Portal, despite its age, is still one of the best puzzle games…for people who dont normally play puzzle games. It offers a clever combination of challenching puzzles and a story fitting seamless into the Half-Life universe which makes it together with the unbelivable but theoretically realistic (we dont talk about the portals here) setting, the only game of its kind combining storytelling with dark humor and puzzles.
Portals – “Speedy thing goes in, speedy thing goes out”
The game mechanic is based on a concept in which you as the player has the ability to put “portals” in the world through which you can travel. This can be though of as a seamless teleportation where you walk into a blue portal and get out wherever you placed the orange one. You can also see through them meaning when looking in the blue one you see where the orange one takes you. The game experiements with this idea and elaborates on it in many ways so that you are quite forced to exploit the different game mechanics to solve the puzzle. As a tip for starters: the portals also dont affect inertia. Resulting in you shooting out the portal when you fall into the other one.
Story – The cake is a lie!
A puzzle game review starting with the story aspect? As weird as it sounds but in Portal the puzzle aspect blends so seamless with the incredibly well told story that you dont quite realize when your actually solving a puzzle.
In portal you play a silent protagonist called Chell waking up in a cell with absolutely no orientation or information. You will quickly get introduced to the Portal game mechanic and the only voice you will hear in this game: GLADoS. This super intelligent AI computer has complete control over the place you find yourself in. After getting introduced to the basic game mechanics and how to figure out the portal gun you are getting thrown in test chambers which seem extremely clean and empty. Progressively you will get more information about the place you find yourself in, why it seems so empty, who keeps you caught in this place and whats up with the cake. In the end you might actually find a friend in this place…
Graphics – Source engine strikes again
The graphics are, as with most Valve games from the time, really good. This is mainly due to the source engine which is also powering CS:GO. Upon playing you will realise that the textures are a bit monotone and that the environment looks a bit dull. I personally think though that this is not a bad thing at all considering the setting of the game. Futhermore the game challenges you enough so that you never start to think about where the graphics should be heavily improved. Hence they still look fine by todays standards. Dont have to high expectations though.
If you have a powerful enough graphics card you can take a look a Portal RTX which is a free extension for everyone who own the base game.
Sound – „Please be advised that a notecible taste of blood is not part of any test protocol“
The only main character in the game speaking is the robotic voice of GLADos which is absolutely iconic. While you try to solve the puzzle GLADoS likes to make dark humor jokes about you failing. Apart from that though there are the fantastic ambient sounds and background music. While exploring the facility you can hear the sound of the pistons going up and down, the blowing and turning of a giant fan, and in generall a lot of mechanical hissing and screeching sounds. The music also enriches the dark setting of the giant construction and even induces feelings of horror regarding the constant surveillance and the feeling of not being alone at the same time as being incredibly solitary in the vast corridors.
Moreover there are also the famous portal radios placed all over the map giving the game play but even more so the story a bit more character with their easily recognizable melody. Last but not least I shall not forget the very cute turrets that get not so cute when they see you. All these elements make the game as a unity very immersive and even though there is no real dialog feel very life like if that is even possible to say for such a sciencefi thematic.
Gameplay experience – Portal here, portal there
The main aspect of the game revolves around you getting transfered to a test chamber that you have to solve using the portal gun. These puzzles are not too difficult to accomplish but are just right to give you the dopamin boost your brain is longing for when solving problems. Once finishing it you get into an elevator and get transported to the next one. To not make this feel endless and without a goal you are always told that you will get a cake by the end.
At the beginning of each level you are also shown the number of the test chamber you are in and how many to go until the end. After a few levels this makes you really want to grind through the do able number of available test chambers. The chambers themself also dont get too boring as they incorporate increalingly more elements and hold many surprises. You also may want to be careful while peeking around the next corner!
Portal offers a great experience blending a shooter vibe (portal gun) and puzzle solving elements with a great lore that really lets you want to play the successor Portal 2 after finishing the game. I can totally recommend it for people who usually dont play puzzle games but want a fun and easy to understand game mechanic delivered with a bit of action and a deep story getting revealed as you dive into the Portal (Aperture Science) & HalfLife (Black Mesa) universe. As a side note it is also very cheap on a Steam sale as it is inside the Valve complete pack so i totally recommend you to get it through these means.
Portal: Portal is all around a great game with a fantastic story and good action rich gameplay. I would recommend it every shooter fan who likes solving problems. – GLPC: phantom