Short but worth the price, late game levels can get frustrating
Valve has always been a touch mysterious. After the game changing first person shooter Half Life, a sequel was released in as part of the Orange Box in 2007. Included in the package was the co-op classic Team Fortress 2 and a silly little throw in game called Portal. With unique gameplay and a fantastically snarky vocal companion, Portal became a cult phenomenon.
Portal drops you into the shoes of Chell, a test subject in the mysterious Aperture laboratories. After waking from what looks like a long hibernation, Chell finds herself immersed in a series of puzzles involving the gravitational Portal gun. The weapon fires blue and orange space gates. The premise is simple. Shoot one gate into a wall, shoot another across a pit and you come out on the other side. With this deceptively easy mechanic, you'll find yourself opening gates, dropping blocks on pleasantly deadly attack drones and using momentum to launch yourself to high spaces. It's easy to learn but tough to master, especially as you work your way through the final 90 minutes.
When your game has a coffee mug, you know it's become a cultural icon.
Portal could have succeeded on puzzles alone but Valve took it one step further with a fantastic story. The tale is pulled along by an omnipotent computer named GLADOS who pushes you along with increasingly caustic and hilarious insults. If you ever had a clever older brother who poked fun at your Tetris abilities, you'll be right at home at Aperture Science.
On the con side, difficulty ramps up exponentially during the final few puzzles thanks to imprecise aiming and a reliance on the "momentum" mechanic. Expect to play the last bits several times. The game is also short, clocking in at about six hours. While worth the $30.00 PC price tag (on Amazon), cash conscious buyers should aware of the time/price ratio.
None of this takes away from the core game and the excellence within. With plot twists, hilarious commentary and ingenious puzzles, Portal is a must play for anybody who has picked up a controller. If you're still holding out on a next gen console and haven't played this pop culture classic, run right out and pick up a copy. In the case of Portal, the cake is not a lie.