the artistry and psychology of gaming


Portal: The Flash Version

Portal: The Flash Version

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

So far in Portal Month, we have followed the progress of the game from conception to expansion, and now comes the next logical step… recapitulation.

Portal: The Flash Version

For those who are feeling a little flat

Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Link to Game:
Game Info: Put together by We Create Stuff in honor of Valve’s Portal shortly after its release.

One of the more frequent praises I have heard towards the game Portal has been how its puzzle-based gameplay uniquely unfolds over the first person perspective. While the perspective has primarily been implemented to great success in shooting, action and targeting games, Portal’s use of the perspective and control system within the setting of a logical or thinking game was uncommon to say the least. However, is it because of their use of the perspective that allowed for the game to achieve its success? What happens when you take that perspective away, but retain the same functionality of the portal gun? For the answer, we can look at an exciting fan project; one created out of love for Portal and Valve’s unique physics experiments. We have Portal: The Flash Version.

TFV features the laboratory setting, the objects, the gameplay, the color scheme, and the overall spirit of the original Portal, but the action unfolds over a 2D plane, with the player staring across at the character as he (it’s a “he” this time; you’re test subject 15837) moves from one side of the screen to the elevator at the other. This time starting right away with the ASHPD in hand and control over both portals from the very begining, the game wastes no time in pushing through the introductory material to get you right into the puzzle material. And pretty much right away you’ll be into a difficulty level right around Portal‘s midsection. Level 10 in Portal, where you begin to understand the nonexistent effect the portals have on inertia (as GLaDOS puts it; “speedy thing goes in: speedy thing comes out”), is instead established on level 2.

What goes down, must come up...or left or down again, or whichever.

Because of this expedited learning curve, the overall challenge level of the puzzles is higher in average than the original game.The portal concept is well executed in 2D, with several levels keeping you guessing as far as your next move (although if you’ve played Portal, there are a few levels late game that introduce “new” concepts that you will have already understood). It was also nice to see each of the general tasks (guide the red energy ball to its core, avoid turret fire, drop cubes on buttons) carried over as well and perhaps even taken even further up in difficulty than they were before. In one case, you could use cubes to build a makeshift wall to block fire from a turret for example. The number of levels is also double the number of the original game with 40, with a good amount of variation throughout.

The game is very cool in concept, and an excellent homage to the original work, however it is not without its complaints. The first is that the game does little to further Valve’s dark sense of humor, an area that was a real driving force behind completing the original game. Hearing GLaDOS speak was a real treat throughout, and I wish that more had been injected into the text writing for TFV to replicate that. Granted, the writing within Portal was stellar, so it did set a high bar, but after becoming accustomed to it, the humor was a hard thing to let go of.

The second, and more concerning criticism is regarding the controls. Portal utilized both mouse buttons: left click for one portal, right click for the other. TFV, however, is only able to utilize one due to the browser format. Therefore, portals alternate between clicks, which can prove frustrating when planning your moves. More than once I’ve expected one color, but got another, to which I had to walk over to reset. In some cases, I’ve had to restart some puzzles dependent on starting position because my momentum was lost.

Yikes, spikes! Sometimes you have to act quick.

All in all, it’s still a worthwhile game for Portal fans, and a testament to the quality of the portal mechanic outside of it’s original format. The game has also since been rewarded by Valve Proper, with the Portal: The Flash Version Mappack (Released on the 360 with Portal: Still Alive) which brought some of the flash levels into 3D, bringing the Portal process full circle.

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