Monday, February 18, 2008


I recently picked up a copy of the Orange Box and have to admit, Portal was the game I couldn't wait to start playing.

With the all the hype this one received last year, I went in with pretty high expectations. Well, it's a good thing I that I couldn't wait until my morning coffee to fire this guy up, because there were some hurdles to jump through first.

Getting the game to work

I realize that my main PC at the moment is a laptop with an integrated graphics chip, far from ideal for gaming but everything in the system requirements indicated that I should be able to get this guy running.

Well, it runs but it took a lot of work.

At first, the game would start, opening in some kind of glass encased room with a radio blaring some kind of mariachi sounding music. Then a computer starts talking. It's about to give safety advice while at the Aperture research center then suddenly sounds like an old cassette tape being eaten. I guess this is the sardonic humour I keep hearing about. I'm then informed that the portal will open in 10 seconds.

Ten seconds later, a portal does in fact. A few seconds after that, I'm greeted by the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.

Playing Portal: Take two

After about an hour of reading forums, I finally find some command line options to make Portal playable (it turns out I needed to add an option to force DirectX 9.0) So, on to the real review.

Moving through the portal, I'm led into another room with an exit and a button. Standing on the button opens the exit, but it closes as soon as I step off the button. Clearly I need to put some weight on it.

Fortunately, there's a large cube nearby that I carry over to the button to get out of the room.

First-person puzzle game

As it turns out, this is a puzzle game based on the Half-Life 2 engine. It plays like a first-person shooter, but it's all about the puzzles, which is unique and rather cool.

The first few rooms are rather easy to solve, which each adding a new element in order to introduce it. Plus, there's usually a bit of getting through portal involved.

Eventually, I score myself a cannon that creates portals, so now I control where they go and where they lead to. This leads to some rather unique solutions for some rooms, forcing me to think in odd ways. So far, this is really fun.

Plus, there's that obnoxious computer that warns me about things like impending death in a completely monotone voice. I can't decide if it's just the fact that it's a computer or if it's really passive-aggressive.

In one level, it keeps apologizing for the broken room which has no solution. But considering that I refused to accept that this game wouldn't run on my integrated graphics chip equipped laptop, I definitely wasn't accepting a room with no solution.

Fortunately, I figured it out (without a walkthrough - I'm proud of myself - I can be a total wuss and turn to them pretty quickly sometimes) and I'm off.

Motion Sickness

Oh man, moving through, some of the solutions to the rooms get weirder and weirder. One involves using forward momentum through portals (as the computer puts it, 'speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out') to propel yourself across the room but the way the camera twists around while flying through the air...I swear, I thought I was gonna throw up.


It's not a very long game, by the time I stopped to write this, I had almost completed all the test levels.

That said, it kept me going that long and never got boring. Which weird, since I'm not usually a fan of puzzle games (nor am I usually a fan of first-person shooters for that matter.)

Do I even need to both answer the question as to whether I'll keep playing or not? Between the dark the humour and the unique game play, it would be insanely difficult for me to NOT like this game.

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