Less than amusing ramblings from a jaded former gamer.

My Biggest Surprises and Disappointments of the Last Gaming Generation Big Disappointment: Portal


This image really does capture my excitement for this series…

Seeing as we’re in a new year and possibly a new gaming generation, I figured now is a good time to look back on what games from the last few years really defied my expectations. Either because they went above and beyond what I was expecting of them or because they were horrible letdowns that made me feel stupid for buying them. Today’s disappointment is Portal, an apparent slice of gaming perfection that I found annoying and somewhat dull.

So this another game I’ve talked to great lengths about, or at least I talked about why I didn’t like Portal 2. Sorta like Oblivion and Skyrim, I did find the successor an improvement, just not enough for me to actually like it. I know in my Portals post I said Portal 2 was the bigger disappointment but I think that was just because I was expecting Portal to get a better sequel. After thinking about it, the first Portal just really isn’t all that exciting once the novelty wears off. I still like the idea behind Portal, but I don’t like the execution.

Portal was actually the only reason I even wanted the Orange Box. I didn’t care about Half-Life 2 and I’d never heard of Team Fortress before it. But I love puzzle games and the Portal mechanics really seemed like the kind of thing ripe with potential. Unfortunately the people making the game didn’t seem to know how to exploit that potential, so everything is set in a dull gray facility where you spend more time being lectured by an annoying robot than solving puzzles.

Hell, the original prototype game, Narbacular Drop, seemed to show more creative prowess. In it you could actually create portals within portals and redirect giant boulders and the like. Narbacular Drop is also much shorter, like fifteen minutes long depending on how slow you play. Portal feels like they stretched a fifteen minute demo to a thirty minute demo and then padded it out to two hours with a bunch of annoying shit.

Please wait while we load more boredom...

Exhibit A: Fucking Elevators

You’ve got to wade through a dozen tutorial rooms before you get access to both Portals, something you started with in Narbacular Drop. Then there’s really only six or so rooms that are proper puzzles, then you spend the last thirty minutes playing “Spot the portal-able surface” before fighting Glados in a really anti-climatic boss fight where you redirect slow moving missiles into her fucking face.

I got this theory about what separates something good from something great. Something good you can experience once and enjoy it. Something great you enjoy every time you experience it. The easiest way to tell if something is great or only good is just to experience it a second time. This doesn’t just apply to games, but anything. Movies, music, books. Your second time is always going to be different than your first and great works have something to offer you on a second viewing/listening/playing/etc.

I bring this up because every time I’ve replayed Portal I’ve liked it less and less. Even though I was disappointed on my first playthrough I still generally enjoyed myself. Then while replaying for achievements and what not I started noticing how slow moving a lot platforms were and how annoying Glados was. By the third time I played it I actually had to mute the sound because Glados was annoying me so bad. Last time I tried to play it I found myself skipping everything I could and still couldn’t seem to get through it fast enough.

Keep in mind this all just my opinion and what’s good or great is still going to be subjective since you can’t really quantify quality. I’m sure there’s some who find Portal thrilling every time they play it. But I do feel that people living today are more prone than ever to immediately shout out whatever they’re currently thinking the second it pops into their head. Things like Facebook and Twitter seemed to be made to encourage such behavior and there’s dozens of other places you can go to say whatever you want the second you think it.

If you look at this picture long enough it's possible to travel back in time!

It’s like everyone and their mother is on the internet babbling incoherently these days.

And that’s everyone right, but if you really want to advertise something you think is one of the best things ever, it might be helpful to give it a second spin first. If it really is as great as you think it is, then there should be no problem. You’re getting to experience something amazing a second time and you might even notice some things that you didn’t catch the first time. If it isn’t great, well, you might save yourself some embarrassment.


One response to “My Biggest Surprises and Disappointments of the Last Gaming Generation Big Disappointment: Portal

  1. VideoGameHater January 26, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    you should rename this series as “the king has no clothes”, as I was expecting you to shout out anytime. Also portal sux

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