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"The Enrichment Center is committed to the well-being of all participants. Cake and grief counseling will be available at the conclusion of the test. Thank you for helping us help you help us all."

This article is about the video game titled Portal. If you are searching for portal-related tropes, please refer to Teleportation Tropes. If you are looking for the page for the series as a whole, please click here.

Portal is probably best described as a "first-person puzzle game." Essentially, it is a Puzzle Game made in 3D with a First-Person Shooter engine, which can serve as a somewhat misleading combination.

The player character is Chell, who wakes up in a seemingly uninhabited facility. GLaDOS, the facility's AI robot voice, sends her through a series of puzzles as a test subject for the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, which is capable of opening portals on flat surfaces (only two at a time), creating a link between them. The tests are deadly and require quite a bit of creativity for Chell to get through, navigating the bizarre twists of geometry and gravity that are exploited for all they're worth.

There are no other characters to interact with, no enemies to kill (except for gun-turrets), and no items to find (other than the portal gun itself, which is given to the player right away and upgraded shortly after). The challenge comes from progressing through the test chambers, as it becomes increasingly clear that GLaDOS might not be all there and displays an alarmingly cavalier attitude to your safety and sanity. But hey, you're promised cake.

The game nominally takes place in the Half-Life universe, but (at least in this installment) there's nothing connecting them other than random hints on walls referring to Black Mesa and the fact that Aperture Science is mentioned in the Half-Life 2 episodes. GLaDOS herself also makes vague references to the events of Half-Life during the final confrontation, and then refers to Black Mesa in the credits song.

Released as part of The Orange Box in October 2007. It was patched in March 2010 with an updated ending through Steam, a rarity for such an old single-player game.

Portal appears to have revitalized a somewhat stagnant industry; instead of being a confusing 'me-too' clone of the big sellers, the game was relatively short, used easily-understood mechanics, and featured a premise that was clearly spelled out, easy to grasp, continually challenging as new puzzles were introduced and didn't bog the gameplay down.

The sequel, Portal 2, was released April 2011. Chell is awakened an uncertain but very long time after the events of Portal by an AI core named Wheatley, and in an attempt to leave the facility, they accidentally awaken GLaDOS. A webcomic, Portal: Lab Rat, bridges the two games and provides some illumination to the events prior to Portal. Now, please enter your local Aperture Science Enrichment Center for further testing.

As for the original, it has subsequently been released on various platforms in many forms. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 received it on the console versions of The Orange Box, while Xbox Live Arcade would receive a standalone version of the game, Portal: Still Alive, which features a selection of bonus levels based on the fan game Portal: The Flash Version and its 3D "map-pack" remake in Portal itself. These bonus levels have no GlaDOS dialogue and generally feature more complex sequencing and shuffling of puzzle elements to solve them, feature several denser and more compact chambers with heavier puzzle emphasis on navigation, and include game mechanics not in either main game. The Still Alive levels also feature blue and red plasma walls from The Flash Versionnote , which were adapted into the laser fields and Hard Light Bridges in Portal 2, with the latter element becoming able to be routed through portals.

A compilation for the Nintendo Switch featuring both Portal: Still Alive and Portal 2, named Portal: Companion Collection, was released in 2022. The PC Steam version of the game was given a free DLC on December 8, 2022 named Portal with RTX, intended as a showcase of NVIDIA's RTX Remix tool featuring built-in raytracing and higher resolution textures.

The Aperture Science Enrichment Center offers the following tropes for your perusal:

  • 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.
  • Antepiece: The puzzle design is very varied and deals with rather sophisticated ideas. Yet it's approachable for everyone and very concise. To introduce ideas to the player, the designers often use antepieces: small, unchallenging tasks that act as a steppingstone to something more complex. For example, test chamber ten is a three-section chamber: the second and third sections are about throwing yourself down a pit into a portal at the bottom and flying out of a wall. But the first section of chamber ten is barely a puzzle at all; it's just a panel and a staircase. All the player has to do to keep moving is make a portal anywhere and go into it. But it introduces a structure that is to be repeated.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The receiving machines for High Energy Pellets cast a red glowing light on the surface opposite them as a guide to let the player easily know where to set up an exit portal that wil transfer a Pellet directly into the receiver. This prevents blind trial-and-error to find the right spot for the portal in rooms where the player can't aim head-on. Similarly, when Pellets hit a concrete wall, they create a temporary scorch mark that serves as a guide for where to place portals for them to travel through.
    • High Energy Pellets bounce off walls back and forth for a significant amount of time before they fizzle out, giving the player a good amount of breathing room to "juggle" a Pellet between portals and switch the portal placement while the Pellet is in motion to carry them even further, or allowing the player to get a Pellet out of their way by using portals to get its trajectory away from Chell.
    • Turrets can be annoying and deadly, but they have a red laser sight that serves two useful purposes—knowing where they are to begin with, and, like with the receiver machines, their laser sights serve as guide spots in a chamber where portals have to be used to send a High Energy Pellet into them.
    • Certain areas have conspicuous white tiles marked with dots in increasing numbers similar to the sides of a die to guide portal placement on the ceiling above buttons or provide a sense of sequence in larger rooms so the player knows they're advancing forward in a room by counting the numbers indicated by the tiles.
  • Arc Words: [warping sound] "C-C-Cakecakecakecakecake..." To an extent, anyway. "The Cake Is a Lie" fits the bill, even though it's never actually spoken in-game — the Rat Man has scrawled it repeatedly on the wall of one of his dens and over a tube you have to go through a while after escaping the incinerator. For Science! is also repeatedly thrown around.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "I'm going to kill you. And all the cake is gone."
  • ASCII Art: During the end credits, various ASCII artwork accompanies the final song.
  • Auto-Save: The games autosave in certain places or intervals. If you want to go back before an autosave, you can always load the previous save file.
  • 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.
  • Blatant Lies: GLaDOS attempts to convince you that attempting to murder you at the end of the testing procedure was just another test "where we pretended [...] to murder you". She then claims that there's a big party being thrown in your honour if you'll just stop right there and lie down. She's not terribly convincing when her test subjects go Off the Rails. This is lampshaded toward the end:
    "Have I lied to you? I mean, in this room?"
  • 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.
  • Body Horror: GLaDOS mentions offhand that the Emancipation Grill may, "in semi-rare cases, emancipate dental fillings, crowns, tooth enamel, and teeth."
  • Boss-Arena Idiocy: GLaDOS' arena has everything you need to beat her, but it's Hand Waved as being out of her control. The room was designed so that the Aperture Science employees would have a way to deal with her if she went insane.
  • Boss Banter: Part of the attraction of this game is GLaDOS' hilarious banter while you're trying to destroy her.
  • Brain Uploading: GLaDOS claims to have a backup of Chell on file, which she later claims to delete. Of course, she is a lying liar who lies, so who knows.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    • Listen to the cake recipe... At least the less savoury ingredients are just garnishes. The recipe is legit too, so long as you know the baking instructions.
    • Also, "any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official record, followed by death."
  • Brick Joke:
    • The patch added one to the ending of Portal, serving as a Sequel Hook. "Thank you for assuming the party escort submission position..."
    • One of the radios you can collect for the Transmission Received achievement. When GLaDOS decides to kill you at the end of the last test chamber, she'll tell you that all Aperture technologies remains safely operational up to 4000 Kelvin. One of the radios is in the incinerator, still working. This is also told to be why in the second game GLaDOS and the portal gun are still operational after being thrown in the incinerator. Although, ironically, the portal gun's model does actually burn up in the incinerator if Chell falls in.
  • Briar Patching: Near the end of Portal, GLaDOS tells you not to touch a certain object and, for once, it would probably be for the best if you complied (but Stupidity Is the Only Option in order to beat the game). GLaDOS actually bets on the player not trusting her and doing the opposite of what she says. Despite her double use of Reverse Psychology, her intention is still pretty obvious.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The Advanced Test Chambers from Portal: Still Alive fall under this trope... especially Advanced Test Chamber 18.
  • But Thou Must!: At several points, if you're facing a difficult puzzle, GLaDOS offers you an opportunity to give up, sometimes even offering a reward for doing so. The set of actions allowed by the game interface never includes any way of accepting the offer.
  • Canon Immigrant: GLaDOS will star in the Defense Grid: The Awakening DLC Defense Grid: You Monster!.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The radio in Chell's room/cell/pod, a seemingly innocuous prop (which played an uptempo version of "Still Alive"), was given an upgrade into a myth arc/ARG prop status two years after release.
  • Cherry Tapping: It is possible to use a turret to detach GLaDOS's cores by redirecting its bullets to her with portals, in the section before the emancipation field that has line of sight to GLaDOS.
  • Chromosome Casting: The cast essentially consists of Chell and GLaDOS, both of whom are female (well, GLaDOS is an AI, but still speaks in a woman's voice). There is the Rat Man a.k.a. Doug Rattman, but he never makes a physical appearance. The turrets also speak in a woman's voice. The only possible exception is one of GLaDOS's personality cores, who is voiced by Mike Patton, but that's just part of GLaDOS's personality rather than a character in its own right.
  • 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: Some puzzles require the player to direct a glowing ball of energy into a recepticle to power it. Touching the orb results in instant death.
    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.
  • Combat Stilettos: Played with. Chell wears a pair of "advanced knee replacements" to cushion very fast, very high falls in order to prevent her legs from being crushed. They're also very similar to prosthetic running feet of similar purpose.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Though it's not a laugh-fest per se, much of the humor in Portal comes from Chell trying to survive various life-threatening situations while GLaDOS slowly goes from bald-faced lies to manic nonsense, all in a cheery singsong Creepy Monotone.
  • Companion Cube: The Trope Namer. An inanimate object with a heart emblem that must be used to complete a level, and in doing so, the player becomes attached to it. The entire level must be completed using this block, but the developers felt that the players wouldn't realize how important the block was to beating the level and might leave it behind at some point. The anthropomorphization of the Weighted Companion Cube was a way to ensure that the player kept the block around for the entire level until it had to be incinerated to continue.
  • Console Cameo: In the Portal with RTX version, an RTX 4090 GPU can be found in various places within the game.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The incineration room from Test Chamber 19 doesn't appear to burn Chell or suffocate her as it really ought to.
  • Cores-and-Turrets Boss: The final Boss Battle requires the player to attack GLaDOS' central core while avoiding (and exploiting) a missile-firing turret.
  • Creepy Monotone: GLaDOS and the automated gun turrets speak in a singsong, high-pitched, passive-aggressive monotone.
  • Creative Closing Credits: 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.
  • 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 Dodging: The final levels introduce a rocket launcher, whose shots you have to dodge in order to target it at glass barriers, as well as GLaDOS herself.
  • 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 game.
  • Death Trap: GLaDOS tries to lure the player into a giant incinerator in the final test chamber. Escaping it is necessary to continue.
  • Determinator: According to the Lab Rat webcomic, the Player Character Chell should not be selected as a test subject because her psychological profile indicates an off-the-scale, nearly pathological level of tenacity. This may count as a meta-reference since the player is effectively unstoppable due to having infinite reloads.
  • Deus ex Machina: On the path to boss fight, there's some drawings on the wall blatantly telling you where to go and what to do.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The 2010 patch added one to the ending in order to set up the sequel; just before Chell loses consciousness, an unseen character drags her away from the ruins of Aperture Science...
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: The radios in the game default to playing a short jazzy loop based on "Still Alive".
  • 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.
  • Disturbing Statistic: After upgrading the portal gun so that it can shoot both colors of portal, GLaDOS tells you that "the device is now more valuable than the organs and combined incomes of everyone in [Subject Hometown Here]."
  • 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.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Both the original last scene and the updated ending make it clear that GLaDOS is not really dead, and that Chell's ordeal in the Enrichment Center is far from over.
  • Energy Ball: The Aperture Science High Energy Pellet is a bouncing energy ball that instantly kills the player. Some of the puzzles require redirecting the pellet into a receptacle to power a machine.
  • Escape from the Crazy Place: The game puts the player in control of a woman with no past, no personality, and no way forward except to do as the crazed computer running the Enrichment Center commands. This involves running through death courses armed with only your wits and a Teleport Gun, looking for an opportunity to finally escape.
  • Everything Is An I Pod 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.
  • Escalating Punchline: In the ending song, when GLaDOS is listing off the transgressions she blames Chell for.
    "Even though you broke my heart and killed me.
    And tore me to pieces.
    And threw every piece into a fire."
  • Eternal Engine: The backstage areas of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center are dark, dangerous areas full of giant pistons, hissing steam pipes, massive fans, and rusted catwalks in various states of disrepair.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: After the Morality Core is destroyed, GLaDOS voice deepens and becomes much smoother and more seductive.
  • Exact Time to Failure: The Deadly Neurotoxin that GLaDOS releases during the Final Battle will kill you as soon as the timer runs out, no sooner or later. Chell will start to choke as the clock approaches zero.
  • Exact Words: GLaDOS claims that she will stop lying to Chell in 3... 2... [cut to static]
  • Excuse Plot: Played for Horror. You move through a series of rooms, solving the puzzles contained therein, whilst guided by a voice over a loudspeaker. However, the rooms have a creepy, oppressive atmosphere from the very beginning, the guide's contributions are unhelpful, bizarre, condescending or some combination of the three, and venturing out of bounds reveals that you aren't the first one to go through the rooms, with the previous participants ending up insane and/or dead. It all comes to a head when the guide throws off the pretense and tries to flat-out murder you.
  • Expospeak Gag: The "1500-Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super-Button" (the buttons used in the tests) and "Aperture Science Thing-We-Don't-Know-What-It-Does" (the morality core), among others.
  • Flat Joy: "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee", said in a computerized monotone.
  • Flushing-Edge Interactivity: You can flush the toilet in the relaxation vault at the beginning of the game, which makes it say "Your business is appreciated" in a turret's voice.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "You will be baked, and then there will be cake.", "You will be [static] cake.",note  and "When the testing is over, you will be... missed!" Guess what GLaDOS attempts to do later?
      "You're curious about what happens after you die, right? Guess what...? I know."
    • Upon completing Test Chamber 09, as you walk down the exit hallway you'll see that the elevator is arriving at the platform rather than already being in its proper location. Upon escaping from being incinerated, you eventually find yourself back in Chamber 09, this time with the elevator completely missing, allowing you to escape down the shaft.
    • A pretty subtle case, but in one of the Ratman's secret rooms, you can actually find a reference to Cave Johnson, from the second game. The secret rooms in general are also foreshadowing that there's more to Aperture than just the test chambers.
  • 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."
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The teaser trailer has a rapid sequence of short clips, one of which has the following disclaimer:
    "Jumping from high ledges without anticipation of fatal impact is commonly known to be an unwise activity and is not recommended by the legal team of Aperture, Inc."
  • 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.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: When you're portalling your way onto the platforms over the water that will eventually lead to the incinerator room, the game saves as you go. If you fall off one of the platforms in the middle of one of the game's auto saves, you'll end up in an endless loop of respawning and dying. The developers realized that this was a problem, so they designed the game to keep the previous save state available. However, the game won't automatically load this previous save. To take advantage of it, you have to exit to the main menu, then load it manually. There's no indication that this is even available, except for a single extra entry in the "Load Game" menu.
  • Gas Chamber: The final Boss Battle requires the player to defeat GLaDOS in a sealed room being filled with a deadly neurotoxin before time runs out.
  • 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: It's a non-violent first-person physics puzzle-platformer.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The turrets GLaDOS uses in the tests have a glowing red eye with a laser sight. GLaDOS herself has a glowing yellow eye and loves killing things with deadly neurotoxin.
  • 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 is the Portal Gun, and that's only until the singularity inside it destabilizes.
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: A slideshow presentation in a meeting room reveals GLaDOS was originally developed as a method of de-icing fuel lines, but ends up as the Enrichment Center's central control computer.
  • Heroic Mime: Lampshaded by GLaDOS, naturally. Chell's lack of response to her monologues leads her to say "Are you even listening to me?" According to the developers, Chell won't offer her the satisfaction of speaking; she's just that stubborn.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The morality core willingly detatches themself and is silent as she incinerates them.
  • 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.
  • Hotline: Just inside GLaDOS' chamber, prior to entering the main arena, you see a red phone. In the commentary, the developers explain that it was a hotline for scientists to use in case of an emergency with the AI. They point out that the connection cord is cut, hinting at just how effective it was.
  • Humble Goal: Played for Laughs. If GLaDOS is to be believed, all Chell wants is cake. It's never revealed what she really wants, but since the game leads her to (temporarily) kill GLaDOS and escape Aperture's testing chambers, we'll assume it's that.
  • 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.
  • Intercom Villainy: GLaDOS is a malevolent supercomputer with a quick wit and a sharp tongue that cracks wise about the player's perfomance almost constantly in her Creepy Monotone. In this case, the fact that she's an actual, malicious character and not just a series of prerecorded messages is a major plot twist, though it's well-known now.
  • 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.
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake: GLaDOS repeatedly assures the player that they will be rewarded with cake after completing the experiments.
  • Justified Tutorial: Chell is a test subject, who is supposed to be learning how to use the portal gun from scratch. The developer's commentary discusses how the flow of the test chambers in all of the games is designed explicitly to train the player for each new feature and make sure they get it before incorporating it into the more complex puzzles later.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: GLaDOS pulls one of these after trying to drown you in a pit of fire by saying she was just pretending to murder you.
  • Karmic Death: The method GLaDOS chooses to dispose of the Companion Cube and the player is the same method the player defeats GLaDOS with.
  • Kick the Dog: GLaDOS forces Chell to drop the adorable Curiosity Core into an incinerator and then places the blame on Chell.
  • Kill It with Fire: This is apparently Aperture Science's preferred method of disposal. Incinerated items include the Companion Cube, the player, and GLaDOS .
  • Layman's Terms: Portals preserve momentum, or as GLaDOS puts it:
    "In layman's terms, speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out."
  • 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 (and are clearly using ballistic ammo). The sequel reveals that they're flinging the bullets with springs rather than actually firing them.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: GLaDOS tells the player, "the difference between us is that I can feel pain."
  • Level Goal: Nearly each level ends by taking an elevator to the next test chamber.
  • Lighter and Softer: Portal is a sunny walk in the meadows compared to the apocalyptic horrors and Eldritch Abominations of Half-Life. But that doesn't mean Portal can't get dark and twisted in its own way...
  • Long List: One of GLaDOS's cores lists an awful lot of "garnishes" for cake, most of which have to do with fish shapes and rhubarb. Some on fire.
  • Lost in Transmission:
    • GLaDOS's introductory greeting.
      "For your own safety, and the safety of others, please refrain from... [crackle, static] Por favor de donde fallar muchos gracias de fallar gracias. [crackle] ...stand back. The portal will open in three... two... one..."note 
    • Subverted later on. The (somewhat inaccurate and probably to-the-script) subtitles say, " will be baked *static* cake". But the audio track clearly says " will be baked, and then there will be cake."
    • Also, when you get the portal gun...
      "Do not touch the operational end of the device. Do not look directly at the operational end of the device. Do not submerge the device in liquid, even partially. Most importantly, under no circumstances should you—" [power drain]
    • In each of the levels where the player uses flinging, GLaDOS's instructions are almost entirely lost in static, with only the occasional word (usually "fling") intelligible.
    • After the level where GLaDOS admits she lied to you:
      "As part of a required test protocol, we will stop enhancing the truth in three... two..." [static]
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Still Alive" is certainly upbeat for a gloating song or a song about how the singer was murdered, torn to pieces, and thrown into a fire.
  • Madness Mantra: The words "the cake is a lie" are scrawled across the walls of the Rattman Dens.
  • Mad Scientist: 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 webcomic 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 Portal 2 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.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: It becomes steadily more obvious as the game goes along that something is not quite right about GLaDOS.
  • Monster Closet: The game explains where the turrets-in-the-walls come from by showing you a large set of them on pincers, from which some are pulled away when you approach.
  • Morality Chip: The Morality Core, which was supposed to change GLaDOS' sociopathic tendencies into a desire to do science experiments. It's the only core that's completely silent, implying that it's not working correctly (if it ever was). In addition, the Lab Rat comic reveals that she used the For Science! loophole to finish the job of gassing the facility by asking the scientists for Neurotoxin.
  • Motivational Lie: Arguably the most famous one in all of gaming, as GLaDOS repeatedly assures the player that they will be rewarded with cake after completing the experiments. The cake is a lie.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: In one trailer, a spike plate descended from the ceiling while the path was blocked by a pit of fire. Neither actually shows up. However, the fire pit does show up later, but in an entirely different form, and there are spike plates in the sequel (again, in a very different form). However, it can still make sense since the "Real Life" footage came from a time when the game was in extreme beta.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When you destroy GLaDOS' Morality Core. She names the trope shortly thereafter. She's lying her ass off to get a dig at you in, but it also happens that the Morality Core was keeping her from assuming a much more openly lethal and sadistic role. It was pretty much the sole reason that the entire facility didn't immediately rip itself up from its roots to compact you like a garbage truck, something she has no qualms with when woken up in Portal 2.
  • No Fair Cheating: The steps, portals, and time challenges. Also, you can't get achievements with cheat mode on. Amusingly, all you have to do to bypass this is get to the elevator while cheating, save, load your save so the cheats deactivate, and enter the elevator.
  • 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 OSHA Compliance: The backstage areas are built on this, being filled with damaged catwalks, people-crushing pistons, and exposed giant fan blades. The testing areas aren't much better, as rooms contain sheer drops that would kill most people, pools of toxic liquid, and indiscriminate automatic gun turrets. Justified in that all of the Aperture personnel have been killed prior to the start of the game.
    GLaDOS: The Enrichment Center promises to always provide a safe testing environment. In dangerous testing environments, the Enrichment Center promises to always provide useful advice. For instance, the floor here will kill you. Try to avoid it.
  • Noodle Incident: The android tests Aperture was running, involving the non-specific idea of an "android hell" to keep the subjects in line.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Despite the humour, the sheer stark emptiness of the test chambers, accompanied by understated ambient music, does create an effectively unnerving atmosphere. It gets even more desolate once you break out of the test chamber as the rest of Aperture Science is rusty and abandoned, making you wonder what exactly you're stuck in.
  • Off the Rails: For the first half of the game, you're stuck following GLaDOS' game plan, but when you find out there is no cake waiting for you, it's time to improvise.
  • Plea of Personal Necessity: GLaDOS asks Chell, "Who's going to make the cake when I'm gone? You?!"
  • 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: A variation; opening a portal underneath a security camera makes it fall, as there's no longer a wall behind it and it's cut off from its wiring.
  • Pressure Plate: The 1,500-Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super-Button, which appears in many of the tests and needs to be weighted down with a cube to allow progress.
  • Product Placement: The infamous "cake" is a Black Forest cake, modeled after the one in the window display of "Regent Bakery & Cafe", a bakery near Valve Corporation. Since the game's release, the bakery has boosted in popularity because of the cake itself.
  • Puzzle Game: Though Portal has elements of other game genres, its core gameplay is solving the puzzle of how to escape from each test chamber.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Among other things, beta testers caused the creation of the Companion Cube. Chamber 17 was designed for players to take the cube provided at the start of the level with them through the entire chamber, but at this point players had been well and truly trained that cubes were to be used once and then discarded, and that another would be provided if a later puzzle needed one. What to do? Paint tiny hearts on each of its sides and call it a Companion Cube. Then have GLaDOS repeatedly tell you that the cube was your best friend and you should look after it. That worked!
    • Also, the reason you're forced to incinerate the Companion Cube is because the devs realized that incinerating stuff hadn't been established as something one could do prior to the final encounter with GLaDOS.
    • Beta testers asked why Chell could survive multi-story falls through recursive portals and still land on her feet without being smashed into the floor (particularly as this was an issue in Half-Life). Once she was given the advanced knee replacement to absorb the shocks, no one ever asked again.
    • "A lot of people like cake." That was sufficient enough reason to put it in the game. More accurately, during a design meeting about what sort of philosophy to drive the game with the answer was the above. Of course, the dev team did not expect the reactions from the fans, which is why there is absolutely no cake in Portal 2. Unless you count a reference to a "cake dispensary" in one trap. They couldn't resist putting in just one.
    • Hoopy the Hoop was what the devs thought would become the meme for the game (apparently having it become the focus of the last cutscene and appear throughout the levels). Instead, "The Cake is a Lie" took that spotlight and Hoopy ended up more or less as an office joke.
    • Why is Portal set in the same universe as Half Life? Because Portal was originally a small experimental game with a small budget. Tying the two games allowed Portal to reuse assets from Half Life and keep the cost down.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: All throughout the final battle.
    GLaDOS: I'd just like to point out that you were given every opportunity to succeed. There was even going to be a party for you. A big party that all your friends were invited to. I invited your best friend the Companion Cube. Of course, he couldn't come because you murdered him. All your other friends couldn't come either because you don't have any other friends. Because of how unlikable you are. It says so here in your personal file: Unlikable. Liked by no one. A bitter, unlikable loner whose passing shall not be mourned. "Shall not be mourned." That's exactly what it says. Very formal. Very official. It also says you were adopted. So that's funny, too.
  • 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.
  • Reminiscing About Your Victims: GLaDOS is quite happy to chat about forcing you to kill Companion Cube.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Chell wears a pair of "advanced knee replacement" heel-springs in order to ensure her legs aren't shattered. 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.
  • Revision: Prior to the release of Portal 2, Valve released an update which adds a few seconds to one of the final cutscenes, revealing a significant event just after the point where that scene originally ended. This, of course, ties into the sequel.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The Rattman rooms you eventually find qualify, with walls filled with Madness Mantra graffiti and other shaky sketches.
  • Sarcasm Mode: "Still Alive" is full of sarcasm, especially the second verse (presumably drawn from the memories of a previous test subject).
    "I'm not even angry
    I'm being
    so sincere right now."
  • Sarcastic Confession: GLaDOS slips into this in the final Boss Battle as she grows more desperate to stop the player.
    "Do you think I'm trying to trick you with Reverse Psychology? I mean, seriously now."
  • 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 is Cool and For the Evulz.
  • Sequel Hook: In the form of all the spare GLaDOS cores turning on and the end song stating that she's "still alive". Then the official patch to the end sequence itself, as part of the announcement of the sequel.
  • Second Hour Superpower: You acquire the portal gun early on with only the ability to shoot blue portals, but a few chambers thereafter you upgrade it so you can shoot both colors.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: GLaDOS originally tries to kill Chell in the final test chamber. The revised ending also shows that Chell is going to be dragged into another "test", so her escape attempt was still a "Shaggy Dog" Story.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Skewed Priorities: "The Cake Is a Lie" was originally intended to be an example of this. It is written as a warning that GLaDOS is not trustworthy, and the joke is that the writer of the message Doug Rattmann thought GLaDOS lying to Chell about being rewarded with cake was more important than GLaDOS plotting to kill her. The end credits reveal that there really was a cake, but sure enough, GLaDOS had no intention of giving it to Chell.
  • The Snark Knight: GLaDOS becomes this towards the end of the game, delivering nuclear-level levels of sarcasm while trying repeatedly to kill the player.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Threatening Geography: You start in the clean, pristine test labs, progressing to more and more damaged/deadly labs and finally into the off-limits zones and GLaDOS's chamber.
  • Speech-Centric Work: The game essentially consists of a series of puzzles, during which GLaDOS constantly monologues at the player.
  • Spell My Name With An S: The Aperture Science Material Emancipation Grill at the end of each level caused controversy after the first game. It's not a "Grid". Portal 2 pronounces it and has its subtitles clearly as "Grill", putting the argument to rest.
    • One reason for the confusion is that the first chamber in Portal — Chamber Zero, where the player begins the game — calls it an "Emancipation Grid", and confirmed by the subtitles. Subsequent chambers call it an "Emancipation Grill", however.
  • Spikes of Doom:
  • 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. A moving platform is an "Aperture Science Unstationary Scaffold", the portal gun is the "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device", and an ordinary box is an "Aperture Science Weighted Storage Cube". Even something that she doesn't know the name of (supposedly) gets called the "Aperture Science Thing We Don't Know What It Does".
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Subverted, in that the only way to progress is to escape from an apparently inescapable trap. Even more so since, if you get killed there, the game reloads an automatic save point just before you enter that area, allowing you to try to escape again.
  • 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.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: In the final room, destroying the Morality Core causes GLaDOS to lose control of the rocket turret system; she ''can't'' make the turret stop shooting at you even as you use its rockets against her.
  • Take That!: In-Universe example: take a look at GLaDOS's screens as she says, "... the dumbest thing...," and you'll see the Black Mesa logo. Black Mesa is the much more successful corporate rival of Aperture Science.
  • Teaching Through Accident: The second part of test chamber 10 has a pit with a tiny ledge over it. Stand on it, and you'll probably fall off, into the pit, a boring place to be. The only way to get out of the pit is to put a portal on the floor, which will take you back to the door of the level. But the cool thing is, the solution to this puzzle involves having a portal on the floor, so they're luring you into solving it.
  • Tech-Demo Game: Portal with RTX is intended to be a showcase of NVIDIA's RTX Remix tool, which allows the easy implementation of higher resolution texture mods and ray tracing in classic games.
  • Teleport Gun: The Portal Gun. It can create a pair of linked portals on any flat surface of the proper material, allowing objects and people to travel through at will.
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The incident when GLaDOS flooded the facility with neurotoxin raises more questions than it answers. Apparently, Aperture Science built a sentient computer, then did absolutely nothing to enforce Asimov's laws of robotics, or curtail her ability to, just for example, manufacture enough poison to fill the enrichment center.
    • The existence of the Morality Core indicates that the Aperture Science personnel did try to stop GLaDOS from indiscriminately killing all humans. Unfortunately (implied in the last level), it wasn't entirely effective...
    • The Lab Rat comic explains that GLaDOS procured the neurotoxin from the Aperture Science staff by saying it was needed for an experiment on cats.
  • The Tooth Hurts: The emancipation grid can apparently vaporize human teeth.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: In the credits song, GLaDOS claims her actions were for the greater good of mankind... at least, what's left of it. Also, she fully intends to keep killing innocent people For Science!.
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: The game never breaks from Chell's perspective, aside from a closing cutscene depicting a robotic hand snuffing out a candle on top of a chocolate cake.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable:
    • Some of the autosaves are placed over toxic waste. Oops. Also, if you really try, it's possible to exploit the physics to trap yourself or otherwise make the level unwinnable. Thankfully, much of the time the game will notice when you've trapped yourself in a place you can't get out from and will let you out.
    • Portal: Still Alive has an achievement for getting stuck.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In-universe example; GLaDOS is the narrator guiding the player through the experiment testing chambers, but it is soon apparent that she cannot be trusted.
  • Vague Hit Points: Chell's exact Hit Points only known through console commands that enables that bit of Heads-Up Display information. Otherwise, Chell dies after an unclear amount of turret shots and heals up when not being shot.
  • Villain Song: "Still Alive", performed by GLaDOS over the ending credits. The song plays out almost like a break-up song, as GLaDOS spitefully tells an absent Chell that she's still alive after she leaves and how she doesn't need her around since she still has "Science to do".
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    GLaDOS: Stop squirming and die like an adult or I'm going to delete your backup. STOP! Okay, enough, I deleted it. No matter what happens now, you're DEAD. You're still shuffling around a little but believe me you're dead. The part of you that could have survived indefinitely is gone. I just struck you from the permanent record. Your entire life has been a mathematical error. A mathematical error I'M ABOUT TO CORRECT.
  • Visual Pun: As the effects of GLaDOS's morality core begin to wear off, her monitors display a small pile of screws. She does have quite a few screws loose by this point. On top of that, she's about to screw your survival odds. Also, when GLaDOS mentions "violent behavior", a picture of a violin with a knife on it flashes on the screens.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Darkly subverted in the sense that GLaDOS somewhat treats Chell in this manner, as one-sided as it is.
  • Weaponized Teleportation:
    • Any time you use a portal to deal with turrets. There are lots of ways to do it: teleport behind them to deal with them manually, open a portal under them, open a portal above them and drop a cube on them. In the sequel, you can also use portals to redirect lasers at them.
    • The final levels involve letting a rocket launcher shoot you, then dodge and use portals to redirect the rockets towards your target.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Test Chamber 16. This is the point where GLaDOS's malfunctioning stops being so funny. It's bad enough that you're pitted against a live fire course filled with turrets that will shoot you on sight. Then you discover the hidden area behind the wall panel, and you realize just how terribly wrong things have gone.
    • Test Chamber 19. Naturally, as the last test chamber, something interesting was bound to happen. Most people probably didn't expect that that would involve being lowered to your death into a pit of fire.
  • Wham Line: After you throw the Aperture Science Thing-We-Don't-Know-What-It-Does into an incinerator, GLaDOS reveals exactly what it did:
    GLaDOS: Good news. I found out what that thing you just incinerated did. It was a Morality Core they installed after I flooded the Enrichment Center with a deadly neurotoxin to make me stop flooding the Enrichment Center with a deadly neurotoxin.
  • Wham Shot: The Test Chambers look mostly clean and sterile aside from the sludge pits. Then Test Chamber 16 shows red 'X' marks on the ceiling, then you see "HELP" scrawled on the floor in red just outside of the first Rattman den.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: The portal gun is the only weapon Chell uses throughout the whole game (although it is upgraded once) using it to do pretty much everything.
  • Wreaking Havok: The game makes full use of the Source engine's physics capabilities. Many puzzles require some manipulation of physics objects to complete.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: The game begins with Chell waking up in a Relaxation Vault.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Just in case being forced to "euthanize" your Companion Cube wasn't already cruel enough, GLaDOS consummates the awfulness by congratulating you and telling you that you did the deed "faster than any test subject on record". Ouch.

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Video Example(s):



The turrets speak like this. Whether it's eerie or cute depends on the listener.

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Main / ComputerVoice

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