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Portal is great and you should play it.
Portal is something different. At its core, it's a puzzle game where you have to use portals to reach a goal. The concept is pretty original, and the portal mechanic has surprisingly deep gameplay. At first you're just placing a portal on the other side of a chasm to cross a gap, but before you know it you're firing multiple new portals in mid-leap and doing all sorts of shenanigans with gravity and momentum and timing and layering everything together and let's just say it gets crazy and it's a lot of fun. The controls are great, the difficulty is curved well, the puzzles are well-designed, and the audio and visuals complement everything else perfectly; in fact, I'm having a lot of trouble finding something to complain about.

The game is short. That's not really a bad thing, though—the pacing is superb, and if it were any longer, it would risk feeling padded. This segues me nicely into the story, which is a perfect example of why we like Show Dont Tell. Some games pack a lot of epic drama into dialogue and cutscenes and whatnot. Portal does none of that, and yet it has one of the most compelling narratives of any game I've ever played. The story is in the scenery and in the gameplay itself. The story is the gameplay, really. The test chambers grow increasingly intense as the game progresses, and you start to see scraps of something strange. It all culminates in the Off The Rails final sequence and, eventually, spoiler, a climactic showdown with GLaDOS herself. (That counts as It Was His Sled, right?)

The puzzles (with some Brutal Bonus Levels) are the whole game, so it's pretty cerebral. If you do get stuck, there's not much you can do besides sit down and think it out...but that just makes it even more satisfying when you eventually figure it out. Still, as innovative as Portal is, it is that sort of game, and if you're not interested in that sort of game...well...you might still like it, actually. There are enough fast-paced combat sequences and platforming-esque timed segments sprinkled around to get your adrenaline flowing, especially in the later levels, where it gets pretty hectic with lots of moving platforms and turrets and whatnot.

Bottom line, a great game, and it deserves its hype.

And if you were wondering, the cake is definitely not a lie.

...Or Is It?
As the impossible to please Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation said, "Absolutely sublime from start to finish and I will jam forks into my eyes if I ever use those words to describe anything else ever again."
comment #6999 RadioactiveSpider 24th Mar 11
Of course the game is short: Valve never expected it to have the amazing reception that it did, It was basically just a demo for the (almost released) sequel, Portal 2.
comment #7250 Frostfef 12th Apr 11
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