The Orange Box compilation contains three games, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress2, and Portal. It was published by Electronic Arts, developed by Valve and is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. It was released in the United Stated in October of 2007, for consoles the game cost $60, while for the PC it cost $50.
While Portal can be classified as a puzzle game it stands unique from other titles in that it is first person, has a detailed story line, and it forces the player to think in a completely different way. In the game you play as Chell who wakes up in a testing facility to the voice of GLaDOS who is a computer which monitors and directs your actions. GLaDOS directs you through various tests which test a portal gun and your ability to solve puzzles. The portals created by the gun in the game can literally flip the world upside down or turn it on its side; it really challenges the player to view the world in a different way.
While the levels are challenging and can take some time to figure out, as they should be, the controls are extremely easy to use. Besides GLaDOS explaining everything for you, during the first few levels icons pop up to help you figure out the buttons which are very simple. Another way in which the game helps you is that before every testing room there is a wall which contains icons telling you which techniques should be utilized to finish the task.
All of the avaliable icons
As some of these icons illustrate, Portal is, beside an extremely challenging game, an extremely comical one. The game keeps a lighthearted feel the entire way through, even when things turn a little violent. GLaDOS is always offering you cake or perhaps lying to you about how the next test is impossible (when you complete this test she compliments you for working under very negative conditions).
GLaDOS is talking to you throughout the entire game which makes sound in this game pretty important, but she keeps things entertaining. The only other real use of sound in this game is created by the few dangers in the game, like the glowing orbs that appear pretty early in the game. You can hear them bouncing off of walls and being shot out of the dispenser. These things kill you with one hit so without the sound they would be a little more than unfair. There are also the sentinel guns which appear in some of the later levels. The sounds help you to locate the guns since their laser sights make a slight humming noise, also when it starts shooting at you the sound helps pretty fast to find it. But again, with the humor the sentinels with also talk to you, asking you where you are and forgiving you for destroying them. The only irritating thing about the sentinels is that they can see you through glass walls and they don’t understand that the wall is there so they fire at you. And they don’t stop until one of you is dead…goodness does that get old fast when you can’t reach the little creep just yet. That constant wearing away at the glass always inspires me to go faster and kill the thing. The last enemy is another type of gun which fires rockets at you once you have been sighted. Again there is a laser sight which makes a slight noise but the gun also beeps. Once it finds you the beeping grows loud and fast so you can tell when it is about to launch a rather large rocket towards your face.
As you can see above, the game is very monotone in color palate, however, I feel that this works perfectly with the setting. You are in a scientific testing facility, everything is kept clean looking and was made to help prevent distraction, so it is all shades of boring grey. However, when you advance in the game or find the hidden rooms, more color is added to the game and everything looses its clean look. The grime can sometimes be a little pixilated, but I am willing to forgive. While the shapes and settings may be simplistic in design the graphics are fairly realistic. Again, I attribute the simplistic design to the setting of a testing facility, it is meant to be that way.
The main character Chell
The game play is pretty smooth throughout. I have personally never experienced lag or stutter, but sometimes I feel as though there is a foot of impenetrable space between me and some of the objects. This feeling is intensified by the fact that you never really see hands in the game, when you pick up and object it just kind of floats there. This however, should not make game play more challenging it is very easy to get used to and is not very cumbersome at all. Since the game is viewed in first person, there is no real problem with awkward camera angles.
I really enjoy a good challenge in a game and Portal truly delivered for me. The puzzles got me very engaged and were always completely different. The story line and the humor that takes place in this game is a real treat and will leave you wanting more. And you will definitely be wanting more; the game is only a three or four hours long if you are really good at puzzles. However, once you beat the game you unlock new versions of old levels. You can beat levels within a time limit, within a certain number of steps, with a certain number of portals used or you can play the level on a higher difficulty. These additions are a life saver once you master all the various tests; they force you to look at the puzzles in a different way.
So while it stinks that this game is really short, it is a definite must. There are two other games on the disk which make it a smart buy. And it has true replay value with its off the wall humor and it unlockable difficulties. I would easily give this game a 91/100. It loses points for being too short and for having the occasional irritating moment (like sentinels who don’t understand glass or how when you die you must move the control stick for it to register and start over).
I loved this game as much as my companion cube.