Publisher: Electronic Arts
Format: Xbox 360, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3
Hey, Valve again! Interestingly, this is the highest point they reach on my list, and they do it with a four-hour game that was basically a nice bonus for those who bought compilation pack The Orange Box.
Portal is basically a playable design document for how to make an engrossing video game. Intriguing premise (you wake up in a clinically antiseptic “enrichment centre” and are ordered to carry out tasks and solve puzzles, with the nagging feeling that something’s wrong), intelligently layered gameplay (the puzzles start out simple and introduce a learning curve that’s just right), fantastic sense of atmosphere, and brilliant writing, despite the fact there are only two real characters and one of them doesn’t speak (and is you). Basically, apply everything I said about its sequel, which does all of that and more.
So why is the prequel better in my eyes? Well, its shortness means there’s no time for filler. But the main reason is the plot – Portal 2 explains things a bit more, but I love me some ambiguity. Portal’s plot gives you just enough to get on with, but leaves you wondering. Reading fan theories as to what it’s all about was a particular joy before the sequel arrived.
MAGIC MOMENT: You’ve finished the game, are sitting back and relaxing as the credits start. And they’re delivered with adorable ASCII art. And...is that the villain? Is she singing? Is she singing a song to you? A song about the game? Yes. Yes she is. And it’s amazing.