, seamlessly. If you look through the portal from a sheer angle, you see through it at that same angle as though it was actually a window. If you step through it, there’s no indication to you that you’d done so save for a little *fwoomp* noise.
The sheer awesomeness of the way this portal works within the video game world, from a technical
The properties of these portals are incredible, once you learn just how useful they are, and how versatile. Frankly, though, all of this has to be seen to be believed, so here’s their official trailer. Some of the stuff that happens in this trailer must be from beta, though, as it never happened in the actual game.
All other modes of transportation, like running, jumping, or using lifts or platforms, pale in comparison to being able to throw a portal up onto a high ledge and drop a portal right under your feet, putting you practically instantly wherever you want to be. Need to get through a wall, but all there is is a pinhole sized hole? Shoot a portal through the hole and you can get to the other side, no problem. Have a large chasm you have to jump over somehow? Find an angled piece of wall, put a portal on that, then jump off a cliff and put the other portal where you’re going to land. Your downward momentum is
Now, I suffer every now and then from vertigo when playing video games. I’ve caught myself yelping or turning away from the camera as Mario hurtles downward into the infinite abyss in the 3D Super Mario games. Every now and then, in Portal, there were puzzles that churned my stomach — like one where you had to conserve your momentum while popping up from one floor portal after another (jump off a cliff, land in a portal, and pop out of another floor portal you’d placed earlier — then place the next floor portal up on a higher cliff, then again, and again, falling then popping up, falling then popping up). But this is more than made up for by the mere fact that you have to think like a person with a portal gun at their disposal. Vertigo is nothing when you have a portal gun. Forget ladders. Forget moving platforms. You can get from point A to point B instantly, and you have to learn to process the 3D world that way. This phenomenon is known as “portal thinking”, and it does take a significant adjustment. (The SomethingAwful goons seem to have it down pat, though.)
I could talk about the portals themselves for days. However, they aren’t even half of the awesome that you can find in this game. Throughout the game, you’re being “helped” along by an evidently crazy AI named GLaDOS (pronounced “Gladys”), the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System. I say crazy because she seems to want to kill you once the testing is complete, and has an unhealthy obsession with cake. The cake, however, is a lie — a previous test subject known as the “Rat-Man” has made that much clear in the notes he’s scrawled to assist you in your trek through these puzzles. Also, you’ll always want to keep your Weighted Companion Cube close and treat it with the utmost respect and dignity, and never trust anyone who says things like, “any contact with the chamber floor will result in an ‘unsatisfactory’ mark on your official testing record followed by death.” Anyway, you’ll find out about all of that soon enough.
You owe it to yourself to play this game. And I don’t say that about many games. I don’t even care if you’re not a gamer — you’ll likely enjoy this, or at least find it interesting to think about.
And if you’re not much for first-person games, or don’t have a powerful enough computer to handle them, here’s a poor-mans version of the awesome — a Flash-based 2D version of Portal. Oh, and if you already know and love the game, you can buy the t-shirt. Or buy one for me.