E3 2010: Quantum Theory Hands-On Impressions At Kombo
GameStop From An Alternate Universe

Portal Gaming Challenge Ends In Failure

Portal It all started with Heavy Rain.  Or, rather, it all started with the fact that I wasn't rushing to play Heavy Rain.  My lack of interest in Quantic Dream's interactive drama title for the Sony PlayStation 3 led to a few of my Kombo co-workers wagering on whether or not I'd enjoy the game if I were to play it.  This led to my friend Keri Honea lending me a copy of the game, and then the challenge was on.  It took me about a month of on-again, off-again play, but I eventually finished the adventure and delivered my summation (more on that on a future episode of Power Button).  It seemed only fair to me, however, that I issue a challenge of my own back at Keri, and since she'd never played Valve Software's Portal, the choice was obvious.  She started on the Microsoft Xbox 360 version of Chell's quest, but as she notes on her new blog Gaming Succubus, GLaDOS got the better of her.

For the first 14 chambers, I loved it. I loved how it challenged me to think outside of typical space dimensions and solve crazy puzzles. I loved the hilarious depictions of warnings (as shown above). The computer taunting you the entire way is also quite humorous. I can’t decide if my favorite line from it was “If you die, you will be…missed,” or “At the end, we will celebrate with cake.” I 100% appreciate what the game is and why it has such a massive fan following. It’s creative, it’s humorous, and it forces you to be clever.

However, one technique of the game has utterly frustrated me to the point of possible no return. In Chamber 15 (Chapter 7), you have to master the art of double flinging, meaning while you’re falling through one portal, immediately blast another portal where you will land so that you will have enough momentum to launch you past obstacles. I was able to figure out the technique at the first instance, but I nearly threw my controller at the TV with the next one. I couldn’t get Chell to face the right direction while falling and blast a portal where she would actually land. Somehow I always landed to the left or above my landing portal. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I never play anything in first-person POV, so I have had a hard time getting used to not “seeing” my character, only seeing what’s in front of me, and general aiming. I had flashbacks to college where I couldn’t walk through a simple doorway in GoldenEye 64.

I always felt like I was getting close to mastering it, but after 15 tries and failures, it stopped being fun. And yes, I need games to be fun, whether they are fun with gameplay or fun with story. I need that to continue. And Portal sadly didn’t have it. I may try again another time, but with my huge stack of games glaring at me, it’s time to move on and not spend additional time with a game that right now is not fun for me.

She was so close to the end!  It's a shame that she's decided to move on, but perhaps she'll revisit it someday to see the shocking finale.  In the meantime, we've issued additional challenges to one another.  She's going to give Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Mario RPG for the Nintendo GameCube and Super NES respectively her attention next, while I'm going to make time for Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS and the original Kingdom Hearts for the Sony PlayStation 2.  The whole point of this exercise is to open ourselves up to new gaming horizons that we've otherwise overlooked, but who says the journey can't be a little fun, too?