While I had played the first installment of Portal before, I chose this game (and its sequel, Portal 2) as the what I wanted to study for a few reasons – firstly, I’m a huge fan of puzzle-based games, and Portal is definitely one of those. Each level presents a (usually) clear beginning and ultimate goal, so it’s up to the player to navigate the level and determine how to solve it in order to move on to the next challenge. While the levels are fairly simply presented, with each one clearly delineated as being its own level, they still can be quite challenging. Secondly, I wanted to look at Portal because of its very unique and intriguing game mechanics. Again, it’s a very simple game, but out of its simple mechanics emerges a variety of challenges along with a fairly interesting narrative (more so in Portal 2 than 1, however).
Although I had played Portal before, I found it very interesting to go through the first levels of the game again having already known the basic mechanics. Rather than actually trying to figure out what was going on, I could focus more on how the game introduces and teaches these mechanics and skills to the player. There are no formal “training levels”, but rather levels that allow you to figure out the mechanics on your own and to learn your skills through very simple challenges. Eventually, you progress to levels that are much less guided. Here, the game forces you to begin having to really think in order to solve the puzzles and advance. I always find these levels, however, to be the most rewarding.
While I haven’t played Portal 2 myself, I have seen a friend play some parts of it, and I definitely remember it being much more narrative-heavy than the first one. In Portal 1, the player is guided by a narrator with a robot-voice through this testing facility of some sort. I don’t remember the ending, but overall it’s a rather simple storyline. In the original, it seems that they were much more focused on introducing their very unique mechanics and gameplay as opposed to focusing on the story. In the sequel, however, since most players were already familiar with the gameplay, they could expand, adding in new challenges and a more complex story arc. I’m definitely excited to see firsthand what all Portal 2 offers and how it builds upon the very successful original, especially in regards to how it handles narrative.
– Logan W