Games That Nobody Plays Anymore: Portal

[Games That Nobody Plays Anymore is a weekly series written by Nathan Hardisty with a little title card help from Juan Houter. It’s an on-going series about the forgotten games of yesteryear, and doesn’t totally reflect the title. Remember; nobody stops playing these games; it’s just a title. Don’t make something of it or I will come down to your house and ask you politely to stop. If you have any suggestions for future titles to ‘GTNPA’ don’t forget to leave me a comment!]

If Valve ever make a bad game or one of substantial lower quality than their usual standard; I feel the world would explode. As in, instantaneously as I play their latest effort, blurt out loud a swear word describing its quality – the very world would just explode into bits. They have never made a bad, mediocre or even a little bit worse for wear game. The game I think is their worst effort is Left 4 Dead 2, and that’s still awesome as all hell. When I discovered little Portal in the Orange Box, I was stunned. Actually, I was stunned in giggles.

Portal is without a doubt one of the funniest games in all of creation: it perhaps boasts some of the best game writing. 2007 sure had a good year for game narrative (Portal and the rest of the Orange Box, Bioshock and even Call of Duty 4 to some extent). It was a very humble little gem and it is seen by Valve staff, or at least the team who developed it, as more of a tech demo than a fully fledged title. Pretty surprising given how well received it was. Portal is on my top ten list, but even I know the little niche things that it just doesn’t do well. For example, longevity was never its strongest suit, it was designed as a tech demo.

I think one of the glaring bad parts of Portal is the fact that after playing it through around five times, it starts to become boring. It’s not the game is bad, but it’s a puzzle based game and puzzles are fun when you’re solving them. You’ve already got that pay-off, and the delicious writing is there to support it after you’ve gotten bored of the actual gameplay. Soon enough though, it sort of wears its charms. For its first playthrough, Portal is an absolute behemoth of a game. It is amazing, brilliant, well written and all those nice adjectives.

I think the main problem with Portal is that there isn’t enough, I can’t blame Valve for not expecting what would become of it. They’ve practically got enough franchise on their hands, which stems from some plotpoints in the Half Life series. Portal has its own string of narrative but it’s led along by the Half-Life narrative which is a very nice touch. I like to think that they’ll eventually link together in one way or another, maybe Episode Three may bear some fruit. If Episode Three actually existed, which it doesn’t. Sad face.

I honestly can’t think of a better dynamic relationship which is between the cube and the player. It’s done so well, and largely unintentionally, that people have cried over having to let this cube out of their grasp. Maybe it’s because it’s a useful object, and a follower rather than someone to follow. It’s not even a thing; it doesn’t exhibit human emotions or physical features. It sometimes boggles my mind how people fell in love with an inanimate object in an alternative reality. Then I remember it’s Valve and they’ve pretty much defied everything.

The turret’s quirky lines, the personality sphere’s childish outlooks on the world, the genius puzzles and the most frustratingly awesome new mechanics are all at play here. I can’t really say anything else to anyone who has never played it, except the obvious. Portal is close to perfection, it’s quite perfect in its own right, it’s only omission is the fact there’s not enough of it. With Portal 2 on the way, that’s a complaint that’s going to be swept away quite quickly. I always expect the best from Valve and they always deliver. They’re magic.

Next week: It’s Batweek here on Platform Nation, so look forward to a Batform Nation Bat Special of Batgames That Nobody Bats Anymore. Same Batweek, same bat-channel.

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