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Video Game: Portal
This page is for the Portal series as a whole. If you're looking for the first video game in the series with the same name, please click here.

Portal is a First Person Puzzle Platformer video game series created by Valve that takes place in the same universe as the Half-Life series. As the name implies, the core gameplay element of the Portal games deals with using a "portal gun" to create doorway-type portals in order to solve physics based puzzles. The game features the protagonist Chell, a human who woke up as an unwilling test subject in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, a research facility which has become completely abandoned, save for the personality of the insane central A.I. GLaDOS.

There are two installments in the series:
  • Portal (2007): The relatively short game that started it all, chronicling Chell's journey as GLaDOS guides her through a series of test chambers in the Enrichment Center.
  • Portal 2 (2011): The sequel that takes place after an unspecified amount of time after the original and is 2-3 times longer in terms of gameplay time. Portal 2 introduces a few major characters and explores in greater depth the history and workings of Aperture Science, as well as the origins and character of GLaDOS herself.

Other media includes:
  • Lab Rat, a short comic taking place before the original game centering on the schizophrenic Aperture scientist Doug Rattman (they guy who wrote all those messages saying The Cake Is a Lie) around the time that GLaDOS was activated.

The official website of the Portal series can be found at http://www.thinkwithportals.com/

This page applies for the series as a whole. Please add any examples from an individual game to their dedicated pages.


The Portal series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Chell, the Player Character.
  • Abandoned Laboratory: Ain't no one in the Aperture Science labs except you and GLaDOS and Doug Rattmann.
  • Adorable Evil Minions: The gun turrets.
  • Affably Evil: The modus operandi of Aperture Science in a nutshell, and of course that of GLaDOS. They are absolutely willing to risk your life, yet they're so sincere about it...
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A pleasant, amusing, physics game is turned into a brilliant story demonstrating the power of the medium merely by the judicious application of an Insane Killer Disk-Operating System. And cake.
  • All There in the Manual: The Aperture Science website revealed much of the backstory, this was removed in December 2010. Then GameInformer's Portal 2 hub listed an updated version of the history as stated in the Aperture website. The Combine OverWiki can also help. The names of GLaDOS and Chell are never stated in-game, except in the optional developer commentary. However, Chell is listed in the credits, and GLaDOS has her name on her side.
  • Alternate Reality Game: On March 1, 2010, the game received a surprise patch, featuring a new achievement and a load of seemingly innocuous sound files full of static. Until someone savvy enough to know old-school technology (SSTV) found images hidden within them and oh bloody hell.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Chell.
  • ASCII Art: Used in the credits to Portal as well as in the Portal 2 ARG.
  • Autosave: The games autosave in certain places or intervals. If you want to to back before an autosave, you can always load the previous save file.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Chell, of course.
    • Doug Rattman, a schizophrenic Deadpan Snarker scientist who was indirectly responsible for almost all the events of both games, and escaped GLaDOS to do so.
  • Bad Liar: GLaDOS
  • Bag of Spilling: The Emancipation Grill (also called "the fizzler") is a forcefield which is harmless to Chell and her Portal Gun, but prevents her from taking foreign objects like cubes through it, and there's one at the end of each level, which prevents you from cheating or breaking the game. Additionally, you can't shoot portals through one, and passing through erases all current portals. Many puzzles force you to circumvent Emancipation Grills creatively.
  • Black Comedy: Aperture Science's approach to anything is steeped in this. So is GLaDOS's sense of humor.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Like in Half-Life, there is a cheat (one that doesn't invoke No Fair Cheating) that disables blood. Specifically, the cheat is violence_hblood 0.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Let's just say that the cake GLaDOS promises turns out to be a bit different than expected.
  • Canon Immigrant: GLaDOS will star in the Defense Grid: The Awakening DLC Defense Grid: You Monster!.
  • The Cast Showoff: Ellen McLain is an operatic singer, which means she sings one hell of a credits song.
  • Cleveland: Apparently, Portal takes place in Cleveland. Specifically, it takes place in the massive, miles-deep remains of the real-life salt mines near Cleveland that were, in-story, purchased by Cave Johnson back in the 40s and expanded into a gigantic labyrinth of testing and production facilities. The sequel, however, apparently retcons this by placing the mine in Michigan.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Aperture Science CEO Cave Johnson, according to the company's backstory. His many questionable acts include founding a shower curtain manufacturing company named Aperture Science, believing time was flowing backwards as he laid on his death bed, and deciding that developing a Heimlich Counter-Maneuver and creating a Take-A-Wish Foundation were two important plans for Aperture Science's future (or past, as he saw it). Even the portal project was originally developed because, in Johnson's own words:
    Cave Johnson:...well, it’d be like, I don't know, something that would help with the shower curtains I guess. I haven’t worked this idea out as much as the wish-taking one.
  • Collision Damage: Mostly averted, with a Hand Wave thanks to Chell's heel springs. Played straight with the toxic floors and energy orbs. GLaDOS even lampshades it:
    GLaDOS: While safety is one of many Enrichment Center goals, the Aperture Science High-Energy Pellet, seen to the left of the chamber, can and has caused permanent disabilities, such as vaporization. Please be careful.
  • Cool Gate: Portals.
  • Cores and Turrets Boss: GLaDOS
  • Creepy Monotone: Or at least very passive-aggressive.
  • Creative Closing Credits/Credits Gag: The ending song plays over a text screen that displays the lyrics in the form of a computerized personnel file report, accompanied by some rather hilarious ASCII art.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: The Aperture Science Enrichment Center. Never mind staff, the only actual living person in the entire game is Chell. There used to be a lot more people working there, but GlaDOS killed them all.
  • Crossover: With Defense Grid: The Awakening, complete with levels that look like the Enrichment Center.
  • Cute Machines: The turrets, as well as GLaDOS' curiosity core.
  • Cyber Cyclops: If Aperture made it, it has only one eye. Even with no depth perception, the turrets are annoyingly good at aiming for you if given the chance and a few seconds of your now-ended life.
  • Deadly Gas: Neurotoxin to be specific. GLaDOS has tons of the stuff, which she used to kill most of the people in the Center prior to the start of the first game. Se attempts to use it again in the second.
  • Distinctive Appearances: The white tile surfaces you can attach portals to are significantly different in color and texture than surfaces you can't use the portals on. This is so you can view things from a distance and know what your options are.
  • DVD Commentary: Both games have a "Developer Commentary" option. Here, there are speech bubbles scattered around the maps, and pressing the use key on them gives a fun fact about development.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Enrichment Center. The sequel shows how astoundingly elaborate it really is, and even then we don't directly see all of it. Aperture is huge.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Or more accurately, about the time the iPod came out. The similarity between Aperture's aesthetic and Apple's has been noted and was even exploited for one of Valve's teaser pictures when they were about to release Steam for the Mac.
  • Eternal Engine: The facilities behind-the-scenes. Taken to further extremes in the sequel.
  • For Science!: Aperture Science doesn't seem to be too good at considering the future implications of the gadgets they make. As the theme tune says, "We do what we must / Because we can."
  • Gaiden Game: To the Half-Life series. Of course, given that it involves completely original characters and the sequel has been confirmed to have nothing to do with Episode Three or Half-Life 3 after all, you could also consider it a Backdoor Pilot.
  • Genius Loci: The Enrichment Center is alive, and reshapes itself according to the whims of the AI in charge. This becomes much more apparent in the sequel.
  • Genre Blindness: Aperture, you guys gave the sentient supercomputer the ability to release neurotoxin through the air vents, in your own facility. How did you think that would turn out?
  • Genre-Busting
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Only a few things in the game with glowing eyes won't try to kill you.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The only thing Aperture Science has made that hasn't (yet) had terrible repercussions or just been a flat-out terrible idea? The Portal Gun, and that's only until the singularity inside it destabilizes.
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: GLaDOS.
  • Heroic Mime: Lampshaded by GLaDOS, naturally. Chell's lack of response to her monologues leads her to say "Are you even listening to me?" Word of God is that Chell won't offer her the satisfaction of speaking; she's just that stubborn.
  • High Voltage Death: Used to justify Chell's Super Drowning Skills; falling into water causes the portal gun to short out and (presumably) give her a fatal dose of electricity
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Aperture was not a well-run research centre. They were great at inventing innovative things and making profound scientific breakthroughs, but also seemed almost wilfully ignorant of the uses to which said discoveries could be put and tried to shoehorn them into products for which they were completely unsuitable. See Inventional Wisdom below.
  • Industrialized Evil: The whole maze is one giant example, with however many test subjects came before.
  • Infant Immortality: Judging by the fact that GLaDOS' initial rampage took place during "Bring Your Daughter To Work Day", it's safe to assume this trope was averted.
  • Inventional Wisdom: The actual functions of Aperture Science's inventions are almost entirely tangential, if not antithetical, to their ostensible purpose. GLaDOS and the portal gun started as a fuel system de-icer and a shower curtain, respectively... at least until the retcon established in the sequel.
  • Kill All Humans: Apparently, GLaDOS spearheaded a Human Annihilation Studies program.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: The android turrets are easily knocked over and picked up as if they are quite light, however their guns don't seem to have much recoil - they don't tip back when they fire.
  • Level Goal: In each of the test chambers, the elevator to the next test chamber.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Half-Life.
  • Mad Science: One kind of gets the sensation Aperture was run a little like this even before GLaDOS took over; the test rooms don't really seem to be built with "safety" or "sanity" in mind. The sequel plays this for all it's worth.
    CAUTION: This Sign is Radioactive.
  • Meaningful Name: Aperture means opening, hole, or gap. Additionally, in optics, an aperture is a hole or an opening through which light travels. This may also be why everything they invent than can have eyes only has one eye, and may also be the basis behind their logo.
  • Minimalist Cast: A Heroic Mime and a disembodied voice. That's it, besides an absent nutcase who wrote messages on the walls, an inanimate box and some automatic turrets with cute voices. The web comic "Lab Rat" establishes that Rattman, the "nutcase", was actually still there. He apparently died at the end of the comic when he saved Chell from the Party Escort Bot, but a particularly creepy easter egg in the second game implies that he's still alive: the sixth and final Rattman Den you can find is just like the others. When you leave, any and all portals you made inside the den mysteriously vanish and the wall closes so you can't get back in...
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: The Portal Gun originated as an "improved" shower curtain. GLaDOS originated as an "improved" fuel system de-icer. Aperture developed wormhole teleportation and artificial intelligence, yet used them for nothing more than to run hapless subjects through mazes like lab rats.
  • Never Live It Down:
  • No Medication for Me: Inverted in the Lab Rat comic. Doug Rattman has been saving the last of his anti-psychotic medicine so that he'll have a clear head when Chell destroys GLaDOS and he can escape, even if the Companion Cube tells him he doesn't need it.
  • No Product Safety Standards: Shower curtains, the emancipation grill, and probably not the Portal Gun.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Chell can take tons of turret shots, and leaves large blood smears on walls when hit. 5 seconds, and you're okay again, ready to lose another three pints.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated
  • People Jars: Implied in the Relaxation Vaults.
  • Point of No Return: Within some levels, there are doors that close once the player goes through. (The divisions between each Game Level are also points of no return, of course, as they prevent players from putting portals across levels.)
  • Portal Cut:
    • Averted: The developers wanted players to feel safe, so if the player tries to put a portal elsewhere when the player or an object is in the middle of a portal, the player or object gets pushed out. Most of the time.
    • Inverted: Opening a portal pops off security cameras.
  • Portal Slam: Gets completely averted, at considerable programmer effort.
  • Pressure Plate: The 1,500-Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super-Button.
  • Puzzle Game: One of the only genres in which Portal readily fits.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The turrets.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: The portal gun could revolutionize the world: Perpetual Motion Machines, Casual Interstellar Travel, resolve all supply and transportation problems, but there's no suggestion that it was ever used for anything other than testing.
  • Required Secondary Gadgetry: Chell wears a pair of ankle-springs in order to ensure her legs aren't shattered when she comes flying out of a portal. The commentary bubbles indicate early on that the reason was that playtesters complained that Chell could survive falls that would kill Gordon Freeman. Despite the fact that the springs are patently insufficient to realistically protect her, they stopped the complaints, so mission accomplished!
  • Research, Inc.: Aperture Science, we do what we must because we can.
  • Restraining Bolt: GLaDOS' Morality Core was installed in an attempt to curb her psychopathic tendencies.
  • Science Is Bad: Exaggerated and Played for Laughs. GLaDOS and Aperture Science in general regard science with a three-way combination of Comedic Sociopathy, Crazy Awesome and For the Evulz.
  • Sentient AI Warning Signs: GLaDOS hits something like 80% of points on the list.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: "I have an infinite capacity for knowledge, and even I'm not sure what's going on outside."
  • Soundtrack Dissonance
  • Spiritual Successor: To Narbacular Drop.
  • Stuck on Band-Aid Brand: GLaDOS is apparently programmed to use the full name of all Aperture Science products every time she refers to one. Thus, you don't have a "Portal Gun", you have an "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device". Even something that she doesn't know the name of (supposedly) gets called the "Aperture Science Thing We Don't Know What It Does".
    • Averted on one occasion: "I hope you brought something stronger than a portal gun this time."
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids:
    • GLaDOS was originally designed to be a "fuel-injection system de-icer". Someone went just a tad overboard.
    • The turrets don't really need to have independent thought and the ability to feel pain. Or an empathy chip, or a chip to cancel out the effect of the empathy chip.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: The final bosses of both games must be defeated this way.
  • Teleport Gun: The Portal Gun.
  • Teleport Interdiction: Portals can only be created on certain types of surfaces (e.g. white tile, yes; bare metal, no). Navigating through areas with few or no portal surfaces becomes an increasingly common puzzle element in the later stages.
  • The Tetris Effect: You will start thinking with portals.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Referred to in the credits song.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Darkly subverted in the sense that GLaDOS somewhat treats Chell in this manner, as one-sided as it is.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: The portal gun is the only weapon Chell uses throughout the entire series (although it is upgraded once) using it to do pretty much everything.
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