Portal - game review

Date: 2007-10-24 05:51:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Let's be honest: Portal was never meant to be the most important ingredient in The Orange Box . And hardly anyone thought it would be so good. Before the release of the set, it was perceived rather as a curiosity, thrown by Valve a little casually into one of the corners of the Orange Box, the content of which was to tempt primarily with two additions to the cult (the usually overused epithet in this case is perfectly justified) of Half-Life 2 . Team Fortress 2 was created for the bigger hit, which in the end aroused a little less interest and emotions than the "freak" based on an idea first used in an independent, student game. Meanwhile, this oddball turned out to be a surprisingly good and fresh production, wonderfully challenging and perversely fun at the same time, which combines into a neat, but risky whole genres as seemingly distant from each other as FPS and a puzzle game, and which best fits the rare genre term "first person puzzle ".

The game throws us right in the middle of the events. We wake up in an unknown place, and our task is to get out of it, slowly getting to know the environment and the rules governing it - a well-known plot trick often used in games, thanks to which, avoiding tutorials and instructions that disturb the immersion, we learn together with the hero (in this case the heroine) naturally over the course of the game, gradually move and act in unfamiliar surroundings. In the Portal, from the very beginning, we are accompanied by a female computer voice, which guides us through the stages, instructs, instructs us, but also threatens, deceives, teases and even asks for forgiveness - as it will turn out, there is an extraordinary hiding behind this voice. an intriguing "personality". But more on that later.

Quite quickly we get a weapon (or rather a device, because it does not defend us against anything) called Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, which is a portable device for creating the title portals. This gem has already been hailed as the most innovative and exciting concept that has happened to FPS games since the moment Gordon Freeman was equipped with a gravity gun. The ASHPD also has its main properties (it enables the lifting and moving of physical objects, but not throwing them), but its primary function is, let's repeat, the creation of portals. It should be added a function, the correct and skillful application of which is the basis for completing the game.

How exactly does the device work? By shooting with it at a flat surface, we open the gate which is an entrance or exit (these concepts are relative and interchangeable here) - shooting again at another surface, we open another gate, thus creating a physical connection between two different points in space through which we can pass alone or move objects. There can only be two portals at one time (one of them is blue, the other is orange; the colors are selected by clicking the left or right mouse button) and if we shoot again, the previously created portal of the same color will disappear. In other words, when we put one portal on one wall and the other on the other, entering the first one will leave the other. If they are on opposite walls, we will even be able to see ourselves, which is an interesting and quite strange experience.

There are nineteen levels (plus the ending) ahead of us, each of which offers various tasks related to the mechanics of portal operation. Sometimes, for example, you have to jump into a portal created in the floor, so that the force of gravity will throw you out of the portal in the wall, and then fall back into the first portal and fall out of the second, gaining even greater speed, thanks to which you can get to the other side of the abyss. At other times, we are forced to open a portal in the ceiling to throw a cube through it, which with its weight will activate the mechanism that opens the door to the next board or crush the laser cannon. In turn, sometimes getting out of a given room requires us to quickly create a sequence of pairs of portals, through which a constantly moving luminous ball of energy will move successively, capable of hitting the switch at the end of the road that will set the platform in motion, which will transport us safely over the toxic liquid tank. . In short, we will not be bored.

We are able to complete the first dozen or so levels with momentum in one or two hours - this does not mean that they are too easy, but the tasks we are faced with can be completed fairly quickly using elegant, logical solutions. In the last few boards, the difficulty level suddenly jumps up and increases, all the way to a long finale, which may take us up to a third of the game time so far. In total, the Portal provides three to six hours of fun, depending on our style of operation, gaming experience and, well, speed of thinking. It is not much, just in time for a lazy Sunday afternoon or a sleepless night / After all, at the end we feel a bit unsatisfied - after all, we have just started to get started! It can be partially satisfied thanks to two additional modes that unlock after completing the main game: Challenges, in which we again find ourselves in known rooms, and our task is to get out of them in the shortest possible time, using the least number of portals or making as few steps, and Advanced Rooms where some levels have been made more difficult by adding new obstacles and hazards. Those eager to learn about the backstage of the game's development can also listen to interesting comments from Valve developers launched using icons located in various places of the next levels.

Despite the fact that the Portal is a logical game, it also has a story, and it is a story of the kind whose details we have to guess on the basis of premises and clues found here and there in the game world and puzzling statements of independent heroes - in this case the mentioned already artificial intelligence operating with a female voice. GLaDOS comments, as this unusual AI is called, are sometimes factual, sometimes completely bizarre, but almost always full of specific, absurd humor (for example, he encourages us to try, promising a cake reward at the end of the last level, and then apologize for the death tests he is giving us.) During the credits, GLaDOS will even sing a song for us, the lyrics and the performance of which are able to make us laugh to tears, while at the same time giving us much food for thought.

The whole thing takes place in a futuristic research center, the purpose and profile of which remains a mystery to us, at least for the time being. From the beginning, we only know that the action takes place in the building of the Aperture Science corporation, which was mentioned, among others, in Episode Two. In general, fans of Valve's flagship franchise have plenty of opportunities to wonder how the Portal's plot fits into the main story of Half-Life. But even if we treat Portal separately from the rest of the cycle, there will also be questions and nuisances. Who is the heroine we play? Where are the other people? What happened at the Aperture building and what is our share of it? What is the purpose of the portal experiments? There are many possible interpretations, and guesses are fueled by the rudimentary information provided by Valve on the fictional website ApertureScience.com (the password and login can be found in the game or - for the lazy version - search the web). All this does not mean, of course, that we cannot treat the Portal completely as a logical game without any subtext - and have fun as well.

Is Portal a game without flaws? Of course not. For many players, the aforementioned relatively short gameplay time will be the downside, especially if they purchased the game separately via Steam. On the other hand, for titles that provide several hours of intense, even one-time fun, there is also a place among extensive, long-lasting productions that are absorbing for many days or weeks. What, on the other hand, may raise some legitimate doubts, the same combination of two genres as different from each other as FPS and a puzzle game, which does not necessarily suit all their fans. Fans of puzzles and puzzles, unaccustomed to the need to act quickly, may feel frustrated not being able to perform a series of activities in time that require dexterity and precision - especially since they will know perfectly well what and how to do it. On the other hand, fans of action games who have just blown up bridges in Team Fortress 2 may for some time feel uncomfortable in the world of the Portal - why do I need a gun if I can't smash anything with it? Despite this, I am convinced that most players will easily forget about their habits and will enjoy plunging into the fascinating and original world created at Valve's studio.

Who would have thought that the concept, applied for the first time two years ago in the free production of a group of students, would become the basis for a title worthily representing one of the best game sets in history, and its creators would get a job in such a distinguished company for the electronic entertainment industry? This turn of events belies the recent popular belief that fresh ideas are no longer a value in the gaming industry. All the more optimistic is the assurance of the head of Valve, Gabe Newell, that his studio has so far only touched the surface of the potential hidden in the portal mechanics. So we are waiting for more.

Marzena "Louvette" Falkowska

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