Thursday, May 26, 2011

Living under a rock: Portal 1 (X360)

Hole-ly disappointing.

Well well well, talk about late to the party on this one. Portal has pretty much been a mainstay of Internet gaming culture since it was released way back in 2007. I still remember the hype in ’08 of the game coming to Xbox 360 as part of Valve’s infamous The Orange Box package deal. For some reason, I was completely unenthused by its release at the time. I put this down to the fact that I have a fear of playing sequels before their original iterations, and TOB being primarily comprised of Half Life 2 left me quaking in my OCD boots. Furthermore, it was never fully explained to me that all of Half Life 2 was there, and not just Episode 2, which was the impression that I received from all the news. That’s no doubt my own fault for not paying attention in games class. Finally, last week, I got a chance to play through Portal from start to finish, a process that took me two sessions, if I remember correctly.

When Portal was released on XBLA a few years back, I downloaded it as soon as it was available, but I felt that it was a little overpriced, considering that TOB could be acquired for around the same amount of money. Consequently, I played through the demo two or three times, and thought it was okay. I enjoyed the puzzle-solving, but didn’t feel that it deserved the mountains of hype that had been placed upon it. I went on my merry way and continued to not play hundreds of other games.

Last week I travelled to the United States to visit someone dear to my heart, and this afforded me a lot of free time, and the extra mixer of a free time alone, as said dear one had to work for two days of my visit. After falling hopelessly in love with Netflix (a future post soon), I fired up The Orange Box, and hoped to finally get involved in all the Portal excitement once and for all. This is where I evolve into Señor Flamebait: I didn’t like Portal.

I’m aware that this makes me a terrible person, and I apologise for that. I did not understand why people were so infatuated with the companion cube; an element that I kept waiting to flourish and provide me with some sort of tangible emotional reaction. Is it the fact that you put it in the incinerator? Further to that, I never really got into the flow of GLaDOS’s character. I didn’t think she was especially funny, and I found her voice mostly incomprehensible, which may have led me to not see the humour as much as the next able-of-hearing person.

One pleasant surprise, however, was the discovery that there was a game outside of the testing rooms. This was not something I had either seen or heard about, and so it was a welcome development in the story. Well, I say welcome, but in fact I enjoyed the testing rooms more than I did the facility escape. It was a nice approach though, to spend the first half of the game teaching you how to survive the second half. I simply enjoyed the rooms more because they were neat exercises in cause and effect, and nicely separated and organised and – OCD attack, again, it seems. The highlight of the facility escape was the room where you had to portal on plinths to project yourself at great heights. It made me very dizzy, but was an excellent execution of physics-based puzzle-solving. All in all, I’d say Portal is worth a play-through, certainly. It’s refreshing to play a first-person game that does not involve shooting violent things, even if there is still some shooting that happens to you. I think shooting is just a base-level requirement in games these days, particularly on the Xbox 360.

The addendum to this is that I hope to try my hands at Portal 2 very soon, once again with said dearest. The fact that the sequel incorporates a co-op mode has me suitably more excited, since I’m a huge fan of co-op play, which is sad really, as I hardly ever get a chance to play with other people these days. Perhaps in the months to come, who knows? Not me, that’s for sure.

Lastly, the cake is not a lie, because I saw the cake at the end. So there!

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