This one-time experiment turned cult classic had a hand in shifting gaming as we know it. Originally known for the massive online multiplayer PC phenomenon, Counter-Strike and of course the all-time classic Half-Life, expectations were fairly high. But a game like this was still uncharted territory, so it was released as part of The Orange Box, which included Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress.
The Premise Of Portal
The game begins in an abandoned research facility, seemingly controlled by an AI-powered robot. GLaDOS introduces itself and starts giving you a series of tests to monitor your physical and on-the-spot problem-solving abilities. Naturally playing as Chell, your objective is to get out by any means necessary.
So… you’re basically a guinea pig working to navigate the dangerous laser-ridden obstacles for the amusement of a lonely robot. Wouldn’t sound like an ideal vacation destination, but it makes for an excellent gaming experience – especially if you enjoy science fiction and puzzles.
What kind of puzzles?
Well, you’re handed a portal gun that can be used to navigate these courses – many of which are impossible without it. Eventually, your portal gun is upgraded, allowing the player to create two portals that connect to each other – this makes for so many more possibilities, which, in turn, calls for more difficult puzzles to solve.
Throughout the game, GLaDOS makes promises of cake if you can complete the series of tests in its entirety. This is seen as some sort of incentive, similar to how scientists use cheese for experiments with rats.
As you may have guessed, there was no cake. This led to the popular internet meme “The Cake is a Lie“, which people would often use when someone offers a reward for something that they have no intention of following through with.
The eeriness of the robot promising cake still sticks with us… it’s as if that’s one of the few things the robot knows about humans, so it thinks it’s doing an amazing job motivating you. When in reality, you’re a person fearing for your life… something a psychopathic robot would never be able to feel or understand in the first place. GLaDOS also makes grim (sometimes humorous) remarks throughout the game that acts as comic relief and a device to convey the player’s anxiety.
With Portal being a smash hit, Valve eventually blessed us with a sequel. In this story, you aren’t a human trapped in the facility, but another robot trying to escape. You’re guided by Wheatley, another robot who can fly around the facility – he always has the best intentions, but always seems to misunderstand the situation or just flat out drop the ball. The biggest case being when he awakens GLaDOS.
Once awakened, you’re given even more dangerous tasks to satisfy her boredom, fully equipped with passive-aggressive (and sometimes hilarious) comments to keep you company. Wheatley comes in and out in an attempt to help, but let’s face it – he’s mainly comic relief… or is he?
Will There Be A Third?
Sadly, no. At least, probably not. We’ve yet to see a true 3rd installment of any Valve game to date, including their most popular titles like Team Fortress, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and so on. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but we certainly aren’t getting our hopes up.
The Good News?
Portal and Portal 2 are still loads of fun and even after years of release, they still prove themselves to be replayable. If you just wait enough time in between sessions, part of the game almost feels like you’re playing it for the first time!