I have a confession. Even though I loved its sequel, I never actually played the original Portal. Going backwards in a series isn’t always the most solid idea from a gameplay standpoint, as a sequel’s inherent improvements makes the flaws of the original stick out that much more. Portal is one of those few games where I would strongly recommend even if you’ve already had a good time with Portal 2.
Portal starts out with a simple story and keeps it all the way until the infectiously catchy credits song. Simple doesn’t equate to bad, it just means the story is easy to follow. You start out doing puzzles like some sort of mindless robot, but events start to unfold to change your whole perspective on what seems like harmless puzzle solving. It’s a small, but appreciated story, one that isn’t the deepest or emotional, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Part of why it is so enjoyable is because of GLaDOS. The auto-tuned, robotic bully makes her grand debut here and guides your speechless character, Chell, through puzzle room after puzzle room commenting on your performance and other random, hilarious anecdotes. She sticks out not only because she’s the only object with any lines of dialogue, but because her character is so well written.
With a name like Portal, one could put together that portals are somewhat involved. I’m here to confirm this rumor and such portals are fun to play around with. You are given a gun that shoots a linking blue and orange portal and you must use these to navigate to the exit wherever it may be. Besides some necessary, but subtle, clues on where to go, there is almost no guidance on what to do. It is up to you to walk around the test chamber and piece together what needs to be done and how it must be achieved. I understand how this could sound frustrating, but since the puzzles are so well designed, pretty much anyone with a pulse can put the pieces together on what to do. Mental checklists, like telling yourself where to shoot what portal and what switch to press, are your key to processing how to move on and since most work is done all by yourself, solving a room is very gratifying. The only small, niggling issue with these brain teasers is most failures lead to instant death. Checkpoints are frequent and loading times are short so it doesn’t stand out too much, but it is a buzz kill at times.
Being enough spawn a full-length sequel and enough memes to produce plenty of referential shirts, it is easy to forget Portal‘s small beginning. It is essentially a game for a fraction of the cost and with a much shorter length, but with production values of that of a full-priced product. According to Portal, size doesn’t matter because quality is enough to make this game, despite its brevity, special enough to play.
+GLaDOS is a good antagonist
+Catchy ending song
-Puzzle failure usually ends in death
Final Score: 9/10
*Only available as part of the Orange Box
**Part of the Orange Box and separately through Steam, which is was how I reviewed it