There's nothing quite like making the escape from Aperture Science Laboratory.
Decretum wrote this review on .
When I first powered up and made my way out of the holding cell, I was sort of confused. The concept of the portal just wasn't intuitive fore me (for who is it though, really?) There was a learning curve and for the first few levels I felt more or less like an idiot, though the hilarious commentary from our sardonic overlord-ess made it easier to stomach.
By the 10th or 11th level, I had managed to wrap my brain around the control scheme and the strategy of using the portal guns. The levels by then were actually beginning to become challenging and I felt like things were picking up. At first, deadly pitfalls and noxious liquid moats seemed like mere road-bumps, but later in the game they actually started to gain impetus as far as my emotional involvement in the game. Something about the increasing difficulty of the puzzles made what seemed like pointless traps actually feel like something that was threatening your life. The first time I was hit by turret fire and I saw my blood spatter on the opposite wall, I knew things were getting serious (despite the hilarious lines the turrets would speak out.)
Once I passed through one of the latter stages and saw what was behind a detached wall, I could sense a dramatic shift in the game's pace. Scribbles in blood on the wall behind this detached segment of wall suggested a previous test subject had gone insane and trapped herself behind it. After you pass the 18 levels you must complete in order to finish whatever test Aperture is running, they basically want to kill you off - your purpose seems to have ended and your utility has worn out. You can escape though, off the designated path guided by directional hints suggested by someone who scrawled them on the walls. This path takes you away from the white, inoculated, sterile test lab you were running through and into the bowels, the internal guts of the laboratory. The path you take is dirty, poorly lit, and very poorly defined, but with the help of your forebear's hints, you can manage to traverse your way through pulsating machinery, tight spaces, guarded areas, observation posts and utility catwalks, among many other obstacles. It seems as if your training in the obstacle course was practice for your eventual escape.
This abrupt change in atmosphere, from a relatively harmless, sometimes amusing labyrinth to the dark, almost hopelessly forlorn innards of the factory really make the quest engaging. As you meander your way through a seemingly evacuated shell of a massive laboratory, with only the derisive remarks from the laboratory's computer and the bloody hints left by a previous escapee, it really feels like there's much at steak in your survival.
Portal is made by it's genius control and utilization of portal guns and the resulting puzzles they engender. Surprisingly complex and challenging puzzles are presented before you and once you master those portal guns, solving them makes for very rewarding work. The graphics aren't top of the line for the era this game came out in, but the Source engine has excellent physics and the two work magically together.
The only problem with the game is its brevity. I played through it in one night, and while it was a great experience, I'm glad I didn't pay full price for the amount of game-play I got from it. Otherwise, Valve has created a masterpiece here, and the huge price cuts as of late make this game impossible to pass over. Coupled with the engaging storyline, Portal presents a compelling game that shouldn't be missed.