Portal Cover
Platforms Windows, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre Mind-boggling First Person Puzzler
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Score 9  Clock score of 9Gameplay: 10
Fun Factor: 9
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 6
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Portal is just one game in Valve's newest release, The Orange Box. The Orange Box is a collection of a few different games but Portal is definitely the one that intrigued me the most. The concept of the game is that it is basically a first-person puzzle game that uses a special gun to navigate the areas. This special gun is the portal gun, which allows you to create a blue portal and an orange portal. You can place these portals on most surfaces and then walk/fall/hurtle yourself through it and you'll end up on the other side. Lots of cool things can be done with this and I'll try to explore its many possibilities in my first hour review.

Portal was actually based off a senior project called Narbacular Drop. From the sounds of it, Valve basically hired everyone on this project to help them create Portal! Not a bad turn of events. Oh, and you're probably thinking: "Portal is a brand new game! How is it possible you're reviewing it already!" It's true I don't normally review such brand-spanking new games, but I couldn't pass this one up! Enjoy this rare, new game review!

For my shorter review on the whole game, please see my Portal review at Beyond the First Hour.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - Start a New Game and we're off! The game starts right away. I'm in a little cell, just a toilet, bed, and radio. A weird little song is playing on the radio. There's a countdown above the door. A computerized voice starts talking - it's welcoming me to the Aperture Testing Center. And in three seconds, something is about to happen...

01 - An orange doorway has opened! I approach the portal and peer through, I can see myself and the room I'm in!

Portal Orange Chell

02 - I enter a room with a giant red switch on the floor. A crate drops from a crate dispenser, guess I know what to do.

03 - Placing the crate on the button keeps the door open for me, and I pass through it and into an elevator. There looks to be about 19 "levels" in this game, as each level opens up with a giant sign detailing what level I'm currently on and what dangers lie before me. The next area puts me in front of an orange portal, and every few seconds the view inside the portal changes.

Portal Button Crate Security Camera

04 - I enter the portal and pick up a crate, as I'm passing back through the portal, the portal disappears but the crate made it through! Now I have to wait for the portal to appear again.

05 - Done with that level now, just had to be patient. The computerized voice is almost constantly talking to me, it's pretty entertaining. Right now it's warning me about the unintended taste of blood, as portals may disintegrate teeth!

07 - I have gotten my own portal gun! Now I can shoot blue portals! Awesome!

Portal Gun Blue Orange Portals

08 - I shoot a portal on the piece of wall a camera is on, it falls to the ground and the computer yells at me! Hahahaha! Seeing myself through portals is pretty crazy and somewhat disorienting, I really have to think differently when playing this game.

09 - There's barely any loading in this game, but the elevators are no doubt serving as the loading behind the scenes.

10 - In the next area I shot a blue portal on the floor, so when I passed through, the game had to fix my viewing axis as the orange portal was on the wall. Weird stuff. The computer informs me it will not be monitoring me during the next test.

12 - Had to place two crates on two buttons, nothing too complicated but I did make a crate fall through like an infinite loop! Very cool! The barrel would fall out of the orange portal and into the blue portal, over and over again.

Portal Infinite Crates Blue Orange

13 - The computer said it lied to me about not watching me, and will stop enhancing the truth from here on out.

14 - I'm in a much different looking room. The walls are invulnerable to my portal gun, but the ceiling and floor are not. There's also a high energy pellet flying back and forth. The computer informs me contact with this pellet may cause disabilities such as vaporization!

15 - I had to make the energy pellet come in contact with an energy pellet receiver. I did this by placing a blue portal on the ceiling so that when the pellet passed through the orange portal it would continue on going downwards. Man, some of this stuff is hard to explain!

Portal Gun Energy Pellet Puzzle

17 - Very cool little room I just finished. I had to shoot a portal onto the ceiling over a moving platform and then fall through the floor onto the moving platform 10 meters away!

18 - The next room has a poisonous sewer/swamp on the ground! The puzzle was also relatively complex, I had to shoot a portal for a pellet to pass through and then when it was bouncing around after passing through the portal I had to shoot another portal somewhere else.

Portal Sewer Swamp Puzzle

20 - The computer says the next test is impossible... yeah right!

21 - It wasn't that hard though, just had to shoot a portal across the room through a little hole. The game is happy I was able to solve it in an atmosphere of such extreme pessimism.

23 - I just got an awesome lesson on momentum! I learned all about portal's affects on momentum, or their lack of. Portals were placed high on the walls and then I jumped down about 30 feet into another portal, thus hurtling me through the high up portal at a very fast speed! It was a lot of fun, but seems mighty dangerous! "Speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out."

Portal Fall Momentum Jump

24 - I get some useful advice in the next area from the computer, "the floor here will kill you, try to avoid it."

27 - Yes! I am now able to shoot out orange portals, so I can make complete portal links myself!

29 - Another momentum flying level, this time I have to climb a vertical shaft like room by shooting blue portals really high up and then jumping really far down into an orange portal! Tons of fun and the computer thinks so too! "Wheeeeeee!"

Portal Glados Computer Whee

31 - Wow, things are getting so weird. Being able to see myself in portals is odd, but very cool. In the last room, I had to drop crates from above onto buttons that were too high for me to jump to. Of course, I didn't have to be high, I could just shove the crates through properly positioned portals and they would fall right on to the buttons!

34 - I just had to place a portal on the floor so that I could jump from up high through another portal and then when I came out of the original one I would have enough vertical momentum to "jump" high enough! Take that gravity!

35 - The computer rewards me a complementary victory lift for beating the puzzle. Too bad the "victory lift" is actually required to move on!

Portal Multiple Chell Blue Orange

36 - Cake and grief counseling are available at the conclusion of the test, can't wait!

39 - The game is throwing more complicated momentum jumps at me, including having to do basically two jumps to get enough momentum! This means flying out of a blue portal up high and then creating another orange portal where you're going to land so that you fly out of the blue portal again at an even higher speed! Phew!

41 - Ouch! I died after landing in the swamp doing some complex portal jumps over it!

Portal Chell Swamp Multiple Platform

43 - The levels are getting longer and tougher. But luckily, I can donate one or all of my organs to the Aperture Science Organ Fund for Girls! Oh snaps! The next level is a live fire course with drone guns!

44 - I encounter my first gun, it's facing away so I pick it up. It says in a soft voice: "Please put me down!" So I do but then it falls over and has a critical error! Poor drone gun...

45 - I fight back against the next drone gun by placing an orange portal on the ceiling and then a blue portal underneath the gun, causing it to fall!

Portal Drone Gun Searching Owned

46 - I don't seem to have health, I just can't get shot a lot in a row. That's nice of the game. I wander into kind of a dark and dumpy area behind all the sheen, don't think I'm supposed to be there!

47 - Dropping crates on drones is fun!

50 - Wow, that was an intense level! Lots of drone guns all over and lots of sly crate dropping on them! In the next area I get a Weighted Companion Cube. Basically a crate with hearts on it! I have to take it along on my journey.

Portal Weighted Companion Cube

51 - I turn the corner and get killed by an energy pellet. Well, I get to meet my Weighted Companion Cube again.

57 - Well I just completed a complicated sequence with the help of my Weighted Companion Cube. Together we conquered all odds and traveled through portals to make those all important jumps.

58 - OH NO!!! Now I have to euthanize my Weighted Companion Cube in a fire! The computer assures me that the Weighted Companion Cube would rather die in a fire than burden me, but this is a tough decision.

Portal Weighted Companion Cube Euthanize

59 - I have euthanized my Weighted Companion Cube more quickly than any other test subject. I am sad. I want to jump in the fire behind it.

Portal Weighted Companion Cube Euthanize Fire

60 - The 18th out of 19 levels has nearly every warning on its posted sign! This one sounds dangerous, but I am too sad to be worried about that. I start out making a series of long falls from portals placed in the ceiling. But the decision has been made. I cast myself into the scorching sewer sludge as time runs out. I will be with my Weighted Companion Cube someway...

Portal Suicide Swamp Dead

Now for some scores out of 10.

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 1

Gameplay: 10
Very fun, very original gameplay. I think this score should have been obvious if you've read everything up to here. This is a fantastic puzzle/FPS hybrid unlike anything I've ever played before. Creating and navigating portals was mind-bending and awesome at the same time. Seeing myself through the portals was disorienting at first, but I was loving it. The whole time I was playing I was imagining the portal gun in multiplayer. It has so much potential and would create a totally new online experience. Not much else to say about Portal's gameplay, it rocks.

Fun Factor: 9
Great gameplay usually implies great fun, and that holds true for Portal. Not a perfect score because there are some frustrating moments with moving platforms and the gun drones seemed a bit out of place, but it all comes together for a great experience. Valve really knew what they were doing when making this game and I was pretty much loving all 60 minutes of it. I can just imagine that the rest of the game is just as great.

Graphics and Sound: 8
My computer is kind of old so I won't weigh this too heavily. I originally gave Half-Life 2 a perfect score in this area, but I don't think Portal achieves the same level of graphics that its big brother received. For one, the areas are small, all indoor, and very bland. This of course fits the game perfectly, but it doesn't do the Source Engine much justice in terms of draw distance and textures. There's no music in the game except for the little upbeat ditty playing on the radio and the sound effects are basically limited to the sound of the portal gun shooting. The computer voice acting is great though and sounds just how a creepy but lovable computer should sound.

Story: 6
Not much of a story in the first hour of Portal, but things are still kept interesting by the talkative computer. Basically you're playing as a woman (Chell) who wakes up in some research facility called Aperture Science. There's really no explanation if she's here on her own will or if she's even a human (the computer mentions android hell and how I may be going there). There's a sense of mystery about her, but more intriguing is the aforementioned computer. You only hear its voice, and it seems to be friendly, but it says some really odd things. Some of my favorite lines are about how we're going to eat cake when all this is done and its bluntness about death and dying. It's very funny and fits the game perfectly, keeping it light and enjoyable. This is not a puzzle game thrown into 3D space, this is a hilarious puzzle game thrown into 3D space.

Overall: 9
I thought about a 10 for a while, if you've been following my reviews you know I've never given a 10. I would consider a 10 the pinnacle of one hour of gameplay, and Portal just misses it. I'd rather not talk about what Portal does wrong, but everything it did right. Quick to the core of the game, doesn't try to make up a nonsensical story, and the gameplay simply rocks. The entire game is relatively short so my first hour review should really give you a great idea about the entire game (the whole point of these reviews if you didn't know). I would highly recommend Portal to basically everyone. This is non-frantic, non-twitchy gameplay that is basically a welcome to anyone. Play Portal.

Portal Infinite Portal Chells Awesome
I will find you again, Weighted Companion Cube.