The gaming community is in the process of going nuts over this trailer for Portal, an expansion for Half-Life 2: Episode 2 that is supposed to ship next year. We're crazy for it because the gameplay allows players to place portals on walls that lead to other player-created portals. Imagine being able to bend space however you want at a moment's notice. It's hard to describe with words, so I am hereby ordering you to download the playable concept demo Narbacular Drop which is from the same group of developers. Gamasutra had a few words with the group of students behind the game not too long ago in which the demo is described thusly:
"Narbacular Drop is an environmental puzzle game in a fantasy setting, where the player navigates a dungeon with two interconnected portals. The dungeon has a series of traps and puzzles, which the player must solve by moving around objects in the environment using the portals. The key feature of this game is the Portal System. The game will be developed for the Windows 2000/XP PC. The game is non-violent and would receive an E for Everyone rating. The target audience is young casual gamers and hardcore gamers."
This PC demo features the same portal gimmick but without the ticking clock element seen in the Portal trailer. It's pure puzzler which I have to admit I like over ceilings that crush and platforms that fall. If I'm playing a game that takes logic and creativity to solve beyond just running and jumping, I don't like having to rush through the thought process because spikes are about to drop on my character. There's a great lightbulb-over-the-head "Eureka!" moment when I come up with the solution to an obstacle, and that moment is ruined when I have to outrun the horrible danger coming up from behind. Portal looks great, but Narbacular Drop seems more fun.
As a final thought, after playing the demo think about how well this game could work with the Nintendo Wii's freehand controller. Imagine the possibilities.