Portal

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"Life in a box is better than no life at all, I expect. You'd have a chance, at least. You could lie there thinking, 'Well, at least I'm not dead. In a minute somebody is going to bang on the lid, and tell me to come out.'" - Rosencrantz
Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

There are spoilers ahead. Let me make this excruciatingly clear. The desire to talk about something you love is often overwhelming. There's that feeling that you need to share, that somehow, you need to preach the good news, like a first-century disciple who has witnessed miracles first hand. Most of the time, this is harmless well meaning propaganda. But there are times when the mere act of sharing is in and of itself too much information. Where saying too much will destroy the very experience one wants to proselytize.

Portal is such an experience. Go play it. When you're done, come back and read the rest. There are spoilers ahead.

There, now that that's over with, here's the thing.

Portal is the best game I've played this year. It may be the best game I've played in the last few years. I'll go so far as to say I'm looking at the release schedule and I'm not sure I see what's going to kick it off the top of the list for the coveted Julian Murdoch Game-of-the-Year award. (Hint: I can be bought. With cake.)

I say this with unmitigated respect for Ken Levine, and his brilliant piece of storytelling, Bioshock. I'm such a slavering fan of Bioshock that even my daughter's elementary school teachers are tired of hearing about it, and they don't even own a TV much less an Xbox 360. For nearly a year I have sung the praises of what Levine was trying to accomplish, and when the game delivered – and it did – I felt a vindication which caused me to evangelize the cult of rapture with the verve of a rabid monkey faced with a wall of sun-ripened bananas.

But having my expectations met is a very different experience than the feeling of discovering greatness with no expectations whatsoever. There have been very few experiences like this in my life.

Off the coast of Kona, Hawaii, while on a "pretty little fish" dive that was as routine as dirt, my wife and I were surrounded by a pod of two dozen dolphins. They played with us until we ran out of air. Then a humpback whale and calf swam by not 20 feet from us.

That's greatness without expectation

Driving across country after college, I parked half a mile off the freeway on a random dirt road to catch a few hours sleep. I woke to a sunrise over a thousand acres of windblown wheat, the sunlight reflecting off the dew, turning the world into a ground-trapped net of stars, shining brighter than any canopy of heaven.

That's greatness without expectation

And then there's Portal.

It may seem absurd to compare a three hour puzzle game with these images and shadows of divine things, but what they share in common is uncommon, and worth dwelling on.

I had no expectations of Portal. I barely had awareness of its existence, and I certainly would not have gone out of my way to buy it. My foreknowledge of the game was that it was "a puzzle game with the same gimmick that made Prey mildly entertaining." I had read virtually nothing about the game. I knew that it had been some sort of student project or something. (It is, in fact, the successor to "Narbacular Drop," a project launched by a group of students at DigiPen. Valve snatched up the team and clearly their brilliance).

Postmodern Deconstructionism

My experience on launching Portal for the first time is casual – the Team Fortress 2 server is full, my PSP is all the way across the room, my DS needs to be charged. The first few levels are amusing. The cleanliness of the art, the elegance of the construction, the crispness of the sound design, and the refinement of the controls are all enough to make it a pleasurable exploration of a cute one-trick-pony idea. By the third level, the gentle voice of GLadOS, the AI who is training me like so many disembodied drill sergeants have trained me before – is starting to be genuinely funny in a creepy Douglas Adams way.

At chamber 5 I realize she's more than programmatic, when she intones "As part of required test protocol, we will stop enhancing the truth in 3"…2"…" By now she's clearly insinuated that she's capable of lying, and there is something wrong with her - several times now she's had a verbal hiccup (in this case, fizzing out before the "... 1" but in retrospect it started on the opening screen of the game when the overhead lightbulb exploded.

At chamber 7 I get the first opportunity to get close to the other side of the facility - the rusty, vibrating orange mess that is back stage. In this case, it's just a view under the stairs.

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By chamber 8, the puzzles are now challenging enough and different enough (due to the introduction of vector and timing requirements) that the momentum of the game is established; I know I'm not going to be playing TF2 tonight. It's also here in the mid-levels that I have the first glimpse that there is something more to the game than just solving puzzles. The voice of GLaDOS starts taking on troubling overtones.

"Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death."

Chamber 15 is when the cake is first introduced. Until this point, GLadOS has been using nothing but the stick - threats of imminent doom, the notion that I will be "missed" after testing. But now, there will be cake at the conclusion of my journey.

Chamber 16 introduces the idea that it is androids who are tested in the facility, and thus, perhaps my identity is in question. It's also the first time I have any inkling that escape is possible. After my initial encounter with the first truly malevolent force - the sentries - I find the rats nest - a hideout for rogue androids.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/RatHole.thumbnail.jpg) IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/RatSupplies.thumbnail.jpg)

And yet, what exactly am I - milk and beans? The toilet in the starting room? Clearly I'm some kind of human. Perhaps I'm an android in the Phillip K. Dick sense of the word - an engineered being so close to human as to be nearly indistinguishable. Or maybe that's just another mistake, and I'm nothing but another disposable human pawn caught in an android's wasteland.

Later in chamber 16 I see signs of sabotage - the telltale handprint of a runner and a malfunctioning box delivery chute. But then comes the great unveiling.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/androidhell.jpg)

The story first generates an emotional response in chamber 17, with the introduction of the companion cube. While the puzzle itself is straightforward, the introduction of a physical object that I own creates pathos – goofstupid pathos, but pathos nonetheless.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/CompanionCube.thumbnail.jpg)

The game blossoms. At the point of connection with the cube, GLadOS informs me that "the symptoms most commonly produced by Enrichment Center testing are superstition, perceiving inanimate objects as alive, and hallucinations."

I suspect, with sadness, that some number of players, oblivious to the behind the scenes story, will simply play through to the end, allowing the cube, and then themselves to be incinerated, walking away thinking the game was cute, but no big deal. But as someone now tuned to the behind-the-scenes, I discover the Companion Cube chapel; easily the games weirdest, funniest, and yes, emotional moment. This space, besides denying the cake, worships the cube. The story of the chapel is of a longing for connection. The previous denizen clearly had only one emotional connection during their (one suspects short) existence. That this was the cube, an inanimate object, given by the tormenting GLadOS, The mis-en-scene is simply perfect. The pictures of real people with imposed cube-heads, the pleading of "why why why," the cherubic winged cubes – these all speak to the pain of a very real soul, while at the same time being ridiculous and funny and creepy all at once.

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With this pathos established, I'm then forced to destroy my companion cube. – the first act of player-directed violence in the game.

On entering chamber 18, I'm reminded again that I will be given cake, but the glitch in GLadOS informs me that I will be baked. And then there will be cake. I immediately discover another nest, this one two stories tall, and with a door. Alas, a locked door, but now there is a sense that escape might be possible. This introduction of an actual door marks the turning point in the game. Getting OUT now becomes more interesting than moving forward, and the two challenging puzzles that follow feel more like escapes than solutions.

The games critical moment – the crux – comes when I head for destruction into the incinerator after the next chamber. Acting to save myself, avoiding the flames, signals the transformation or Portal from puzzle to Logan's Run. In my new roll as runner, I am increasingly reminded that I am not alone – previous runners have left signs, petroglyphs and overt directions for me every few minutes. And yet I never see a single piece of evidence that another person, android or even monster exists. No bodies, no body parts. Nothing but the mechanical apparatus of GLadOS.

During the behind the scenes run – fully the second half of the game – I'm taken through the supporting environments that are implied by the sterile testing spaces of the first half: cube delivery chutes, the back sides of piston rooms, power stations. The portal gun itself is required perfectly, leveraging all of the critical skills taught during the first half lab experience: fine targeting, portal flinging, timed shots and redirection. This keeps the gameplay pulling the story along, and vice-versa. It's a critical balance between fun and story that seems obvious in retrospect, but is all too often where a game completely fails.

The story that pulls the game along is subtle. Despite the implied presence, the facility is entirely empty. Every homage-to-Xbox computer is unplugged, yet the screens throb with endlessly displayed cake recipes. The only evidence of my predecessors is the occasional clipboard with a diagram of a previous test subject with "failed" stamped across it. Perhaps most importantly from a Half Life canon perspective, there are two opportunities to view the Aperture Science business plan, and their contracting rivalry with Black Mesa (the history of the firm is further expanded at the off-site Aperture Sciences website).

Eventually, I emerge into the room containing GLadOS herself, and she reveals herself to be a machine – perhaps just like me. The story told in the 5 minutes I remain in her demesne is quite simple – that she desires to kill me and that she has most likely killed everyone else in the facility. But she is, as she has been throughout the journey – disembodied, insane and ultimately helpless. She lacks any way of projecting herself into the physical world beyond the limited resources of the testing system.

So she resorts to insults and manipulation, going so far as to insist that I'm adopted.

The destruction of GLaDOS mimics the destruction of my Companion Cube. Here at the end of the game, I realize that I am alone, as much as GLadOS is alone. Throughout the journey, there have only been two actors: myself and GLadOS. The facility is abandoned (perhaps she gassed them all, or perhaps its connected to the imminent destruction of City 17? But then where are the bodies?) I have already killed my only companion. So my act of self-protection is the destruction of the only other soul I have ever known, to pursue the dream of the runner.

And that dream does come true after GLadOS implodes, thrusting me into the blue sky and clouds of the outside world.

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But I'm still fundamentally alone. Even when there turns out to be cake in the end. And my companion cube.

If all of this close reading sounds absurd, it's because it is. The game is ultimately literature of the absurd, as clearly as Kafka's "Metamorphosis" or Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions" or perhaps most directly Tom Stoppard & Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." Yes, it's funny – capped off by the fabulous song from Jonathan Coulton. But funny doesn't mean light, or stupid, or indeed unimportant.

Portal is an object lesson in interactive storytelling. We in the media are so fond of shaking our heads, scratching our beards and looking for the "art" in videogames. Well it's time for us all to shut the hell up. This is it. It's in this finely crafted, lovingly rendered piece of short-story literature.

Honestly, I'd be surprised if the authors themselves see it as the accomplishment it is. It's a simple set of mechanics, a few pages of sound-booth dialog, a handful of textures and repetitive level designs.

But then, a novel is only made up of 26 letters, black ink and white paper. And most artists of lasting brilliance don't recognize the importance of their own work. And how many now-revered musicians and painters died unknown and broke?

Portal is a seminal work of storytelling. Yes, we as gamers are so starved for intelligence and subtlety that we grasp at the thinnest straws of intelligent storytelling, but that doesn't matter.

Portal is the real deal.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/cake.thumbnail.jpg)

Comments

Great "review" rabbit. Portal is truly an exceptional piece of gaming. The contrast between my total apathy when I first heard about this include in the Orange Box to my elation at the end credit song "Still Alive" is a total 180. Kudos Valve.

I totally shared your experience Rabbit. I've hardly touched Episode 2 because I can't get enough portal. Got the falling, jumping, camera, etc achievements, beat the advanced levels, went through the dev commentary, and am now doing the challenges. (They're hard).

When I inevitably beat all the challenges, (whether out of my own ingenuity or the sad, guilty feeling of checking a youtube video) have all the achievements, and realize that I've squeezed the game experience dry...something will be sorely missing.

Valve are gods. The quality of all the products in orange box is 10/10. Steam is amazing. I'm now addicted to Jonothan Coulton, and want to figure out how to make little paper cutout companion cubes. They've reduced me to a slavering fanboy.

Gabe Newell is my master now.

What's most striking to me about Portal, is that a 2-4 hour puzzle is eliciting this much discussion. It's a Stirling example of the utter failure that is story-telling in most games. All over the interwebs, people are debating the finer points of the game's story. Of course, it piggybacks on the established world-building that Valve has done in the HL universe, but that does not lessen the impact of the writing and game design present in Portal. I'm not sure if Portal is everything that rabbit claims it to be, however the sheer existence of such a question in regards to a game should be regarded as unbridled success by the developers.

Kudos to Valve.

Not sure I see the piggyback, but completely agree that we as gamers seem to be starved for stuff like this. How is it piggybacking other than just leveraging the technology? It doesn't seem like the really tangential connection to Black Mesa is necessary or even all that relevant to the short-story here.

rabbit wrote:

Not sure I see the piggyback, but completely agree that we as gamers seem to be starved for stuff like this. How is it piggybacking other than just leveraging the technology? It doesn't seem like the really tangential connection to Black Mesa is necessary or even all that relevant to the short-story here.

You need to play through the entirety of Episode 2. There are some direct connections between Aperture Science and the Half-Life storyline. While Half-Life may not be important to the story of Portal, Aperture Science would appear to be very important to Half-Life.

You totally missed the Freudian "O" theme that permeates the entire game, Rabbit. I'm disappointed in your analysis.

Not really. I'm actually grateful that you went with the art appreciation stance so readily. Whether we're starved or not, good storytelling should always be rewarded.

I would assume that the majority of people who pick up the Orange Box, are people who have played HL and HL2 at least. Like you said, the game makes explicit reference to Black Mesa. However, moreso than that, the game leverages the general play style and presentation of previous Valve games. Namely, never taking the camera away from the player, and encouraging the player to experience the story through discovery. The HL series has always been a strong proponent of this type of story telling, and I would think most players of Portal are aware of who made Portal and would make the connection of gameplay/presentation styles between the two.

Furthermore, the game builds on the Crazy Science/Gov't research angle that HL already established. Portal is consistent with that Universe. Sure, the game could stand alone without being related anyway to HL, or even Valve. Yet, because it is, the game acquires a sort of gravitas that it would not have otherwise. It is easy for the player to suspend disbelief in Portal; it naturally makes sense that there would be competing laboratories for Gov't funding in the HL universe. While the game could stand alone without this, it would certainly lose impact, and would have to devote more time into explaining the general backstory/environment in which the story of Portal takes place.

As spoilers are rampant in the story, I shall continue below. (albeit, minor)

Plus, GlasDoS makes statements along the lines of: "trust me, you don't want to go out there," and "I have an infinite capacity for knowledge and I don't even understand what's going on." If the game stood on its own, these statements lack any real meaning. In the context of the HL universe, and to the player who has experienced it, it has major implications as to how Portal fits into that universe. (Not to mention Ep. 2)

Again, it all comes back to the excellent way the story plays out and is presented. A quick perusal of gaming sites will find a multitude of stories not just about Portal itself, but about its place and relevance in the the HL universe. Portal, if released without a story connecting it to HL, (or imagine it being published by someone other than Valve) would not be garnering that amount of attention it has.

Totally agreed on every point. It's been a long time since I've sat at work all day, thinking of nothing but the moment I got home and was able to play a game. I feel a tinge of absurd jealousy when other people talk about it, because there's no way they appreciate it on the level I do (except you of course, rabbit). I think the last time I felt this way about a piece of entertainment was when I discovered Firefly. I'm now more excited for the Portal follow-up than for Episode 3.

I think the line about androids wasn't meant to imply that the player is an android, it's just that the one course had been replaced by a course designed to train battle androids, and the AI was just spouting its preprogrammed line intended for the droids. After all, an android shouldn't be affected by neurotoxin.

Eric

First off, thanks to Rabbit for giving us a place on the forum to spoil away on this game.

Now, you have to be a really old gamer (like me) to know what I'm about to reference here...

The spectacular ending of PORTAL: the final usage of all you've learned -- the humor -- the somewhat embarrassing emotional responses ("you made me kill my cube, bitch, and now you're going down!") -- the escape...

I haven't experienced an ending like that since the finale of Infocom's PLANETFALL. I guess I shouldn't spoil that one, but it involves a similar frantic puzzle effort and another virtual emotional connection -- this time with a robot name Floyd.

And, of course, Planetfall had no graphics or sound.

Great job, Valve and company.

-Jay

Where is the cube shrine? I didn't see that one on either play through the game. Is it within the level that you have the dearly departed Weighted Companion Cube?

ScribeJC wrote:

First off, thanks to Rabbit for giving us a place on the forum to spoil away on this game.

Now, you have to be a really old gamer (like me) to know what I'm about to reference here...

The spectacular ending of PORTAL: the final usage of all you've learned -- the humor -- the somewhat embarrassing emotional responses ("you made me kill my cube, bitch, and now you're going down!") -- the escape...

I haven't experienced an ending like that since the finale of Infocom's PLANETFALL. I guess I shouldn't spoil that one, but it involves a similar frantic puzzle effort and another virtual emotional connection -- this time with a robot name Floyd.

And, of course, Planetfall had no graphics or sound.

Great job, Valve and company.

-Jay

I hadn't thought of that, but it's very true. However, even though I remember Planetfall, I am not a "really old gamer". Screw that. I'm only moderately old.

I'd also point out another important moment: once you've escaped, she occasionally berates you and ends by asking, "Are you listening to me?" It's a direct appeal to the player. They suddenly realize that they're not listening, or at least they don't ever believe she'll offer useful advice. There's a sense of disillusionment and loneliness when you realize that the only person you've heard this entire game (and the one who treats you to witty commentary after completing a puzzle) is desperately trying to keep you from finding and killing her. And you never meet the other escapee. GLaDOS is your only real companion, and the game makes you kill her.

I was actually about to put it aside early on, seeing as it was bedtime, and then I heard the "unsatisfactory mark, followed by death" line and figured another 10 minutes wouldn't hurt. Naturally I proceeded to play through to the end and will hate myself when my alarm goes off tomorrow, but it was worth it to experience the whole thing in one sitting. Definitely felt the strong Logan's Run vibe in the last couple of training levels, and also kept being reminded of The Cube. And the entire last fight just cracked me up. I need to go through it again and listen to the complete set of banter from all of the individual eyeballs.

Great review!

Dysplastic wrote:

and want to figure out how to make little paper cutout companion cubes

Ask, and ye shall receive. There are several WCC nets around, but I thought I'd produce an origami cube net, which won't need any glue:

Origami Weighted Companion Cube

Print this out, and cut out to a square. Then follow the instructions here. When you make the initial folds into a triangle, make sure the sides with the black triangles are visible to the front and back (and the other sides are tucked in the side).

This game made me experience the sense of awe I don't recall having possibly since Doom.

Easily a GOTY for me.

Obviously there are connections, but I just don't see that they are even all that important. You could remove the 4 slides from the conference room (I'm sure many people miss them) and the game more than stands on its own. Any connections with the rest of the HL2 universe seem tangential and almost tossed in as easter eggs as much as anything else. But hey, we're really splitting hairs now.

The shrine is on the companion cube level.

The rats nest is, I believe, on the level right before that.

Portal was a perfect slice of gaming heaven. This weekend I'm gonna sit down and play through it again with the commentary on, see if there's anymore nuggets of humour hidden within. Like a birthday cake your grandma baked with money hidden inside.

p.s. How long are we all going to be making cake jokes because of this game?

Keith wrote:

What's most striking to me about Portal, is that a 2-4 hour puzzle is eliciting this much discussion. It's a Stirling example of the utter failure that is story-telling in most games. All over the interwebs, people are debating the finer points of the game's story.

That was exactly my thought upon completing it. So many emotional highs and lows, so much intrigue propelling you forward, but it always first and foremost attached to and about the gameplay. It tells a highly impressive story with a fair amount of depth, and there is nary a cutscene or lengthy amount of exposition to do it.

It also makes me wish more games like this were out there: paying $15.00 for an afternoon's worth of a tight and memorable contained experience is more appealing to me than always having to choose between several bloated epics for $60.00. In fact, there are so many games I've played, and sometimes not completed, that I wish didn't have to conform to the expected amount of play time.

Although, to be fair, if I was just informed of a three hour long puzzle game loosely based on the Half-Life mythos and it wasn't included in the Orange Box, I probably never would have given it a chance.

[color=white]I'm hoping GLaDOS (I assume GLaDOS was/is an AI that facilitated the design of the Portal Gun and then turned rogue?) will be around (Still Alive!) when we visit the ghost ship in Episode 3.[/color]

I played this first, before trying out TF2 and Episode 2, thinking I could just do a few levels and come back to it later. I ended up playing through the entire story in one sitting... it was completely unexpected how good this game was.

Many will disagree with me. I think Portal is an amazingly great game. But I think it is great because of the function over form designs of the levels. The idea that this is a game distilled to it's purest elements. The entire look and feel of the initial levels was dictated by responses from play testers. Clutter in the rooms was scaled back to a very minimum to bring about focus. The concept that the gameplay is more important than the story or the graphics or the "feel".

Sure, the story is funny and well done. But it's the outer shell poured over the creamy center of gameplay at the last step in making this delightful game confection.

BadMojo wrote:

The idea that this is a game distilled to it's purest elements. The entire look and feel of the initial levels was dictated by responses from play testers.

There have been very few games that distill down like this. The one that pops to mind is Metal Gear Solid: Virtual Missions. It was all the puzzle solving of the MGS games, done on a plain green/black "virtual reality" minimalism.

Though in Portal's case, instead of discarding the HL2 story altogether, they created an entirely new branch of it.

rabbit wrote:

Obviously there are connections, but I just don't see that they are even all that important. You could remove the 4 slides from the conference room (I'm sure many people miss them) and the game more than stands on its own. Any connections with the rest of the HL2 universe seem tangential and almost tossed in as easter eggs as much as anything else. But hey, we're really splitting hairs now.

The shrine is on the companion cube level.

The rats nest is, I believe, on the level right before that.

You need to play Episode 2.

Edwin wrote:
rabbit wrote:

Obviously there are connections, but I just don't see that they are even all that important. You could remove the 4 slides from the conference room (I'm sure many people miss them) and the game more than stands on its own. Any connections with the rest of the HL2 universe seem tangential and almost tossed in as easter eggs as much as anything else. But hey, we're really splitting hairs now.

The shrine is on the companion cube level.

The rats nest is, I believe, on the level right before that.

You need to play Episode 2.

I'm working on it, I'm working on it

Uberstein, please, no more spoilers

I had been looking forward to Ep Two and Portal because I knew Chet and Erik from Old Man Murray were contributing writing. They didn't disappoint me on that account, and Portal in general is the product of a design team that's firing on all cylinders. It's amazing that what is essentially a slick tech demo is creating such a stir.

Edwin wrote:

You need to play Episode 2.

Indeed I do, but the fact that I haven't and am still all ridiculous about portal to me proves (self-referentially) that the story doesn't rely on the HL2 storyline.

BadMojo - can't really disagree with you, I think this becomes an issue of resonance, enthusiasm and semantics. My endorphin receptors are undoubtedly tuned to the specific chemical stimulants Portal gives off. And this:

"It's the outer shell poured over the creamy center of gameplay at the last step in making this delightful game confection."

Is a delightful turn of phrase.

rabbit wrote:

I think this becomes an issue of resonance, enthusiasm and semantics. My endorphin receptors are undoubtedly tuned to the specific chemical stimulants Portal gives off.

Then we agree to agree. Have it your way. And some cake.

Portal was a sublime gaming experience. I laughed when GLadOS made her comment about attachment to inanimate objects, and then spent the rest of the game feeling guilty about destroying my much-scarred Weighted Companion Cube. Never have I also felt such pervading guilt over taking out sentry guns.

The pacing was, in my estimation, perfect for the first run-through, where one necessarily lingers until a solution is seen. This lingering allows the atmosphere and GLadOS' comments to reach full effect. The final scene was absolutely excellent, with GLadOS providing a pitch-perfect comedic tone to the affair. The ending song was an opportunity to fully experience the pathos of release and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who spent a couple of silent minutes staring at that cake at the end of it.

This was indeed, as Rabbit noted, greatness without expectation, and provides further foundation to the claim that the Orange Box is probably some of the most value available for your gaming dollar in years.

Finally, someone needs to hurry up and put out two t-shirts:

1) Cake iconogram on the front, "The cake is a lie" on the back.
2) Weighted Companion Cube on the front...perhaps a dialogue or song-excerpt on the back.

cheers.

I can't agree enough with this post. At the act of completing the game last night, with my 8-year old son looking on with nervous excitement, I felt an elation I have seldom felt when playing any game of the past few years. What a stellar achievement for Valve. Thanks for prettying up what I was thinking. I'm attuned to Portal too - and I feel fantastic.

Rabbit wrote:

That's greatness without expectation

That's exactly how Portal was for me as well. I often try to force this to happen with movies by completely ignoring all coverage, sometimes it works out well. Often the reverse is true where you have the expectation and the greatness falls far short as has been discussed to death in other threads about following pre-release game hype.

Rabbit wrote:

Portal is an object lesson in interactive storytelling. We in the media are so fond of shaking our heads, scratching our beards and looking for the "art" in videogames. Well it's time for us all to shut the hell up. This is it. It's in this finely crafted, lovingly rendered piece of short-story literature.

Absolutely! I wonder if it was intentional or one of those delightful little accidents like penicillin?

I'm almost certain that playing Portal before Ep2 significantly diminished the experience for me. After Bioshock and Portal, Ep2 was just a "I've played this 100x before" type experience. Polished, sure, but it didn't elicit the sort of response from me that I'm seeing from others in the Ep2 catch-all thread. FWIW, I'm thrilled others are going ga ga over Ep2

As for the rest of you feeling guilty about the Weighted Companion Cube, you're a bunch of softies! I dropped it in the incinerator faster then any previous test subject on record! I also obliged the little turrets who wanted me to please put them down... usually by dropping them off the edge of a platform or dumping them through a ceiling portal.

Wait a second. Do you mean this proves that the girl is an android? Because that particular level says it's a testing ground for androids, I thought the android hell comment was programmed for robots who finished the test, and it was sort of a leftover automatic comment...