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Portal PC Review - -

Gameplay 9.5
Graphics 9.0
Sound 8.8
Value 6.5
Developer: Valve Software
Review Date:
October 2007
Rohan Anchan
Classification: M15+



Portal is one of those rare, beautiful, amazing experiences in gaming that come along only once in a blue moon, and pass by you thrice as quickly as they come. Yes, this game is short. Very short. Even if you’re the ‘average Joe’ type of guy when it comes to logic and figuring puzzles out, you’ll sail through Portal in about four to five hours max. Conversely, if you’re anything of a mathematical / scientific genius, expect to zip through this game in about two hours.

Some of you may be disappointed to read about the length of the game, while some of you might be put off by the US$ 19.95 price tag for such a short game. Which is why I highly suggest you get the entire Orange Box package, as its totally worth the time and is a must-have experience.

However, in spite of its short life span, Portal is nothing short of a brilliant game. Ten minutes into the game, and you won’t be able to stop playing. It’s extremely captivating and mesmerizing, something not all puzzle-shooter games can claim of.


Hmmm…so what exactly is Portal all about? Well, the concept (unlike the gameplay) is as simple as bread and butter. You play the role of an unnamed female test subject, who awakens in a room at this scientific testing facility called Aperture Laboratories. You are guided by a computerized voice to the portal gun, which sort of resembles Half-Life’s gravity gun. Using the gun, you can fire two portals: an entry portal (blue), and an exit portal (red). You go in the blue one, come out the red one. That’s all there is to it!

From there on, it’s just you, the gun, and 19 test chambers inside the labs. Each test chamber basically has one exit, and you have to figure out how to get to it. The caveat here is, of course, that this is not simple ‘Point A to Point B’ stuff. The chambers are filled with great wide chasms, high-rise platforms, hazardous floors, and out-of-reach buttons and switches, all of which need to be crossed, cleared, or activated to actually get to the exit. And for all that stuff, you will use only the portal gun – nothing else. What’s more, portals can be shot only at certain types of surfaces, not anywhere you fancy. Starting to see the challenge now? At times, you may be dropped into a room which is entirely made up of anti-portal surfaces, and you’ll be left scratching your head for quite some time. Even then, every single test chamber is passable, and it all ultimately boils down to how you use the portal gun.


The fun part begins when you start to discover the possibilities at hand once you’re familiar with how the portals work, which are near endless. You can shoot a portal at a certain angle where two walls meet, and you can chase yourself around the corner. Create two portals facing each other on opposite sides of a wall, and watch yourself run through an infinite loop. It’s these kind of things that really make the game fun and interesting. Later on in the game, you will be required to use more advanced tactics to clear puzzles, get rid of turret guns, and so on. The ‘advanced’ tactics make use of the real world laws of physics, and they involve basically creating the portals in such a way that you when you jump through one from a height and come out the other, you fall into the first one again. This creates momentum, which is carried through portals, and is needed to propel you across some of the absurd distances or gaps that you would never be able to jump across otherwise. It takes some time getting used to how the momentum mechanics work, but once you’re at it, it’s a whole lotta fun. Firing portals at different angles also has a big impact on the way matter passes through them, as opposed to straight ones. There are also a bunch of achievements to unlock in the game, such as for falling 30,000 feet, jumping over 300 feet, completing the game, etc. Not exactly very rewarding, but you do feel a sense of accomplishment when you’re awarded one. It’s great!

The puzzles in Portal, though seemingly impossible at times, are nothing but a work of pure genius. Sure, you may come across a puzzle and feel that there is absolutely no way out. But then, you figure a way out eventually, and that just makes you stop, think, and appreciate as to how intricately and cleverly that puzzle was designed. It makes you go “Jeez, that was one hell of a great puzzle! How did they come up with these things?” Hats off to the Valve team for dreaming up such stuff!!

As expected, the puzzles get progressively harder and bigger, but it’s only after the 14th chamber or so that you’ll really have to start thinking a lot. The puzzles that ensue are spread across multiple rooms (some of which are entirely anti-portal) in which the exit maybe hundreds of feet above your position, or three chasms across. It’s in these places that you will be required to use all your portal gun skills together in order to get out alive.


Yes, alive. You read that right. Being a puzzler doesn’t mean that a game can’t kill you. Portal is filled with enemy turret guns, rocket launchers, bouncing nuclear energy balls, and hazardous chemical floors. While the turret guns and launchers won’t kill you instantly, the chemical stuff definitely will. And once again, getting past all these obstacles IS a matter of using only the portal gun. For instance, you could open a portal above a turret and then drop a heavy box through on top of it to disable it. Anyways, I’ll leave the experimentation bits to you, as that’s where over 50% of the fun factor lies…


Oh, and being a puzzler doesn’t mean that Portal has to be an extremely serious game. It is, infact, quite the contrary. Pay close attention to the dialogs spouted by the female robot-computer thing along the way , and you’ll laugh your ass off at what she says, especially the way she says it – like she expects you to take it all seriously. The same goes with the turret guns. If one spots you and then loses sight of you, it’ll go like “Are you still there?” in this extremely child-like voice. And if you happen to knock one of them outta commission, it’ll say “What did I ever do to you?” Smiling already? Wait till you actually hear this stuff in game – you won’t be able to stop laughing! It’s these little things that count and keep your interest throughout, which is imperative for a puzzle game. And for the record, Portal has one of the best end credit screens I’ve ever come across in a game. Believe me, you don’t wanna miss out on it – it’s truly a unique work of art. 

Although you may think the game is a bunch of tests thrown together, there’s much more to that than you would imagine. You’re down to the 19th chamber, happy and satisfied that you’re about to finish this great game, and BHAM! You’re met with some shocking and interesting revelations, and the game doesn’t end just there. I’m not going to mention anything beyond this point – you just have to play the game, witness these events for yourself and experience it yourself. You will no doubt be surprised with the turn of events, and the facts you discover about Aperture Labs and you’re role in the game.  

Moving on to the visuals, Portal is nothing short of beautiful. Sure, the environments may be extremely simplistic as compared to other modern day shooters and such, but even this simplicity exudes sharp textures, fancy light effects, motion blur, and some impressive HRD lighting. The Source engine is still very much a killer tool, and Valve has lived up to their standard of creating extremely great looking games once again. The reflective surfaces, fire effects, lighting and such have been nailed to perfection. 

The game, though devoid of music for the most part, is an example of brilliant audio engineering. The dialogs spoken by the computerized contraptions all around the Aperture Labs, the ‘boomp’ of the portal gun being fired, the ‘whoosh’ sounds as you fall through an infinite loop of portals – everything has been crafted and incorporated with care and in the right places. And like I said, the dialogs will have you rolling over with laughter! 

Once you’re done with the main ‘story’ game, you can access the ‘Bonus Maps’ option from the main menu. These consist of advanced chambers, which are twisted variations of the game’s test chambers, and challenge maps, which have certain conditions like clearing a chamber in a certain amount of time, or using only a fixed number of portals to get through. There are six of each of these maps, so you can get a dose of some more portal-firing puzzle solving incase the main game wasn’t enough for you. That’s the only drawback to this game: is a tad bit short, and doesn’t offer much variety in terms of replayability. 


Portal is an extremely new and innovative idea, one which hasn’t been seen in a game till today. Sure, we’ve seen portals in other sci-fi games, but actually controlling them? Nah, not see that until Portal came along! Although a short-lived experience, Portal is one of the most satisfying, puzzling, compelling, interesting, and fun-filled experiences, all in one package. This game alone is worth getting the Orange Box for, but keeping in view the other great games in the pack, we highly recommend getting the Orange Box in its entirety.

Alright, that wraps up this review. Go have some cake now…



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