PORTAL / Valve / PC

Back when Portal came out in 2007, I didn't have a computer that could run it. So I checked out freeware predecessor Narbacular Drop to at least get some idea of what the Nerds of the Interwebs were in such a tizzy about. I quit Narbacular about halfway through though, as I felt the puzzles were mostly uninteresting and the design was kinda assy.

Portal has better puzzles and way better design, but that's not the main thing that makes it a much better game. Chalk that up to GlaDOS, the delightfully nuts rogue AI that's like a more benignly crazy version of Shodan from System Shock. Without GlaDOS, and the game's comedic writing and dark charm, the game would be merely a creative take on the Half-Life 2 engine and an interesting but ultimately somewhat dry series of puzzles.

I do think the Nerds of the Interwebs have tended to overrate this game a bit based on being captivated with its black humor, but it was quite fun and a worthwhile experience. The quandary is that the main game lasts 2 to 3 hours at best, shorter than quite a few demos. If it had been stretched out, however, it likely would have felt artificially padded (which it never does as-is) and would have been weaker overall. So what you wind up with is a delicious snack of a game, really. Sure there's "bonus levels" that are unlocked, which are harder remixed challenges of rooms you've already played, and there's the modding community who have created their own levels, but without the writing, the humor, GlaDOS and the gradual reveal of what's going on at Aperture Science, it's a much more dry and less interesting experience, akin to playing Narbacular really.

It was designed as the "cherry on top" for the Orange Box, however, and in that sense it's the best cherry ever. The $15 that Valve is asking for it as a stand-alone on Steam is a little ridiculous for a 3 hour HL2 mod, though.

Links :

* Portal demo - Requires Steam

Videos :

* Gameplay Video