Portal: Still Alive is the arcade version of the game Portal, which came on the Orange Box. Although the game has some extreme similarities, there are some subtle differences, specifically in the achievements and the bonus levels at the end. It should be noted that if you are looking for an overall view of the game, this will probably suffice. I would write a review on the other version but I only played through it once, and did not attempt much of the bonus material or go for the achievements. In Portal: Still Alive I spent substantial time – It was the first xbox live arcade game I bought along with MLB Stickball and TMNT 1989 Arcade – therefore I was adamant in getting their values worth.
The game of Portal is an interesting one.
You are a person whose life story never gets fully told. Instead you are just given random information – such as no one will miss you, that you had no friends, etc – so that you can perceive yourself as some sort of either loner or prison convict. You will almost never see yourself throughout the game, but you will be able to see the gun attached to your arm. This gun creates portals, as to the name. These portals will create the capability to transport you from a part of a room to another part of a room. As you progress through the game you will gain the ability to fire two portals, and then travel through one and out the other. Using this portal technology will allow you to navigate through difficult puzzle chambers.
The game is so unique in that it took something so simple and made it rather complex and thought provoking. There is definitely a certain amount of joy when you figure out a puzzle for the first time – or you figure it out in a way that you think was different than intended. There are numerous ways to solve many of the puzzles, and videos online are sure to echo this fact. Besides from the obvious warping yourself around, you’ll also be triggering switches with boxes, with cubes, and with balls of energy that can travel through your portals. You’ll also take advantage of momentum – if you are to fall downward into a portal your energy continues as you fly out the other side of the portal – allowing you to travel at high distances quickly.
The game requires some problem solving ability and some quick trigger fingers at times, but it is in no way only for the elite amongst us. It took me probably five hours to get through the whole game, and that is on the longer side of most gamers. I allowed my girlfriend to play with me, and so we were constantly fooling around with the portals.
Although the game does require some thought, there isn’t much difficulty in using the controls. Each trigger will shoot out one of the two portals. It should be noted that you can only have one portal of each color out at a time or else the previous portal will evaporate. Beyond that you can use the “A” button to do a small hop – nothing like what you know in Halo 3 – but it still has its potential use. That’s really about it.
The game has save points automatically throughout the game, specifically after you complete something difficult. However, I did notice that some of the save points were fluctuating, depending on exactly where you stepped. If you don’t fully trust the save points, or want to create your own, you’re welcome to by pressing start. These save points that you create will stay there for an extended period of time, not deleting until you overwrite them. The automatic save points will save over each other.
There are about fifteen to twenty levels, give or take. They obviously start off easier and get more difficult as you progress. The game starts of exceedingly simple in an attempt to make it easy for you to understand the portals ability. You are even welcome to see a reflection of yourself so that you can see the portal is essentially attached to you.
The plot is something that deserves its own award. As I mentioned before it is cloudy as to whom exactly you are, but the people driving you to do these tasks are even more shrouded in mystery. You’ll be listening to a central person the whole game. This person has the most dry humor you’ve ever heard, and it simply makes the game, without a doubt. Without this dry humor that the game places in, this game would have little replay value, but instead you’ll actually find yourself laughing at the television. You’ll get lied to, be promised cake, a party, and you’ll meet the companion cube, who you simply should not incinerate.
Despite the game being exceedingly simple, they put a good amount of thought into the programming. Although it is possible to get stuck, the game acknowledges this and will reset you to a safe location. Plus, in all honesty, it’s pretty hard to do unless you look it up on the internet. There are also areas you can go into that really have no point (behind pipes and what not) and you’ll still be able to get yourself out. The game also does well in providing places to seek out and enjoy – there were people before you – and they created hiding places. Finding them is part of the adventure, and also an achievement.
Although I’ve stated the game is a series of puzzles, it does have a developing plot that doesn’t leave you like you did nothing at the end but move forward. I won’t ruin it for you, but it was possibly my favorite ending ever to a single player game, and I’ve played hundreds of games.
When you do complete the game you can play some bonus levels. These are the same levels that you had played previously, but changed so as to make them more difficult. You will also try to get a gold medal by completing each task in such a way if you so desire (Time, Steps taken, Portals Created). It’s honestly a bunch of fun, and people are vigilante about posting their new high scores online if you’re really curious. There are a multitude of videos online showing you how to do each one too if you can’t seem to figure it out yourself. These are the challenging parts of the game, which was well done. In this fashion you won’t get upset beating the single player and moving the plot forward, but you can have the challenge of difficult gameplay.
Once you beat the game, or have completed any level, you can go back and replay that level if you so desire. Or you can just start the game over.
Some have complained that the gameplay is too short. Others have praised its short gameplay for keeping it interesting. I tend to side with the second opinion. The game might have gotten a little frustrating and repetitive if it would have gotten any more difficult during the story mode, and I may have lost a little interest. I felt that the best place to expand the length of the game was in the bonus levels area, which they did exceptionally.
Single Player Score: 10/10
There is no multiplayer, and I cannot see a way in which a multiplayer would really work in the game. That being said, a co-op mode is planned for the sequel, but I believe it's making its own distinct story mode.
Mutliplayer Score: N/a
You’ll be looking at mostly solid walls a lot, since those are what you can create portals on. But the game realizes that this is the least exciting, so it often times tries to put in interesting sceneries and settings. You’ll see walls that you can travel through but portals can’t be shot through. The game will also put slants on the sides to make it more difficult to bounce things around out of your portals.
The game does very well in establishing the fact that you’re in an experimental facility by placing video cameras everywhere, as well as one-way glass high above where you presume inspectors are watching you perform. The shooting of the portals looks very good as well, and the things bouncing around actually take realistic paths based on physical boundaries and understandable physics. The cutscenes, which notably happen at the end of the game, are nothing you’d see out of a disc based game, but they are very good for the game. Everything will stay in the fashion of a laboratory facility, and the theme stays evident throughout the game.
Graphics score: 10/10
The sound is basically going to get a perfect score just because of the comedy used in the game. I emphasize that there has never been a better humor element in a video game than Portal. The voice acting, specifically the fluctuations in speech as well as the laughter, which actually sounds like the typed words “Ha ha ha” is hysterical. Although your character never speaks, it’s just as well, since some lame comeback might have ruined the game’s atmosphere. There are also the sounds of pistons pumping, balls bouncing around, and the picking up and dropping of objects. It’s excellent in every way.
Sound score: 10/10
At first look you might think that these achievements are particularly hard. “I have to go through the game only stepping through the blue portal?! That’s impossible!” In reality this only requires the use of some careful save points, as does never getting hit by a bullet. I beat the game the first time through just to see what it was about, which unlocked some achievements and allowed me access to the bonus levels. I then went back through the game a second time and got the achievements for never getting shot and never going through the orange portal. They were honestly not that hard if you’re consciously thinking about them.
Although they aren’t that hard, the achievements are very well written. They require you to play the game in a different manner, which is something few games accomplish. It will basically force you to become actually good at the game in the bonus sections, instead of just capable. In all honesty the achievements are extremely fun to do, something many achievements can’t brag about.
Achievement score: 10/10
The only stuff you can download is the game video and the game demo. This is kind of a disappointment at the moment because it is obviously very easy to create some content for this – just create some more levels. However, I can understand how they may be more interested in making a sequel to the game instead.
DLC score: N/a
Final Score: 10/10
• Ingenious game play and level design means that this game was a simple hit.
• Controls are simple and easy to get used to.
• You get significant enjoyment out of solving a tough puzzle.
• Sound and graphics are exceptional.
• There has never been a funnier video game.
• The plot makes sense, is well explained, and has a great ending.
• The story mode is difficult enough, but not too difficult to annoy you. They effectively use the bonus level area to put in the more difficult parts.
• If you’re really that stuck, the internet is littered with how-to videos and explanations
• The story mode is considered too long by some (though I disagreed above)
• The story mode is considered too easy by some (though I disagree)
I think that if you own any arcade games at all, and you don’t own Portal: Still Alive, you’re doing something wrong. I guess I could understand if you own the Orange Box, but I actually rented the Orange Box after playing through this off of my xbox. I enjoyed this one slightly more because it came out second, and seems to have any small glitches fixed and the bonus levels are easier to understand.
The one on the Orange Box does seem to have a mode in which you can play through the game with commentary from the creators by looking at everything, which is actually pretty interesting, and I’m not sure that the arcade version had this. The one crack on this game is that there are some slightly long loading times each time you die, which, honestly, will happen quite frequently. That isn’t even close to enough though to deter you from purchasing this gem, which, in my opinion, is absolutely in the top three of single player xbox live arcade games on the xbox 360.