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Portal

PlayStation 3 (Valve 2007, ported by EA)

The big G-S-G-S-G

General opinion: An interesting, if short, experiment
Story: Simple, but fun
Graphics: Fairly minimalist, but nothing wrong there
Sound: Simple, but works
Gameplay: Interesting and original

Total:

The Review

Portal is a very hard game to classify. Or review, for that matter. The presentation is taken from first person shooters, but the focus is on problem solving, rather than fighting. In fact, your only 'weapon' is a gun that creates 'portals' on surfaces. Two of these can exist at any one time, and if you walk through one portal, you come out of the other, and vice versa.

Through this deceptively simple mechanism some fairly clever puzzles have been created. In addition to the portal gun, you can move objects (mostly used to trigger pressure pads), jump etc. While the emphasis is primarily on making you think of how to reach your objective, some levels do require a bit of agility, too.

At the start of the game you wake up in a research facility, and are informed by an AI voice that you are expected to complete a potentially hazardous obstacle course. The facility appears to be abandoned, and the AI, GLaDOS, appears to be corrupted, if not downright deranged. The atmosphere is eerie, enhanced by the ambient soundtrack, but mingled throughout with a twisted sense of humour. I only gave the story half a star because there really isn't very much of it, and it is perhaps a little clichéd, too. But that is not to say that it isn't quite cool, or that the game would really need any more.

Visually the game isn't perhaps the most glorious ever seen. The graphics are fairly minimalist, and there isn't a great deal of variety in the environments. But, on the other hand, the premise of the game doesn't call for much in the way of detail. If I must complain about some technical aspect, the load times are a little on the long side. This was particularly annoying after dying. You shouldn't have to wait very long for the last save to be loaded. There also seems to be an annoying bug that occasionally causes the audio to start crackling.

It's not a long game, I don't think it took me much more than half a dozen hours to finish (longer than I was expecting, actually), but this'll depend much on your skill, of course. I'm sure it is not a game for everyone. I didn't find the puzzles too difficult, even though I'm generally not a huge fan of puzzle games. Some did require a bit of thought, though, and several attempts. You do need to 'get' the right way of thinking, I guess.

Since the game does focus very much on puzzle solving, replaying it once you've figured the levels out might not be as interesting. But it did hold enough interest for me to play through it at least once, though. It isn't just a puzzle game, but has a nice atmosphere and story, as well, which is important to me.

And that's pretty much what there is to say about it. Simple and short, but original and not uninteresting.

Ben B. Bainton, 30 June 2011