Portal “Free” is Worth the Money

May 15th, 2010 by Chris

Those are air-quotes in the title, since there is a bit of effort required to land your “free” copy of Portal, but the game is worth it. Until May 24th, Steam is making the game Portal available for free download. To invoke this free-ness, you have to register with Steam (bleh), download their licensing/downloader program (yuck), let it upgrade itself multiple times (double yuck), download and install Portal through their service (pretty fast actually, their servers pretty much saturated my broadband link for the duration), and then…

Play the most novel concept for a game I’ve seen since Deus Ex. I don’t give this title lightly, but this game gets five arbitrary happiness symbols out of five for being essentially a first-person-puzzle-maze game. Imagine the classic 2D puzzle games like Boulder Dash or that-game-where-you-slide-blocks-around-to-escape-a-maze except in 3D. Not just that, but with really amazing twists on such basic concepts as conservation of momentum. I’d tell you more about how this works, but the game has such an amusing way of introducing those concepts as you go that it is marvelously self documenting. The system requirements are quite nominal that you don’t need a massive new machine to run it.
Did I mention the game was funny too? Listen carefully to the background intercom messages (and the reactions of the other entities in the game) as you proceed. This all combines to give a strong sense of being a rat in a giant laboratory. Amusing and impressive.

I only wish the main thread of the game had been longer[1]

I will probably play again (and try the ‘challenges’), because there are probably hundreds of different ways to solve each puzzle.

Go get it. Have fun. There will be cake.

  1. As a combination of a particularly cranky 3 month old girl, insomnia and instant addiction, I played through the plot in one sitting this morning. It took about 4-6 hours. []

4 Responses to “Portal “Free” is Worth the Money”

  1. Bill Ruhsam Says:

    I’m shocked that you had not yet played this game, Chris. And yes, you will enjoy the challenges.

  2. Chris Says:

    I’m working through the bonus levels now. These are 6 modified versions of the original levels with features removed to make them truly diabolical. Sweet!

  3. Aaron M. Says:

    Glad you enjoyed it. If you’re looking for more, might I point out two contributions from the mod community:

    1) Portal prelude – http://www.portalprelude.com/. Set as a prequel to the events in Portal.
    2) “Bethesda” maps – http://twhl.co.za/vault.php?map=4993. Created by a level designer at Bethesda studios (Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls), these have a reputation of being diabolical.

  4. Stephen Says:

    Woot! Thanks for the links Aaron. As a “First Day” Portal Owner (and 4 time finisher), I’ve been dying for more.

    @Chris, also worth doing, IMO (though not as cool as the diabolical challenges) is to reply with Commentary “On”.
    Kind of fun to hear how they bake cake. :)