Critical Play – Puzzles

For this critical play, I revisited Portal 1 by Valve on PC. The game is accessible to both younger (middle school) audiences and up and does not involve many if any age-restricted barriers to entry. The main mechanic and innovation of the game is the portal gun which is the main tool that the player utilizes besides walking and jumping. The gun does not shoot bullets or ammunition of any sort but rather allows players to create passages with start and end points. The player is able to create two endpoints at a time where each is denoted by either a blue or orange oval and neither portal is necessarily defined as either an entrance or exit. One can jump or move into the portals or throw objects inside in order to move things across the room. This mechanic allows the player to traverse space without linearly walking or jumping from one point to another. One can also reset the portals since each portal shot (for a given color) overrides the previous placement. In terms of setting, the game takes place in a sci-fi-esque laboratory and has an overall robotic and dystopian feel. The puzzles and gun mechanic fit the theme of the game perfectly since the setting, story, and mechanic all feel authentic to this aesthetic.

As for my own play experience, I personally loved the game and thought that the game provided one of if not the most unique puzzle experiences I have experienced in a video game. I found that the ability to combine the element of space with logical puzzle solving was extremely immersive and engaged both the rational side of my brain and my keyboard-oriented motor functions. The puzzles were the right level of difficulty and were all cleverly designed and satisfying to solve. As mentioned earlier, the game also has an extremely well-defined world with excellent storytelling skills and made it easier to invest emotionally in the puzzles. Overall, the puzzles certainly enhance player immersion within the Portal world and the game achieves this through its simple yet well executed mechanic, its reality-bending premise, and overall thematic cohesion.


About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.