Tech: Portal review
"Portal" is a first-person puzzle game developed by Valve Software (I previewed it before). It's part of Valve's "Orange Box" collection of games (I'll be reviewing all of them this week). While it may look like a standard first-person shooter, it is definitely more of a mind-bending, brain-twisting exercise than the average Quake/Doom/Halo blast-em-up.
The basic design conceit goes something like this - you're equipped with a gun that can shoot dimensional portals into walls, floors, and ceilings, and you have to navigate increasingly complicated and deadly environments using this one tool. Since your momentum is preserved upon entering a portal, you can execute all sorts of gravity-defying tricks, like falling into a portal shot at the floor and using your speed to shoot out of another portal and across a chasm.
Time for a video explanation:
The game is excellent, as you might expect. Some parts, particularly near the end, echo the feeling of daunting challenge that you experience in games like Ico - you might be faced with a wall hundreds of feet up, and seemingly no way to scale it. But try hard enough, and you'll find a way through to the end. Surprisingly, there's even a good story being presented here, which is an absolute miracle for a puzzle game.
The only problem is, it's very short ride to the finale; you'll probably finish the game in 2-1/2 hours. Thankfully, there are more advanced bonus missions to try, as well as the promise of more user-generated content to come. Worth $20, though? Maybe just barely...