Speaking of commercial games that Yahtzee didn’t hate, I had an opportunity to finally play Portal yesterday! I sold my gaming PC a few months ago so I’ve kinda missed out on recent commercial games, but a friend of mine had a copy and (seeing as it’s so short) I was able to play it on his machine in one sitting. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.
Some nice Portal fanart by Saejinoh!
Portal started with Narbacular Drop, an experimental indie title from a team founded at digipen. It’s a pretty neat idea – in fact, Valve were impressed enough with it to offer the designers a job. Portal is their creation; a minigame bundled with the new Half-Life 2 episode that’s understandably getting a lot of attention: the “Portal Gun” idea that the gameplay centres on is genius, and I guess it’s no surprise to anyone that it works extremely well as an entertaining puzzler. The big surprise, though, is that the game sports more than just this gimmick – it also features an unusual story with some fantastic deadpan humour.
It’s hard to say a whole lot about it without spoiling it, so I’m assume whoever’s reading this hasn’t played it, and just say that I love it. It’s one of the most original games I’ve ever played, as well as one of the funniest. And like all of my favourite games, it’s got me thinking very differently about videogame storytelling.
There’s a very good column on GameSetWatch that discusses it far better than I could (if you don’t mind the spoilers), and two great interviews at Rock, Paper, Shotgun; with the writer Erik Wolpaw and two of Narbacular Drop’s creators Kim Swift and Jeep Barrett.
I couldn’t find a video that gets the atmosphere right, but here’s one that at least shows off the gameplay quite well: