Just so you know, this is, hopefully, the first in a series of reviews of the games contained in The Orange Box (sans Half-Life 2 and Episode 1). Tune in for the (hopefully) weekly installments so you can see how I more than likely fortified your opinion on how you made the right decision in purchasing this product so you can go and brag to your friends about how much more kick ass it is in comparison to Halo 3 and how they totally shouldn't have spent their money on it when they could have bought the almighty Orange Box. Then they'll walk away from you hesistantly because they don't know you and you don't actually have any friends.
First in the line up is the massively anticipated and highly acclaimed Portal, so named for the absolutely bleeding obvious. If you somehow missed the hype for this game because you were too busy being socially outgoing or masturbating to Alyx/your favorite anime show pornography, then please zip up your damn pants long enough for me to choke out a brief plot summary. Portal documents the altogether uneventful yet entertaining adventure of your character, Chell, through the testing grounds of the seemingly abandoned corridors of Aperture Science, Inc. whilst being accosted by a dead-pan mechanical voice with the occasional hint of attitude, all of which takes place in the Half-Life universe. You also get to use a portal creation device. Hence "Portal." That's all I can really say without spoiling anything important or cool. There's some nifty back story that you can find if you actually dig around a bit; none of it's plot critical, but all of it is pretty hilarious, so I recommend you do a little searching, if only for the enrichment of the thing (if any of you can tell me about the relevance of shower curtains to this game, I'll give you a cookie laced with cocaine). Something that you might not notice so much in-game but will look back on fondly is the humor; to be short, it's absolutely hilarious. I've almost never been so amused by well-delivered lines in a video game. If you've read my previous article, you'd know my stance on well written and developed scripts, and Portal manages to tell a good story whilst inciting fits of girlish giggling the entire way.
And, of course, the companion cube. I won't spoil it, but when Katana once said that it has more character development than Master Chief, he wasn't just being the elitist bag of console-hating rage that we've all come to know and love.
To get to the meat of the matter, the gameplay just happens to be the moist, artery-clogging delicious center of the game, to which the story is merely the ambrosial, heart stopping butter-cream icing. Naturally, as with any game except Final Fantasy or Sudoku, the gameplay is, in the end, the only thing that actually matters. Seasoning is nice, but what you really want is the big, juicy steak that it covers. And, just like steaks, there are some games that try to cover up a shitty slice of beef with lots of frills and spices that, while making the meat a tad more palatable, simply cannot cover up an annoyingly bad base product (read: Every MMO ever made). Portal just happens to be a prime cut ripped straight off of a living pure-bred steer, whose blood and remaining body parts were then sacrificed to the gods so that they might bless this Holy Grail of gaming genius. And then some extra shit was set on fire just for good measure.
Ok, I exaggerated. The steer was actually sacrificed to the developers over the course of several hearty, delicious meals. However, I was not exaggerating in that some extra shit WAS set on fire, but that was in an unrelated office party incident and involved an excess of acholic beverages, matches, and "double-dog dare you"s.
Moving on, Portal has incredible gameplay and some genuinely challenging puzzles (holy shit!) thanks to it's innovative use of the portal system. You do have to give Portal a great deal of credit in that it's the first came to use portals in a competent, enjoyable fashion (I'm looking at YOU, Prey). However, I do have SOME issues with it. Mostly, it's linear. INCREDIBLY linear. Any given puzzle in the game has, on average, 1.2 ways to solve it (the .2 meaning that there are a few puzzles in the game that can be solved in two ways, the second of which is usually, weird, convoluted, and/or not so fun). I can understand the need for linearity in a puzzle game, but, considering how short Portal is, they could have at least given us a little extra something; and no, the challenges don't count. Basically, once you finish the game, you've finished the game. For good. You can't really even come back and play it later because you'll remember how to solve all the puzzles and it's no longer the challenging, new adventure that is was when you first slid it into your disc drive. It turns becomes a fairly droll repetition of previous, subconsciously memorized movements and actions with little variation from the original. Other than the linearity, though, I actually have very few complaints. Some of the puzzles were somewhat vague as to the next step, and the final "puzzle" isn't really challenging at all, but those are overall pretty minor and didn't much affect my playing experience. Just that damn linear element.
Bluntly, this game was really overhyped. And still is, for that matter. I can understand where all of it came from ("Game with Portals isn't too Warped!", "Reporter Reports that Portal doesn't Fucking Suck Shit!"), but sometimes we just need to realize that games don't have to stay overhyped after release. It doesn't deserve all of the high praise and cult-like worshippers that it gains. Obviously it deserves some acclaim and maybe a loony fanatic or two, but nothing like the hoards of people screaming "Pure genius!" that it currently gets.
Don't get me wrong; Portal is a spectacularly good time. It really, really is. But it's just not perfect. Or long.
Just like sex with your mother.
Welcome to the Inconvenienced Blog. This is a Comedy and Gaming Culture Site all rolled into one. Alongside humorous articles, we'll also be be giving our thoughts on games, and the gaming industry as a whole.
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