Portal – Your With It Or Against It…

It is interesting that a series that is so highly regarded and so highly acclaimed (Portal has a Metacritic average of 90 and Portal 2 – 95) can have such a stigma against it. A lot of people who loved Portal from its release and then enjoyed every second of Portal 2 may not totally know what this stigma is unless they have encountered somebody exhibiting “Portal Prejudice”.

The way I see it your either for Portal or your against Portal, however seeing I have been in both parties (currently the former) I feel I can safely say that those in the team debating against Portal quite simply don’t know what they are missing out on.

The Case Against.

Apparently this is it!!!

Now I couldn’t possibly sit here and write this unless I knew where this side of the argument comes from. Let me just say from Portals release up until three months before Portal 2 came out I was firmly in this camp. So to say I don’t understand would be a total lie because I once said “So what you just shoot holes in the wall and walk through them?”. That is the first thing you hear out of the month of anti-Portal gamer which is rather ludicrous as any game can be broken down into such a simplistic summary of its parts.

“So what I just walk forward and shoot nazis?”

“So I just run really fast and collect coins?”

“So I have to save this Princess again?”

Recognise any of those?

I guess its funny that something in us wants to always look back with nostalgia regarding how games  used to be so simple but also turn our nose up at a new game with simple mechanics. However this isn’t even the case with either of the Portal games. While on the outside it seems like a really simplistic game what the anti-Portal gamers are missing is the depth of current games i.e Story, Character, Charm etc… but I will touch on that in a little later.

If you look at Portal with a simplistic view of;

Hole -> Wall -> Walk through.

How to play Portal for Dummies

and couple that with the acclaim and the almost snobbery of people who have played it and want you to play it, how would you feel about it?

Just the very idea of the Portal series takes a turn towards making it almost a personal vendetta of you against the game and the world who seems to love it. This is a natural part of the human condition to want to go against the grain and give the “masses” the middle finger.There is a definite cloud of cynicism that floats around the world of gaming.

This even extends to the point where we will bitch and complain about a new Modern Warfare or Assassins Creed each year even though they will sell through the roof and be quality. Portals premiss can come across as very confusing and upon further detail a little too different. So in a world where dick jokes and modern war action set pieces dominate its understandable that gamers would develop an attitude for something that doesn’t fit the mould.

Portal is very hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t played it. It’s a first person puzzle game, no bullets, no enemies, no blood. That is where the simplified idea of what Portal is born and you can try to explain the complexity of it but you just come of sounding overly defensive of a game you love and that is always a turn off.

So its safe to say that Portal suffers from first impression issues and misunderstanding of exactly what it is. Though I think it is safe to say that the vast majority sit firmly in the supporters bay when it comes to the world that Aperture built.

The Case For Portal.

You will get to know exactly who these two are...

While I was on the other side of the fence at one point, I am now firmly planted on the side of the fans of the Portal series. How did I manage such a leap? I got over my own hang ups and cynisism and actually played the game.

That is the crux of the matter and the whole reason for the fanboy like levels of attempted manipulation to get the non fan to play Portal. If somebody said to me that they had played it and didnt enjoy it well thats a fair enough call and you would have to be a major douche bag to argue that point. The majority of cases however are people who havent played it and refuse to for several different reasons. All the Portal fans are trying to say is just try it and see how you feel.

So what are you missing if you don’t even give it a go?

Your missing a well written script with some of the best dialogue and voice performances to date. The dialogue is what makes the game, the story and the world that you are in. GladOS is one of the best video game villains while also being one of the better comedic tipping points. You are placed in the role of one of Valve’s trademark voiceless protagonist and this works because it ensures that both yourself and the character your playing is always on the same level of understanding what is going on around you. Valve has created a fascinating world that has a brooding mystery that you want to get to know mainly because all cards are kept close to their chest and revealed to you without hand holding. Portal actually treats you like an adult who can construct a story yourself without any blatant explanatory characters, cut scenes or lines of dialogue.

With the story itself taking care of its self as you go along the gameplay naturally evolves at the same pace. You start off simple and build your way up being taught how to handle all different puzzles that you are presented with. Eventually you realise that your on your own but it never feels daunting because without even noticing it you have learnt all the skills to solve the puzzles and have to apply them.This leads to what a lot of the reviewers have refered to as the “AHHHHHHH HAH” moment where you realise you just may be a genius and know how to solve this puzzle.

Having been on both sides of the Portal I can truly say I am happy I made the decision to play the game but I will stress it was a decision made on my own, I didn’t actually play Portal until about 3 months before the release of Portal 2 and I think that is key. In the end nobody really likes to have anything shoved down their throats so Portal haters take your time, let the hate slowly detox out of your system and when your hate turns to curious indifference pick up a copy of Portal and give it a go.

Who knows you might look at this article in a totally different light after you do, I mean come on 92.5% of the reviewers out there can’t be wrong.

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