Now you're thinking with Portals...

So a few crazy days ago I bought The Orange Box from my local gaming emporium. I bought it for two simple reasons:

1. I had Half Life 2 on my PC, and my PC decided to get decidedly unreliable. It overheats. Particularly when gaming. So I never finished it. And damnit, I wanted to finish it.

2. I really really really wanted to play Portal. I think it was the trailer (click the link) which ensnared me at first. The combination of sarcastic humor and computer AI entranced me, making me want to get involved. In fact, I figured, this game had the potential to be the funniest videogame since Whiplash (a game which not nearly enough people have played).

A rush to Best Buy, my wallet $60 lighter, and I had it in my grubby little hands. So I fired up Portal.

And I finished it in about 2 and a half hours. (Less, if you believe the save game stats).

Am I pissed at this?

No! Not at all! In fact, I'm rather ecstatically happy about the whole thing. Let me tell you why.

Portal has soul. Not only is it a maddeningly fun puzzle game, but its sense of humor really does carry everything through. And the ending?

I'll just say that the ending of Portal is possibly the best ending of any video game I've played to date. It even has a musical number. In fact, the ending made up for any and all qualms I could possibly have had about it being so short. I just felt so... accomplished and happy at the end.

Portal has to be about the only game I've ever seen which mixes baking, an insane AI and post-apocalyptic dystopia as its plot points. And with music by Jonathan Coulton hidden inside it, I can honestly say that this game has everything. Especially if you have a dark and twisted sense of humor.

So my $60? Well, that bought me 5 (yes, that's five, count 'em) games1. But I would have spent that money all over again just to play Portal by itself.

That's what I call value for money. I'll post more when I finish Half Life 2.

1 Well, okay, five is debatable. You get Portal, Team Fortress 2 (an online only multiplayer first person shooter), and Half Life 2 in the box - but Half Life 2 is the original story, plus two follow-up episodes of story goodness. Either way, it's crazy value for money, and possibly the most worthwhile game to come out this year.

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

Archived Wordpress comments
Anonymous wrote on Saturday, October 20, 2007:

Half Life 2 was boring to me. …I never really bought into the story (but then I hated Half Life too).

The woman in it is cute.

I don’t like levels that don’t offer anything clever. Get in Air Boat and ride it for miles. Solve easy mentally then go through the hassle of actually doing it.

Far Cry is much better.

I still think No One Lives Forever was great

~V~ wrote on Thursday, February 14, 2008:

I loved Portal, too! There are plenty of mods for it now, I have a couple of links from my blog:

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