Sunday, October 14, 2007


WARNING: LOTS of Portal spoilers ahead!

You've bee
n warned!

So man, there was actually stuff to post about this weekend. WGA and all that non-sense, but every time I got in front of my keyboard I ended up just playing Portal.

"This was a TRIUMPH..."
I haven't been this excited for a game for a long time, and have been salivating over it since the first trailers hit Youtube. I picked up Orange Box, but have only played this since. I'll eventually get to HL2:Ep2, but for now I can't wait for 3rd party Portal maps.

The game is very cleverly laid out. It introduces complex mechanics in an easy to understand way so that, by the end of the game, you really feel you're controlling some pretty impossible concepts. It's one of the first games of recent memory where I could genuinely beat it without having to look up a game walkthrough or use a cheat.

That's really saying a lot. At it's heart the game is really a box and puzzle game, like sokoban on 'roids, but game play gets really advanced by the end. The learning curve is steady and very un-intimidating, so by the end when you're making multiple velocity jumps, redirecting rockets, grabbing items out of mid air, and teleporting all over a room filling with "deadly neuro-toxin", you're not really that stressed out. You're just focused on your timing (video linked is not me BTW).

I have to credit the writing and voiceover for a large part of the mood. Sure level design is extremely important, but you see there's only one voice you hear throughout the whole game.
The voice of the GLaDOS computer that is running you through all of these "CUBE" -like tests (WONDERFULLY voiced by Ellen McClain). It's really funny in a dry, HAL 9000, kinda way, as it promises to give you cake, makes you kill your "best friend" (*sob* W.C.C. *schniff* rest in peace), and even jokes about trying to murder you.
Even as you're tearing "her" to pieces, she seems almost proud of you for doing it.
The game gets dark and eerie, but it's never too much to handle. Never too stressful.

It's just plain fun.

What a concept right? Remember when games were fun?

So if you're looking for a fun little pick-me-up, I highly recommend Portal. It's great for just a couple quick levels, or as a fun way to kill a couple hours (my first run through the story only took a hair over 3 hours), and you have to play through at least twice as there are some great developer commentaries available once you beat the game (what can I say, I'm a special-features nerd).

For kicks here's the end credits song (which I can't get out of my head). I picked this version since you can actually read the lyrics, but the sound sucks.
"Still Alive" sung by Ellen McLain and written by Jonathan Coulton:

Since the sound sucks, here's just the audio:

"Maybe Black Mesa..."

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