This was a triumph!
January 23, 2008
We at Yesterday’s Salad pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge of yesterday’s news, particularly where gaming is concerned. Although we snagged a prerelease copy of Supreme Commander, and somehow managed to review the excellent Blackwell Legacy within hours of its release (try the demo for the next game in the series!), since we do our best to act more grizzled than we really are (by several decades), most of our game coverage requires some dusting to stay relevant. So it’s with some trepidation that I mention Portal, one of the best games to come out in this or any other universe.
In Portal, you play a silent protagonist who finds herself stuck in a series of experiments, run by the aptly-named Aperture Science corporation. As the game progresses, and the experiments/tests become increasingly complex, you gain access to a “portal device,” a tool that can link two places in space. Thanks to a robust physics engine, this leads to some remarkably non-linear movement and puzzle-solving, as well as countless “how-could-that-happen” kinds of moments.
For instance, to cross a particularly long chasm, you can simply create an opening to the portal on both sides of the chasm, and can simply bypass it. However, when you consider that momentum is conserved going into and out of a portal (although it’s really speed being conserved), the possibilities multiply and get much, much weirder. If you fall into a portal on the ground, and the linked opening is on a wall, oriented horizontally, you will fly out of the opening. Carefully placed openings can allow you to loop objects (or more cautiously, yourself) through a pair of portals with increasing speed, until they eventually slingshot out.
The story is excellent, and while there’s plenty of spoiler material out there, let me simply say that there is a tremendous amount of deadpan humor, particularly poking fun at the “scientific” trappings surrounding the tests. So too, the A.I. who guides you through the tests is a thoroughly hilarious character, as she becomes progressively less helpful as you advance, and begins to make light of the considerable danger your character is in. However, in true YS fashion, she continually hints that there will be cake at the end.
For those of you who don’t play games (still a huge chunk of our audience, no?), there are walkthrough videos of the ENTIRE GAME on youtube (sample below), and there are now countless fan versions of the über-cute end song online as well.