Puzzle games really aren’t my thing. I get frustrated easily, and my brain wears out after only a few mind-benders. Yet when I started playing The Orange Box, Portal was instantly one of my favorite games of all time.

Portal (2007) is part of a larger five-game suite-release called The Orange Box and was developed by Valve (famous for its Half-Life series). It’s rather spartan compared to other games, with its industrial atmosphere, minimalist soundtrack, and rare spattering of enemies. However, the less a team has to work with, the more they have to work with what they do have, and Portal is certainly an example of this.

There really isn’t a plot, unless getting from Point A to Point B counts. You guided by the an artificial intelligence named GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), who serves as one of three companions to you during the game – and a sarcastic (yet funny) one at that. Besides GLaDOS, your only permanent companion is the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, or the portal gun. You briefly have another companion, but for the sake of discovering it for yourself, I won’t ruin it for you.

The objective of the game is to complete training exercises with the portal gun. However, these become more and more dangerous and it becomes more and more apparent that there may be something sinister afoot – especially as GLaDOS’s behavior becomes more and more suspicious. But that’s not to say that Portal is heart-racing suspense – it certainly isn’t. Its dark humor helps make the game memorable for more than just a fantastic video game mechanic.

There are really few complaints to be had about the game, because it fulfills its goal perfectly – to give a new experience to gamers, and to challenge the assumption that games have to be long and expensive to deliver any quality to the player.  The only problem I had with it was the sound – the player’s footsteps echo when they shouldn’t, and for a while I thought I wasn’t alone.  Whether this was intention or not, it’s a picky detail that doesn’t really affect gameplay at all.  Here’s to hoping we see much more of Portal, its mechanics, and the innovation it has inspired for years to come. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an XB360, a PS3, or a computer that can play it. It won’t be an experience that you will soon regret or forget.

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