Opinion: My Top 111, #14: Portal


Gameplay mechanics are something I paid little attention to in my youth. I think I just noticed if a game “felt” appropriate — not really seeking out any major element in particular. As I got older, however, I became more observant to these sort of things, and one of the standouts that awakened this search was Valve’s Portal. Because it blew my fucking mind.

The gameplay in Portal is straightforward in discussion: you control a silent protagonist named Chell who is given a teleportation (aka “portal”) device in the form of a gun, and you make your way through puzzling scenarios egged on by a malicious AI named GLaDOS in first person. Once put into practice, the entire concept explodes. Portal is deviously constructed and meticulously crafted in every sense of the phrases. Once you start utilizing the Portal gun and see what it allows Chell to do, each puzzle room expands the notions of that capability impeccably. In my case, I felt my brain react in ways most games can’t approach. I couldn’t solve the game quickly enough; each new playground brought new ways for my mind to be amazed, new taunts from GLaDOS (who is one of my favorite villains in any game), and clever 3D level design that is difficult to top.

Alas, it had to end. And thus my negative mark…I wish the game was able to keep this up longer than it does. Sure, we got a sequel down the road that is really good, but its biggest flaw is that it isn’t Portal. It’s Portal 2. And the uniqueness — the bold audacity of Valve’s original take on this concept — was lost. And I’m afraid that is the biggest knock against Portal as well; once it’s completed the sheer wonder it birthed fades. It’s not a experience that can be replicated. Despite that, however, it is a marvelously designed 3D puzzle platformer that left a huge impression on me (obviously, given it’s in the top 15!), and who knows, maybe when I get around to replaying it again I’ll be stunned once again.

To revisit my earlier picks, check out this tag.