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October 9, 2007



- An extremely engaging experience

- New gameplay mechanics actually that aren't a gimmick

- Pretty darn funny



- You'll want more right after you've finished



Review: Psychonauts (XB)

Review: Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (PC)

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Interview: Erik Wolpaw (Old Man Murray)



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Score: 10 / 10


Not since The Incredible Machine have I had to stretch my brain so much – especially because the first-person shooter view tends to put me in the mindset of, “If it moves, shoot it.”  Portal gives you no weapons and there’s no goal other than to get out of Aperture Science Inc.'s “ Enrichment Center ” alive using only the Laws of Newtonian Motion and a tool which creates portals.


portal          portal


Portal begins with the promise of cake – really, cake – for solving all the challenges which involve no bullets, grenades, or crowbars.  But right from the time you’re brought out of stasis as an unwitting test subject, you just know things are not quite right with the computer running things.  The lilting voice of the computer has a constant presence in the game, offering “encouragement” and “congratulations” through monologues which are at once bizarre and hilarious to




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listen to, particularly in the latter stages of the game.


If there’s one thing I take away from Portal it’s the feeling of personality throughout the game; I mean, besides the whole portal thing which I’ll get to in a minute.  The only other game in recent memory that conveyed a sense of personality


is Psychonauts.  I would trace this to a distinct ephemeral feeling that it set out to be quirky and different but managed to appeal directly to my “gaming pleasure center” in my brain (located just behind the limbic system).  Portal may be a game that can be completed quite easily within a few hours but there’s no shaking the feeling that you’ve just experienced something new and given a brief glimpse of what could be possible.


As I’ve indicated, Portal initially stretched my brain muscles.  Really it boils down to this: walking through portal A will take you instantly to portal B.  The thing to remember is that any momentum you have is transferred through the portal.  An example might clear this up a bit.


portal          portal


Open a portal on the floor close to an out-of-reach ledge you want to get to.  Open another portal in a location where you have a height advantage – leap into the 2nd portal and your downward momentum as you enter the portal translates to upward momentum from the first portal, which flings you toward the out-of-reach ledge.  As strange as it may sound, many sections feel like some kind of evolved platformer.  Items like blocks, rockets, turrets, and the “weighted companion cube” can also pass through portals and in fact many of the challenges require some creative use of these objects – sometimes it’s not just good enough that you get yourself by an obstacle.


Portal can be bought separately or as part of the Orange Box package – Half-Life 2, Episodes 1 and 2, and Team Fortress 2 – but either way you get one of the best gaming experiences of the year.  Your 2007 gaming year is not complete without Portal.


- Omni

(November 2, 2007)


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