So, Portal 2. I feel like my review of this game is going to carry a lot of baggage when I finally get around to doing it. I’ve been thinking for years about dozens of things related to Portal–for the last four years, I’ve been on the longest and most winding road to current generation gaming. I just bought a PS3 for myself for New Year’s and I’ve got half a dozen games thus far. But the very first one on my list was Portal 2–but not because I’d ever finished Portal. My entire fascination with video games may have actually been piqued by Yahtzee Croshaw’s blindingly positive review of it in his review of Valve’s The Orange Box, the Half Life 2: Episode 2 bundle that included Team Fortress 2 and the original Portal. And since that one review, I’ve been deadly curious to play it and learning as much as I could about video games in the meantime. What made games unique, what made games good, what made them appealing. I’ve never been sure of an answer, but I’m getting closer to knowing the answers for me.
So Portal. After that one review, I spent years not listening to “Still Alive”. I spent years not reading anything about the game for fear of spoiling its ending. I’d spent my life under a rock labeled “Keep Me Ignorant of Portal‘s Everything!” and lemme tell you, until about 2009, it worked. I knew that I didn’t have a PC capable of running it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to play it on the laptop. So one night, I buckled down and did the unthinkable: I watched some dude on Google Video play through it in about 50 minutes. (The man had obviously thought with portals before.) And what I saw was one of the funniest things ever written in any medium, let alone just as a video game. And the ending was, as Mr. Croshaw promised, “balls-tighteningly fantastic”. And when Portal was being given away for free to celebrate Steam’s arrival on Mac, I signed up and got it immediately.
I mean, I still couldn’t play it without my laptop getting hot enough to fry an egg on. And maybe that’s me leaving the graphics too high and maybe that’s me leaving the second monitor plugged in, but it gets so hot it shuts down and I still cower like a little baby every time I see a turret laser. Wait, no, babies don’t cower like that–you gotta learn that kind of fear. I doubt I’d get past the flinging section with all the turrets in it anyhow–I hadn’t even seen a missile turret yet. So that’s where I’ve left Portal, but it’s not left my mind since. Ever since that day, I’ve spent all my moments thinking about video games learning everything I could about Valve software’s releases and what made them tick. They did and still do a number of things I like, such as refusing to segregate story and gameplay. If the story cannot be told through play directly, it will be told during play.