Thursday, December 4, 2008

Out Of The Blue

Thanks to the joys of digital distribution I recently had the pleasure of playing Portal: Still Alive, a game that I have wanted to play since its release last year but one that I just unfortunately hadn't gotten around to yet. Being late to the party meant that I missed out on the cake but luckily for me I was still able to see my faithful companion (cube) and play around with the toy gun.

Okay so it wasn't exactly a toy but damn, if it was that would be the best toy ever. I couldn't help but think of what it would be like if we had our own portal guns to use, which in turn took me off into a tangent and thinking about some of the possibilities that our future could hold. Irrelevant to the game maybe, but I still found it interesting nonetheless and it is a bunch of thoughts that could not have happened if I did not play Portal. Whether it was transporting yourself to a local mall through portals, or just playing pranks on friends, many ideas and possible uses for portals came to my head and I found it fascinating. The power of the imagination eh?

Back to the game, my thoughts are pretty much on par with all of those that were discussed last year when the game was the topic of conversation. I loved the way it eased you in and how simple it was to pick up for the first time, yet I also loved how that evolved as you progressed into a rather complex game that definitely had my mind boggling a few times. It was a great challenge for me and the satisfaction I had when I finally figured out how to progress through one of the test chambers or challenge maps is unmatched. Well, except for maybe Braid which tested my brain in similar ways.

It wasn't just the gameplay that used simplicity to its benefit, the game as a whole did so as well with the graphics, design of the rooms and even the music all being quite simple when compared to other, bigger games. But that is exactly what the game needed and as everybody knows by now, the experience worked. No more praise needs to be heaped upon the game so instead I just want to say that, for the developers to be able to create a fun and challenging game that can stand on its own, yet also tie into their bigger franchise in Half Life, is quite amazing and a testament to Valve's ability to produce brilliant games.

What was perhaps most interesting to me though was how the (little) story managed to grab my attention. Unfortunately I haven't had the pleasure of playing a Half Life game (meaning I'm not a real gamer, then) so for Portal's story to be able to hook me even though it indirectly ties into the Half Life universe with references to Black Mesa and so on, again says something about just how much the game worked and why it deserved the praise it got. I think it is safe to assume that there will be more Portal games and regardless of whether I get around to playing Half Life or not, I look forward to finding out more about Aperture Science in the future.

This has almost turned into a review so now all that is left to say is this; If you have not played Portal yet then make sure you do. It is short so it won't take too much of your gaming time but that should not matter anyway. The game is definitely one of the most satisfying games you can play and I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Unintentional review or not, I cannot underline just how much I love the game and how much I think everyone who loves games should play it. Being late to the party does not matter and will not affect your experience or appreciation of the game at all. The cake might be gone, but you will always have your faithful companion cube. What more could you want?


pete said...

Heh - I can almost totally agree with this post :)

I only played Portal for the first time recently, too - the demo on XBLA. After being subjected to all the hype last year, it was almost a let-down to only discover a lovely, playable game. Yes, I'll be buying it in due course (when some other games have been cleared off The List), but... hey, it's no Rez ;)

We differ, however, in the fact that I have some background in the Half-Life universe. After getting many recommendations, I picked up the original Half-Life in some 4-game box set (a precursor to the Orange Box, I suspect). The first half of the game is great - really enjoyable. The second half? The bit with the jumping puzzles, the AWOL plot, and the battle with (software) bugs? Terrible. Really disheartening.

I could never bring myself to play Half-Life 2 on the basis of my experience with the original.

I know I'm in the minority there, but it really does strike me as one of the great gaming insults when people will (say) rate Half-Life over Deus Ex.


Steven O'Dell said...

Well I can't comment on Deus Ex either due to never having a PC capable of playing decent games. Any well known PC game that I have been able to play has been purely because of a console port of some sort, which is unfortunate but better late than never right? I still intend on buying The Orange Box eventually but I would prefer it if I could play the franchise in order.

As for Rez vs Portal, if I had to choose I would also choose Rez but damn that does not mean that Portal isn't awesome. I look forward to hearing about your Portal thoughts when you have finally played the whole thing rather than the trial, it shall be interesting to see if you end up agreeing or disagreeing.