Recently Played: Portal - Still Alive

Let's just say I'm excited to see what Portal 2 is all about. So in anticipation of the upcoming release next Tuesday (most likely earlier for PC), I went back and played the original Portal. I've played it before on a friend's PS3 with the Orange Box and another friend's much better laptop, but this time I played the X-Box Arcade release titled "Still Alive."

Consider this sentence your one and only reference to cake. You're welcome.

Portal: Still Alive (Quirky Puzzle Game: The Game)

 "Fast thing goes in, fast thing goes out."
I probably don't have to explain anything about this game. What hasn't already been turned into a meme has become common knowledge to the point of a Citizen Kane "It Was His Sled" moment. Personally, I think it suffers from overexposure. But just in case I'll gloss over the basic idea of Portal.

The most important thing to know is that this is a short, quirky game. It uses a first person perspective that doesn't involve shooting anyone or killing monsters. It's a First Person Puzzler. The puzzle part involves a device called the Portal Gun that shoots two different colored portals you use to create gateways between Point A and Point B. Hence, "Portal." You can pass through these portals as freely as you want, throw boxes through them, or use some crazy physics involving momentum to launch yourself across the room. Other things like rockets and bullets can also pass through the portals, so placement of your orange and blue holes in the time-space continuum becomes very important later on. The nice thing about Portal is that it rolls out all these concepts to you in a gradual fashion, so you can play around and get use to the crazy things you'll do later.

Of course, one of the first things I did was place a portal on the floor and the ceiling so I could fall forever at terminal velocity. The other thing was slap two portals in a corner so I could chase myself around in a circle. You can do a lot of dumb things with a Portal Gun. Most, if not all, of them are a lot of fun.

 Escape is not part of the testing procedure
 Escape is not part of the testing procedure
One of the things I've grown to enjoy the most about Portal is the story. At the beginning it doesn't seem like the game has one. You play as a seemingly nameless woman in an orange jumpsuit running through obstacle courses trying to get to the next elevator. Meanwhile a computer voice tells you inane things about safety protocols at Aperture Science and occasionally hints about game play. The puzzle game evolves into an escape attempt that leads to a battle with the Computer AI that's been leading you through all the tests. Apparently all the people at Aperture Science have died a long time ago. All those moments before where you were sent up against automated turrets and deathtraps were actually real. There was no control. Just the computer named GlaDOS and a lot of neurotoxin.

It's a nice surprise that most everyone knows about by now. And that song by Jonathan Coulton.

Some would say that this game is pretty funny. Humor is something that really depends on the person, but I do think that the dialogue and design choices give the game a lot of personality. I don't know many games have auto turrets that apologize while opening fire on you and say "good bye" with a cheerful voice as you kick them over. GlaDOS (the only character with an actual speaking role) is also pretty entertaining. She has a HAL 9000 complex where it gets tough balancing computer logic and human emotions. For her, it very difficult to distinguish the difference between science, the mass murder of co-workers, and recipes for baked goods. The character you play as is literally the only person she can interact with in the Aperture Science facility. She wants to kill you, and she kinda doesn't.

Still Alive Version

The X-Box Arcade release I played through was Portal with some extra challenge maps. The maps are pretty good. They aren't insanely hard like I thought they would be, but the main difficulty is scoring well with a combination of minimum steps, minimum portals, and maximum speed. It's one thing to play Portal while looking hard at a room and it's another thing to try and play as precise as you can, as fast as you can. I'm not one to sweat about scoreboards so I probably won't kill myself to get gold. The achievements are all a real pain in the ass but at least someone made them challenging.

It's a decent version if you have no other option. The frame rate is kinda shaky and there are a lot of short loading screens peppered throughout the story mode. It didn't bother me but I definitely noticed. The game play is the same and all the mind bending portal tricks are still in there. Listening to the developer commentary makes it sound like a really impressive game how they had to handle collision detection moving from portal to portal, and the way you can watch yourself come and go at the right angles. And maybe its my TV and settings, but holy shit, the subtitles are huge. They take up half the screen.

Since it takes a little more than an hour to play through Portal start-to-finish, I'm ready for more. Good thing there's a sequel coming out soon.