Portal Part 2

Well I was going to do an update on UI stuff, but I’m not since I just wanted to extend some of my comments on Portal.

I’ve finished it now, and replayed some of it with the developer dialog stuff.

So, on finishing it, it’s like everything up to level 19 is a tutorial and the game actually starts at level 19. I can see why they’ve done this, but still, 18 levels of tutorial before you feel like you are actually playing is a hell of a gamble – that someone will stick it out that long. They really were relying on word of mouth to get people to go that far. I only did because Tom F. told me I was an idiot if I didn’t.

So I did finish it. I see that 90% of the humor is in the last part of level 19 – again, without knowing it’s all at the end it’s easy to say “WTF??” as I did.

There are a couple of things that on reflection I really felt like “wow, they really nailed that” – the sense of constant progression is really good. While there are a few head scratching moments in there, there’s nothing that hard that is a show stopper or a shelf moment. One of the nice things about the mechanic is that even when you get stuck, you just say “ok then, lets try something wacky” and sometimes what you try even works.

The level save system is just pure awesome. I never felt like “I can’t stop now because I’ll loose my progress”.

The little hints on the wall are well done too. Just enough to point you in the right direction.

Love those little shooter bot things.

Awesome song at the end.

The developer commentaries are a lovely addition, but I also found most of them to be “yeah, ok, so what?”. But then I thought “yeah, but I’m a game developer. I know about color pallettes and difficulty curves and slow introduction of mechanics”. They weren’t designed for me, they were designed for the average bod on the street, in which case, yeah, pretty good.

More games need to do this.

All in all better than I had originally thought when on level 18, but I still question the gamble they take by back loading most of the fun in level 19.

It’s very well designed, very polished and very solid implementation (apart from some of the world representation tech. The lighting model in this is abysmal. Sorry, it just is), but there’s still a slight whiff of “is that it??” – possibly due to all the hype surrounding it – expectations set too high on initial playing it on my part perhaps?

Definitely a value add thing though. Makes the $60 I paid for this spread across many things, and also definitely worth my time.

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