Tuesday, June 21, 2016

1PanelReview Portal 1

Welcome to the Aperture Science Cooperative testing tracks.

Now you are thinking with portals!
Eyz reviews Valve Software's iconic series:
What it is: Portal, also known as Portal 1 or as the updated Portal: Still Alive

Which is: A first person puzzle/platformer game
Created by: Valve Corporation/Electronic Arts
Year: 2007
Available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac & Linux

The original Portal was something nobody expected at the time. It originally came bundled as this weird little bonus title in Valve's HλLF-LIFE 2 collection The Orange Box. And yet of all the titles regrouped in that compilation - Half-Life 2 and Team Fortess 2 - it would be the first to received a sequel before the other two franchises. It's a very competent first person puzzle game build from assets of Episode One.

And it even features a fairly compelling story! The game puts the player's foot in the shoes of Chell (or lack of shoes..). Like Gordon Freeman before, a silent protagonist who is forced to survive in the Aperture Science labs, an organization that apparently was in direct competition with Black Mesa in their search for teleportation devices. But where Black Mesa opened a door to interdimensional creatures, Aperture Science was able to develop the "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device", a portal gun that allows one to move freely with portals! But this Aperture "Enrichment Center" facility was soon taken over by this artificial intelligence the "Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System", or just "GLaDOS" for short who is now taunting her sole test subject Chell and forcing her through a series of 19 puzzles by promising her freedom and delicious cake.

What's Good about it: Portal was a really lovely surprise at the time. While everybody was focused on the continuation of Half-Life and a new Team Fortress, this really was the sleeper hit of the Orange Box!
The entire premise is really unique and revolves around these portals that teleport the player, something you would usually see as a gimmick weapon in a game such as Half-Life. But stretched here into a full game made for quite a fun puzzle game!
The original idea came from this little indie puzzle game Narbacular Drop which employees at Valve discovered and became fascinated with. They quickly hired the entire to team join them and they would be allowed to develop Portal, a game with a similar concept using the Source Engine.
The puzzles the game revolves around are pretty interesting and even increasingly challenging. Thanks to the unique physics controls. Basically it's all about logic and creating momentum with the portals you travel through.
The game started as just this standalone experimental Half-Life series spin-off.
But the it has a great concept solid. It's science!
The game is a lot of fun. 
It also uses a fantastic design and art direction, kind of reminiscent of the dystopian clinical feel of films like THX 1138 or the film The Island, these very austere clean empty white rooms. Which later reveal creepy empty office spaces behind the scenes.
I really loved this game's mysterious approach to its backstory, because it's not just a mere puzzle game without a story. It's very reminiscent of the very first Half-Life game. There's no actual cutscenes or memos lying around with several pages-worth of backstory, you can only glimpse a few things here and there. And the AI GLaDOS has this creepy presence and great characterization through the entire game.
There's a lot of secrets to find, it's all contextual. Such as these hidden clues left regarding some previous test subject. The game has a lot of hints regarding a much larger backstory and mysterious ties to the larger Half-Life mythos. In this first game you can only guess people developed this AI as a way to compete with the folks at Black Mesa, in a race for teleportation.
Something Valve mastered over the years is telling a compelling and engaging story in a very minimalist approach. And it all culminates in a fantastic ending!
The game has a great self-aware tone (which would be cranked up to 11 in the sequel).
There's so much iconic imagery despite the simple approach of a first person puzzle game. Lot of great elements in the lore from the portal gun to the companion cubes. The "cake is a lie" is now part of pop culture!
Much of the game's strength comes from GLaDOS, fantastically voiced by Ellen McLain. GLaDOS is a great character, a worthy antagonist successor to HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
And while Chell herself does not talk, you can get glimpses of who she is. She was modeled after a freelance actress and voice-over artist Alésia Glidewell (who doesn't even get to talk aside from a few grunts).
The game even has a few additional challenges after completing the main game. There are some challenges where you can try going through the puzzle rooms as quickly possible or with as few footsteps or portals as possible. And there's an advanced difficulty which features additional obstacles.
Most of the soundtrack of this first game is minimalist, it's just ambient music and creepy cues composed by Kelly Bailey and Mike Morasky, which give the game a dark and oppressive atmosphere in the style of Half-Life 2. And let's not forget the now iconic memorable and very catchy end credits song "Still Alive" written by musician Jonathan Coulton for the game and sung by Ellen McLain herself! Just as big part of the popularity of the game.

What's Bad about it: In my eyes the game is flawless. It's a perfect puzzle game given a lot of care and attention to the details. The story surprisingly creeps on you as you progress through it making it something more.
If anything I can only really complain how short the game is. A lot of ideas and content was cut to make it on time for the release of The Orange Box. (Which would be recycled in the sequel.)
And it just gets easier each new replay.

Overall: Portal is a great puzzle game. It would become a huge a hit with the crowd to point people almost forgot and forgave Valve for the lack of news regarding the long-awaited Half-Life 3 (come on, people, some of you still believe in that game?).

Highly Recommended game with a great voice in the form of a sarcastic AI! What starts as a fairly simply original puzzle game with really interesting physics quickly becomes a whole lot more during the course of its campaign.

Portal would soon become synonymous with the studio, as iconic as their previous titles up to that point Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead. With a solid timeless classic gameplay mechanic and it actually even fits the Half-Life storyline!

Portal was finally released outside of The Orange Box in as a standalone version Portal: Still Alive for PC and Xbox Live Arcade in 2008, which added an additional 14 puzzles to the core gameplay.

And to think a sequel would top all that and even more. Portal 2 followed in 2011, adding even a few new gameplay mechanics and a cooperative campaign!

A comic book "Portal: Lab Rat" was released, bridging the gap between Portal and Portal 2.

And there's even been talks of a live action movie adaptation since 2013. J. J. Abrams was trying to get it made through his producing company Bad Robots along an adaptation of Half-Life. Both are still currently confirmed to still be in development (which is more than you can say for Half-Life 3...).
I give it: 2.5 / 3!

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