50 Reviews :: Portal :: and blasphemy

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50 Reviews :: Portal :: and blasphemy

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At first, I didn't plan to review Portal despite my frequent promises of cake. I haven't played the game in years and I doubted that it would work on the laptop that I am typing these words on now. So guess what my reaction was when Portal was being given away for free on Steam, I downloaded it and it actually worked! Even though my laptop uses a graphics card that Steam has never encountered before and is known to overheat if I have more than 3 windows open. So I set the laptop on my desk, stole my dad's usb mouse and we're off!

There are many complications to note when reviewing a game such as Portal: everyone seems to be obsessed with the game and the variety of memes that it has spouted so any positive review will be just another few pages on the mountain of similar reviews. But then a review suggesting that this game is bad will be dismissed as simply "wrong" with phrases like "you just don't get it" and "you have no soul!" So where do I go with this? Well I could opt for BlueInkAlchemist's[1] idea of reviewing the game in the perspective of Glados[2], but that is simply plagiarism. No, what I'm going to is argue a point; and that point is:

Portal is not nearly as good as everyone tells me it is.

Now before you all go and grab pitchforks and torches while screaming that this is blasphemy, here me out. I'm not saying that Portal is a bad game, I'm just saying that it isn't fantastic. As you all know by now, Portal is a small puzzle game with elements of humour which was part of The Orange Box and has recently risen from its classification as simply an add-on to something that, in many eyes, topped Half-Life 2 as the best game in the collection. You play as a test subject that has to navigate through several test chambers by using a hand-held portal device in order to earn your freedom.

I would liken the puzzles in this game to the ever-hated Farmville. While Farmville may not contain any puzzles the reason you complete the puzzles in Portal is for the same reason you plant crops. The puzzles in Portal are neither that challenging or, indeed, fun. You simply complete them in order to have a go at the next. Of course, the creators tried to get round this problem with the promise of cake after you complete 19 of these levels. But then again, I never did like that particular meme.
Sure, I am a great fan of the portal device and all the things it allows you to do. It's just that I think they could have done so much more with it: redirection of electrical spheres and the use of momentum were really the only things that were incorporated. These two ideas were simply repeated over the 10-odd levels where you actually had control of both portals which lead me to be increasingly bored and only playing for the part where you escape you fate[3].

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Mind = blown

But then again, I suppose the reason why Portal is hyped into the heavens is that people enjoy the humour that accompanies it and I would have to agree with the masses on this one. I too enjoyed the first time I saw "The cake is a lie!" written on the wall, or even the emotionally tearing Companion Cube level. But where the humour goes wrong is that it simply feels tacked on, like an afterthought when the developers realised that the puzzles could not stand by themselves. This is shown best if you take out the humour and see that the Companion Cube level is simple a prettied up "prop" level where you use an object to your advantage.
There is also a broader problem with humour in that the game will not stay funny forever; especially since what jokes there are have been killed outright by overuse as a lame attempt to join in. Humour also, does not mean a game doesn't need to bother with any other aspects like story, character development or gameplay. Furthermore, there have been plenty funnier jokes: for example I have Anchorman saved on my hard drive and I can switch to Dave whenever the TV is on and be laughing within the minute.

However, one cannot fail to admire the whole simplicity of Portal. It just doesn't bother with realism as far as fall damage and... Portals go. It's a game that says "Why do I need to have a story? People only want to have fun." Which is something all games should aspire for. But I've already gone in depth with that topic before[4] so I won't bore you with it again.

I think the main reason that Portal has been so successful is that it was such a surprise. Many bought The Orange Box for Half Life 2 and its episodes and were surprised to find a half decent game that could stand up on its own and was actually slightly funny. But to break the tone of this review completely I'm going to post the video of Still Alive in a half baked attempt to tie the review into what I'm going to talk about next.

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For those who are still reading hello! This spot is going to be used for the purpose of declaring that yes, I am still here. I've managed to amass a total of 50 reviews in a little under 3 months, may I be the first to ask how the fuck I managed that? Well from what I've gathered it's because of a mix of my frequent attempts at music reviewing and the fact that I actually enjoy doing this.

My efforts have rewarded me with a small following of people who regularly read my reviews (over at the music thread people have been asking why I haven't done one for a while, I have to say that was pleasantly surprising), a trickle of recognition from other reviewers even though most of it is negative and a self-awarded title. This isn't that much but it's a lot more than I was expecting when I first started doing this.

My writing has also improved, I hope anyway. I'm now a lot more in tune with "the flow" and have learned to stop insulting my readers... that often. Most of the improvement is down to how terrible I was when I first started along with (apparently) how I viscously attacked anyone who commented on my reviews. In my defence I though I was only being playful, but it turns out not everyone on the internet is British and used to such abuse from friends and family alike.

Oh well, I hope people have actually enjoyed the things I post on this forum. It would be good to know that I wasn't just declaring my opinions to a brick wall. If I wanted to do that I'd spent more time in the Religion and Politics section[5].

Anyway, be sure to leave a comment concerning anything I've been talking about. This is also the last time you will be able to see "the wonder box" with all the links to my other reviews as I'm switching to a "next review/ previous review" format.

Thanks for reading.

Oh and... here you go.

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Previous Article: Infamous and superhero games in general
Next Article: Borderlands :: It's About Time! has stopped?

[2] I'm assuming you've all played the game or at least know all the trivia from it so I'm not going to bother with giving Portal an extended introduction
[3] oh yeh.. spoilers by the way
[5] Yay for jokes

I too recently played thanks to steam giving it away.

and i must say i agree it's not THAT great a game, although it was alot of fun.
i'm probably the only person satisfied withthe length of portal. but this length actually worked any longer and it would become boring very fast.

nice review!

The way Portal is set up, going any longer than it did would have undercut the novelty of it. It was pitched, paced and framed perfectly, and that contributes to its huge success.

Doug Lombardi has said "Portal was a test bed. Portal 2 is the game."

I, for one, can't wait.

Nicely done on the review, Stranger.

Very nice review.
I've played only a few levels through demo discs from OXM and the levels included in that just didn't interest me. Fun for a 30 minute blast but it just doesn't appeal to me in the long run.

And congrats on the 50 reviews.
You insane reviewing person, you.

BlueInkAlchemist:
The way Portal is set up, going any longer than it did would have undercut the novelty of it. It was pitched, paced and framed perfectly, and that contributes to its huge success.

Doug Lombardi has said "Portal was a test bed. Portal 2 is the game."

I, for one, can't wait.

Nicely done on the review, Stranger.

Hopefully I'll have something that can run it properly by the time it comes out. And you're just saying that because I linked your review :P

Good review, though I'm not sure I totally agree about the ''funny forever'' part. I feel that anyone who has has the jokes/humor spoiled for them won't find the initial first play through as amazing as someone who started fresh when the game came out (like a lot of people did who give it high praise) and that it's the same situation with a lot of other things that become tiresome the more you hear/see/do them. Even though it's all subjective depending on the person, that's how most things in life tend to boil down.

Otherwise, I agreed with most of what you said. :)

Stranger of Sorts:
the creators tried to get round this problem with the promise of cake after you complete 19 of these levels.

Congratulations, in a single line, you sent your entire review to the deepest pits of hell.
If you really thought you're doing the whole Portal thing for FREAKING CAKE, then, my dear sir, you and I have been playing completely different games. Because in my game, the cake was little more than a comical device, to make GladOS sillier, and the big, real reward was meant to be your freedom.

As for how it wasn't as good as people claim, it's mostly because by now, Portal has been so overexposed because of internet memes and whatnot, that as you say, it's no longer a surprise, almost everything you'll find in the game is already expected. Unfortunately, in this case, the internet has killed the game for those that have yet to play it.

Portal, however memed and worshiped it's become, is still a game. Because it is a game, it should be judged as such, not by how popular it's become on the internet. I'm glad you took the time to take it apart and review it as a game to be played, nothing more.
I never enjoyed Portal personally, but hey, I've always hated those FPS puzzle type games.
Good job on the review.
to quote a song: "I'm making a note here, huge success."

Rauten:

Stranger of Sorts:
the creators tried to get round this problem with the promise of cake after you complete 19 of these levels.

Congratulations, in a single line, you sent your entire review to the deepest pits of hell.
If you really thought you're doing the whole Portal thing for FREAKING CAKE, then, my dear sir, you and I have been playing completely different games. Because in my game, the cake was little more than a comical device, to make GladOS sillier, and the big, real reward was meant to be your freedom.

Originally there was an extra paragraph explaining this but I removed it because it didn't really piece together properly. What it boiled down to is that there is little drive in this game as far as motivating the player is concerned and the cake thing was put there to give the players a little push.

*hands you a flame suit*
I wonder what else you think you should have been able to do with a Portal gun that wasn't at least possible, though unnecessary, in the game? Sever enemy heads with a portal to nowhere (a la Stargate)? Perform a bizarre magic trick by bursting out of an enemy stomach? Use the Portal to remove sections of wall or ceiling to which something heavy is attached (like a certain copyrighted bird-chasing wolf cartoon)?

You do offer an interesting perspective, however, and I agree that Portal is overhyped to a degree. Surely you know how things tend to get carried too far when one is excited.

side note: about the humor... you liked Anchorman. I think that explains it. (To fight "blasphemy" with "blasphemy") Will Ferrel is a hack.
*puts on matching flame suit*

2xDouble:
*hands you a flame suit*
I wonder what else you think you should have been able to do with a Portal gun that wasn't at least possible, though unnecessary, in the game? Sever enemy heads with a portal to nowhere (a la Stargate)? Perform a bizarre magic trick by bursting out of an enemy stomach? Use the Portal to remove sections of wall or ceiling to which something heavy is attached (like a certain copyrighted bird-chasing wolf cartoon)?

You do offer an interesting perspective, however, and I agree that Portal is overhyped to a degree. Surely you know how things tend to get carried too far when one is excited.

side note: about the humor... you liked Anchorman. I think that explains it. (To fight "blasphemy" with "blasphemy") Will Ferrel is a hack.
*puts on matching flame suit*

Why thank you *puts on flame suit*... hey there's holes everywhere!

One thing they could have done is let you put portals on moving objects, it could have lead to some really cool and frantic puzzles.

While, yes, I would agree that Ferrel is a bit of a tool I do find Anchorman really funny, the amount of good quotes to be taken from that film is hilarious.

The novelty of Portal has been worn out over the years, so I would agree that if you've had the huge build up of hype everyone else had without playing the game, the humour would seem a little... boring.

I also think Portal 2 will be a huge failure due to hype... but as far as Portal, I personally loved it.

The puzzles in Portal are neither that challenging or, indeed, fun.

Couldn't disagree with you more. Did you try the challenge levels after you beat the game? They weren't easy.

the creators tried to get round this problem with the promise of cake after you complete 19 of these levels.

Wait... What? You mean the cake motivated you to finish the game? ... Wow.

But where the humour goes wrong is that it simply feels tacked on, like an afterthought when the developers realised that the puzzles could not stand by themselves.

This depends on your sense of humour. I didn't find that at all, I thought of glados and her jokes as a kind of companion. It was very well done IMO

This is shown best if you take out the humour and see that the Companion Cube level is simple a prettied up "prop" level where you use an object to your advantage.

You can say that about any game. It's not really a valid point. And either way, it's not trying to disguise itself as anything else. If someone didn't know it was a prop level when they played it they'd have to be stupid.

Furthermore, there have been plenty funnier jokes: for example I have Anchorman saved on my hard drive and I can switch to Dave whenever the TV is on and be laughing within the minute.

I know this is ironic, but I really don't think you get it. Portal's humour is dark or black humour, the type found in absurdism. It's not meant to be laugh out loud funny. It's completely different to Anchorman. You really can't compare the two.

Well after finally getting to play portal on my own computer and getting to enjoy the content without feeling like I was hogging my cosine's computer, I prombtly started the game and beat it twice(the other time was to hear the commentary) and the advance maps in two days I gotta say you're right portal is not a great game but if you reasearch who was involed and how it was made you would be impressed on those merits only. Portal 1 was just a small set up in exploring a completly orginal game idea and portal 2 is sure to be the great game that portal 1 had the potintal to be.

You took an awfully long time to simply say that Portal is not actually that great. Most of what you said didn't prove your point, either.

Despite this, you're absolutely right. Seventy awards, as the game received, is just too much for what it really provides. It was just too short, the gameplay was quite low on new features for each new puzzle. Each of the new features that did appear were not even used in the most inventive fashion, except in the overly-frustrating Advanced puzzles.

I mean, if you were to pop a review score on it during its "free to register and keep" period, it would score much higher, but just on its merits, it's probably worthy of an 8 or 8.5 out of ten. It's good, but excellent? If it is, it's only by building on the engine of Half Life 2.

Sure, to someone completely new who hasn't played HL2, it is a crazy cool game. But if, like many people, you opened your Orange Box and left Portal sitting around unplayed for a long time, conquering the other games in there first, then Portal would just feel like an expansion pack that has no action and allows you to use just the one new gun. Not very appetising.

Still, gamers ride the hype and it even extends the experience for those who remain high on it. Perhaps that's the real value in the game. If you could call that "real".

Aylaine:
Good review, though I'm not sure I totally agree about the ''funny forever'' part. I feel that anyone who has has the jokes/humor spoiled for them won't find the initial first play through as amazing as someone who started fresh when the game came out

You are, very sadly, correct on this count.

I played Portal for the first time this week, and thanks to the meme being everywhere, "cake is a lie" had a very vague effect on me. It was like having one of the other nerds who quoted it endlessly sitting next to me, interjecting over GLaDOS' dialogue with an annoying, overused line.

Seeing it on the wall was also ruined for me. Thankfully, the fact that you can trail the other test subjects throughout the game made things more interesting. While the value of the humour is lost for the best part, the sadness or the serious side of what's going on isn't.

reg42:
Couldn't disagree with you more. Did you try the challenge levels after you beat the game?

I was reviewing the "story mode"(/campaign/single-player... whatever they're calling it this time), not the add-ons.

Wait... What? You mean the cake motivated you to finish the game? ... Wow.

No, I said that to highlight the fact that I was not motivated by anything.

This depends on your sense of humour. I didn't find that at all, I thought of glados and her jokes as a kind of companion. It was very well done IMO

Well done it may be, but to me it's stale.

I know this is ironic, but I really don't think you get it. Portal's humour is dark or black humour, the type found in absurdism. It's not meant to be laugh out loud funny. It's completely different to Anchorman. You really can't compare the two.

I am a great fan of dark humour, I could replace Anchorman with Frankie Boyle or anything really. While I see your point with that comparison, the point still stands that the humour isn't fantastic, just pleasing.

Stranger of Sorts:
And you're just saying that because I linked your review :P

Well, as flattered as I am that you're prompting others to read my work, if you think that's the only reason I'm paying yours a compliment I'll have to ask you to step outside.

Stranger of Sorts:
Humour also, does not mean a game doesn't need to bother with any other aspects like story, character development or gameplay.

I was sort of with you to a point up to this... I am so glad Portal didn't have a lot of story; or at the very least didn't try to bog us down with annoying exposition (that was the major complaint I had with Mirror's Edge).

It's one thing to love First-Person Shooters and not like Halo or Modern Warfare 2; you can love RPG's and not like Final Fantasy or Elder Scrolls... but Portal really does stand in a class entirely on its own. The First-Person Puzzle game is (to my knowledge) completely new. I just think you don't like the genre, that is to say, the genre that consists entirely of one game... that game being Portal. Asking for more story in Portal is like asking for more story in a Half-Life themed version of Tetris. What they did was take a game concept and inject the Half-Life universe into it; I am actually sad that the next Portal game won't be just more test chambers and they're deciding to take it in a story direction. I don't think it needs it. Lumines doesn't need story; even games like Puzzle Quest don't really need story... it's just kind of... there.

I think you just ran into a genre you really don't care for. For instance, I wouldn't review a Real-Time Strategy like StarCraft or Command & Conquer because I know I don't like the genre, therefore all my opinions would be irrelevant, as I would be reviewing what I don't like about the genre and not about that particular game. So if you are looking at the genre (again, that being the genre consisting of entirely one game) and saying, "I don't like this about the genre" that's totally fair, but I believe the game did (successfully) exactly what it set out to do.

Stranger of Sorts:
I was reviewing the "story mode"(/campaign/single-player... whatever they're calling it this time), not the add-ons.

I'm just saying, they are there. You say they aren't challenging and then ignore it when the game gives you something more challenging. You could've mentioned it is all I'm saying

Well done it may be, but to me it's stale.

Oh okay, I didn't realise you were bringing opinion into it. That's also the trouble of reviewing a game that's 3 years old.

I am a great fan of dark humour, I could replace Anchorman with Frankie Boyle or anything really. While I see your point with that comparison, the point still stands that the humour isn't fantastic, just pleasing.

Oh okay, well again, that's your opinion.

Aylaine:
Good review, though I'm not sure I totally agree about the ''funny forever'' part. I feel that anyone who has has the jokes/humor spoiled for them won't find the initial first play through as amazing as someone who started fresh when the game came out

Isn't that basically what I said? Or am I missing something?

Silva:
You took an awfully long time to simply say that Portal is not actually that great.

I'm not sure that people would be happy if I just wrote one line since it's a pretty short review as it is. Anyway, it was not so much of a review as so many have been done before, but expanding on a point which I thought was backed up well though people are telling me otherwise... oh well.

Stranger of Sorts:

Aylaine:
Good review, though I'm not sure I totally agree about the ''funny forever'' part. I feel that anyone who has has the jokes/humor spoiled for them won't find the initial first play through as amazing as someone who started fresh when the game came out

Isn't that basically what I said? Or am I missing something?

Silva:
You took an awfully long time to simply say that Portal is not actually that great.

I'm not sure that people would be happy if I just wrote one line since it's a pretty short review as it is. Anyway, it was not so much of a review as so many have been done before, but expanding on a point which I thought was backed up well though people are telling me otherwise... oh well.

You mentioned something similar, but not the part where people new to the game would likely get the most out of the experience rather then someone who picked it up today and has heard all the humor from actual people/the internet at least once. I was merely saying that if you picked this up fresh when The Orange Box came out like many people did, it would probably have shaped their opinions of the game (and maybe yours, too.) very differently.

It's pretty glamorous to go the opposite way of popular opinion isn't it?

Halo is not all that good!
Half Life is not all that good!
CoD is not all that good!
Mass Effect is not all that good!

You are entitled to your opinion (not just you OP, saying this to everyone) but you have to acknowledge why people like these games. It's like Pink Floyd. Can't stand 'em. But I can respect them for what they do and how good they are at doing it.

Stranger of Sorts:
I'm not sure that people would be happy if I just wrote one line since it's a pretty short review as it is. Anyway, it was not so much of a review as so many have been done before, but expanding on a point which I thought was backed up well though people are telling me otherwise... oh well.

I didn't mean you should write nothing but the one line, but rather argue your point more directly. I wanted to see a serious discussion of the game's weaknesses, thoughts which obviously lead to your simple conclusion.

Instead, what I saw was two reasons for your opinion that were spread out through the piece. I wanted to hear more on them. Not to say that I'm dissatisfied with your writing, just wishing for more content.

I hate the memes so much...In fact, my hate for the memes has turned into a hatred for JoCo. Which evolved into a hatred of Valve's fanbase. Which is basically a hatred for 90% PC gamers.

Thanks, internet! For killing Portal with all those stupid fucking memes, and inspiring me to have so much hate.

OT: I liked Portal, but will never, ever, ever play it a third time.

Portal is possibly my favourite game of all time :3

I feel as though many people were tainted from the constant praise this game received. So much so that they have already made reservations about it, be them positive or otherwise. In truth it may not even be possible to get a review for this game that is not without some bias.

So, good review, but I feel as though it would have been different if you had tried it when it first came out, before all of the stuff that was associated with it did.

I was about to unleash a wave of genuine hatred, upon realizing, that the misunderstanding here is, as mentioned before, quite simple.

You good sir, are apparently three years late to the party, and by now everybodies drunk, passed out, and it's no wonder your not enjoying yourself.

Despite not reaching the perfection of Games like Morrowind, Cod 4 or DMoMM (In my humble opinion the three best games, made to date), Portal was an amazing, surprisingly funny and above all surprisingly original game. And In 2007, it deserved the praise it got. But judging a 2007 game by a 2010 perspective, isn't going to work out, especially not when a game lives from the originality and freshness, which by now nobodies surprised about anymore.
So, your opinion is justifiable, albeit doing the game no justice, since you are judging it by false standards, plain and simple.

The thing about the length is that taken in perspective Portal does very poorly. Explanation: I can't look at my thousands of fun hours put into Guild Wars and say that the 5 or so awesome hours of Portal were better. A game needs replay value. So it entertained you a lot for 3 hours or so. Great! In a few years or so when the sequel comes out you can be entertained again!

Nice review I agree with you that portal wasn't as good as it was portrayed to be. The game would of been so much better if it wasn't so short and easy but it was still a pretty fun game to play.

Don't ever try to review comedy, it's just not possible. There is no universally funny joke.

Well, congrats Stranger me boy for 50 reviews. I don't expect to get that many reviews by about the time I review Inglorious Basterds and is run out of the forums cause people disagree with me.

Anyhoo, nice review and I couldn't disagree more. I personally had a BLAST playing Portal and it is one of my top three best games ever. But, people go their own ways. So no big if you don't like something I don't. Again, good review!
EDIT:

loremazd:
Don't ever try to review comedy, it's just not possible. There is no universally funny joke.

Yes, but Portal is a comical game. It's a serious game with a touch of humor sprinkled in to the mix. Oh, and the humor is actually humorous. Well, at least I think so.

Silva:

Stranger of Sorts:
I'm not sure that people would be happy if I just wrote one line since it's a pretty short review as it is. Anyway, it was not so much of a review as so many have been done before, but expanding on a point which I thought was backed up well though people are telling me otherwise... oh well.

I didn't mean you should write nothing but the one line, but rather argue your point more directly. I wanted to see a serious discussion of the game's weaknesses, thoughts which obviously lead to your simple conclusion.

Instead, what I saw was two reasons for your opinion that were spread out through the piece. I wanted to hear more on them. Not to say that I'm dissatisfied with your writing, just wishing for more content.

Ah okay I see. I'll cram some more in in the future.

Zannah:

You good sir, are apparently three years late to the party, and by now everybodies drunk, passed out, and it's no wonder your not enjoying yourself.

Haha I love this. But good games should stand the test of time don't you think?

BloodyThoughts:
Well, congrats Stranger me boy for 50 reviews. I don't expect to get that many reviews by about the time I review Inglorious Basterds and is run out of the forums cause people disagree with me.

Anyhoo, nice review and I couldn't disagree more. I personally had a BLAST playing Portal and it is one of my top three best games ever. But, people go their own ways. So no big if you don't like something I don't. Again, good review!

ah Inglorious Basterds... I hated that film. Anyway, this sort of game is always going to get different responses from different people, mainly because it relies so heavily on charm. Also, the quote above describes it rather well.

loremazd:
Don't ever try to review comedy, it's just not possible. There is no universally funny joke.

You sir, have never watched Michael Macintyre.

Stranger of Sorts:
Snip

Yeah, he does it's just Portal isn't supposed to be a comical game. See my edit.

Also, im glad im not the only one.

Stranger of Sorts:

Zannah:

You good sir, are apparently three years late to the party, and by now everybodies drunk, passed out, and it's no wonder your not enjoying yourself.

Haha I love this. But good games should stand the test of time don't you think?

In theory, yes, but there's practically no (as mentioned, I could name 3) games, that can still come close to their former glory, years after release. That makes portal a not-perfect game (then again something like this doesn't exist), but by no means makes it a 'mediocre' game.

I didn't read it however I will later and congratulate you now on reach 50 reviews

Also

Well done dude, pleasure reading all your reviews

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