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Portal Leap iconsRules. I picked up the Orange Box as part of my birthday spending spree, and just blazed through 18 levels (I don’t know how many there are) finished the game in short order (I composed the first draft of this post after one 2.5 hour session; 2 hours later I’m done). The humor is great and the gameplay amuses to no end. I love it. It’s a puzzle game that demands a bit of dexterity. In part, it reminds me a bit of lode runner, where you had to think about the possibilities of the tools in order to move from one puzzle to the next.

For those of you who haven’t played it, Portal is a game that puts you in a testing facility with a weapon that can create portals that you can jump through. You move from space to space in the game by placing portals in key spots and leaping through. The portals also preserve inertia, so if you’re moving quickly, you come out moving quickly. This means you can build up speed by putting a portal on the ground and the second on the wall, then dropping through in a loop.

You can see through the portals you project, so if you project a portal across from another portal, you get a cool mirror effect.

Cover Here

The game also has a good sense of humor and the robot voice guiding you through is cool. My favorite bits:

  • In giving you instructions of what to do and not do with the portal gun, it says “Most importantly… Crackle static crackle
  • “Any appearance of danger is merely a device to enhance your testing experience.” Sooooo not true.
  • And then there’s a whole bunch of stuff about cake.

As you start out, you get the sense that something isn’t quite right. The computer guiding you through the “tests” lies to you, tricks you, and seems generally malicious. On top of that, you find these little scribbled bits of graffiti left by previous “test subjects,” and blood splatters. I read an interesting article with provocative commentary on the controlling computer, but I wouldn’t suggest you read it unless you have played already or don’t plan to.


Finally, the closing credits song is by Jonathan Coulton, and has lots of inside jokes and amuses greatly.

The downside of Portal is that it’s short. It took me about 4.5 hours to complete the whole game. Admittedly, I haven’t played the bonus levels yet, nor listened to the developer commentary, but that’s not too much. I expect I will be able to find lots of modded levels online.

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