Portal is a video game made by the company Valve, and it is a first-person, puzzle platform game. It was introduced in 2007 as part of a three-game pack called The Orange Box. Nick says when he bought The Orange Box, it wasn’t for Portal, but for Half Life 2 (like most people, probably).
Portal was later acclaimed as one of the most original games of 2007, and it has become a cult classic. Our extremely talented friend Kirk even wrote a musical in homage to it (we went to see one of his pieces last year as one of Nick’s INDTs of 2011). So although I’d heard about the game and knew it was supposed to be cool, tonight I thought I’d play it see what all the fuss was really all about.
When you first start the game, you are in what appears to be a lab, but there’s no one around. It’s pretty creepy. You can walk around, can look up, down, left right, etc., and you can also jump a bit. Though you’re “alone” (you can’t see anyone else around), there is a computerized voice that comes over the intercom, giving you information and sometimes making snarky remarks (turns out that’s GlaDOS).
The object of the game is to solve the puzzles in each level. The twist is that they’re life-sized, and “real-life” puzzles, as it’s played in the first-person. For example, there’s a “1500 Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super Colliding Super Button” on the ground, and an “Aperture Science Weighted Storage Cube” in the corner. You’ve got to pick up the cube, and drop it on the button to get to the next level. When you leave your “room” at the very beginning, it’s through a “Portal” doorway. You find later in the game that there are “Aperture Science Handheld Portal Devices” or guns that can create portals, and you get to use them. That’s where the real fun comes in.
There’s so much more to this game, but I don’t want to give it away (yes, to those select few who STILL haven’t played the game … I know, I’m late). The thing I really do have to share is how much ANXIETY I experienced playing Portal for the first time! When you know what to expect, I think it’s probably not so bad – but for me (especially since I specifically asked Nick NOT to tell me anything), I was pretty freaked out playing it, until I had cleared at least 10 levels. By then I just wanted OUT. Ha ha ha! But after knowing more about the game, I really want to play again. I realize in that way I have an unfair advantage compared to the more adventurous Portal explorers who went through the game as intended when it first came out, but give me a break here – the last games I really remember playing that were anything close to this was back when games were not first person – like Super Mario Bros. 2. The closest thing to Portal I can think of that I’d played was Intelligent Qube – a different kind of puzzle game, but still third-person. I looked them up: Super Mario Bros. 2 was released August 1, 1993 and Intelligent Qube was January 31, 1997. Both almost 20 years ago!