Review: Portal

At a Glance

This game is recommended!
This game is not just good fun, it also stays fairly true to Christian moral values, making it a great addition to anyone's library!

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Everyone
Genre: First Person Puzzler
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2007
Review Published On: August 10th, 2016
Played on: Martha & Thaddeus

Available from:

Steam

Save System:

While you can save your game in the pause menu, your progress is automatically saved at the beginning of each chapter or major area anyway.

To reach the pause menu, press ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

The main concern for this game is that the constant string of insulting remarks from the evil AI GLaDOS may be a bit much for younger players.

Additionally, even if the injury wasn't fatal, some of the main character's blood is splattered on the nearby walls if a turret manages to shoot them.

Screenshots

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A typical test chamber

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Chell's blood splattered on the wall

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A room full of paranoid scribblings



Game Overview

Portal's story opens with Chell waking up in a rest chamber at Aperture Science. She is soon greeted by a computer voice, welcoming her to the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, and promises that if Chell performs well while testing out the new Portal Gun, she will be rewarded with cake.

The Portal Gun is a scientific miracle. By "shooting" at a wall, you'll create a portal. When two portals are open at the same time, they link together, forming a hole in reality. Anything that enters one portal will simply come out the other side, and this allows the portal gun's user to break physics in a number of fun ways. Perhaps the most interesting quirk of the portal system is that whatever falls into a portal maintains its current speed and trajectory (relative to the portal) when it comes out the other side. This allows you to fling yourself and objects by jumping into a portal on the ground.

However, it soon becomes apparent that something is seriously wrong. Not only will the computer's voice breaking up and malfunctioning, but you'll start seeing scribbled messages in the test chambers that ask for help or repeat phrases like the ramblings of a crazed person. Eventually, Chell's journey through the various test chambers becomes a fight to survive as the chambers begin to include lethal obstacles, such as turrets armed with live rounds. In order to make it out alive, Chell will need to use the Portal Gun to its full potential and shutdown the psychotic main computer, GLaDOS.

When it first came out, this game was an overnight sensation, and it's still highly recommended today. That said, parents should be aware that GLaDOS frequently uses abusive or manipulative tactics when referring to the player character, and some of these jabs can honestly hurt children that play the game.

Points of Interest

Careful attention to detail
Pretty much everything has been thought of by the developers. This includes various ways you could get yourself trapped in the testing chambers. If you do somehow manage to get trapped somewhere, GLaDOS will make a snide remark and move a wall to let you out. Portal also runs really well on weak hardware, just like most of Valve's titles.
Portals can be clearly seen through
If portals line up just right, Chell can see herself from other perspectives by looking through one of the portals. It's also possible to create a hall of mirrors effect if the two portals are visible through each other.
GLaDOS steals the show
Ellen McLain shines as the voice of GLaDOS, which is probably her most famous voice acting role to date. A the end of the game, she get an in-character solo number that went viral very quickly. In the game itself, GLaDOS has a knack for droll and dark humor, which many players found to be a lot of fun. She only gets better in the sequel.
Mistreating turrets is kind of enjoyable
There's some moral issues with this (see below) but doing various terrible things to the hapless turrets is pretty fun. Whether its dropping weighted storage cubes on them, sending them flying with portals, bouncing high energy pellets off them or shoving them through particle fields (which disintegrate them), players enjoy giving the turrets a rough time of it.
Figuring out the puzzles is rewarding
The cake is just a bonus. Playing with the portal gun and solving the various chambers is really fun. Think about it this way: do you remember the old Warner Brothers cartoon about the portable hole? The portal gun makes them!
The sequel does it better
The first Portal game isn't very long, and the sequel greatly expands on Portal's world and gameplay. There are also rumors that the developers weren't sure the game's unique mechanics would be popular with players, which would explain why it's so limited compared to the game that followed. However, it would still be a good idea to play through this game in order to get the most out of the sequel.

Concerns and Issues

Human "resources"
GLaDOS is fond of measuring monetary value using the price of donated organs as the baseline. She'll also suggest "donating" yours to the "Self Esteem Fund for Girls".
The Companion Cube
One of the objects Chell encounters is a little weighted cube with a heart painted on each side, and she's encouraged to treat it much like a pet rock. Called the "companion cube", this object is taken along through a series of tests while the computer hints that it might actually be self-aware somehow.

And at the end of the test sequence, you're instructed to "euthanize" it by tossing it into an incinerator. You don't have a choice here: in order to progress, you're going to have to "kill" your faithful companion cube. Moments later, the computer cheerfully informs you that you euthanized your cube faster than anyone on record, you monster.
Bullets draw blood
While getting shot by a turret won't instantly kill Chell, it will make some of her blood splatter against the wall behind her. Multiple shots in quick succession will finish Chell off however, so don't let those turrets see you.
Cruelty towards turrets
The turrets are arguably the most "alive" characters Chell encounters aside from GLaDOS itself. They'll comment about their situation in a soft, almost childlike voice, asking "Are you there?" when you're near or "There you are..." when they're getting ready to fire. They'll also cry out if harmed, and in order to safely get around them you'll need to at least knock them over. At least they don't hold grudges -- when disabled they'll sometimes say "I don't blame you." or "No hard feelings." and then go creepily silent.
GLaDOS verbally abuses Chell
During the climax, GLaDOS begins to insult and threaten Chell in a number of ways. This includes telling Chell that she's worthless and nobody cares if she lived or died. At one point, GLaDOS makes fun of the fact that Chell was adopted. Reportedly, this last part has really hurt adopted children that ran across that scene as it's an understandably painful issue for them. The developers apologized, but also pointed out that the same character makes fat jokes at your expense. GLaDOS is explicitly a bully, and kids should be ready for her insults.