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12 Reviews

Portal

Review: Defiantly outside of the (Orange) box

Well fancy that; if you'd have spoken to us a year ago we would've never predicted that Portal on Xbox 360 would have turned out been the definitive version. Despite being used to a mouse and keyboard for shooters, Valve's head-flipping puzzler works flawlessly on 360's pad.

The analogue sticks have been tuned to the sweet spot, they allow you to navigate the environment and hit the mark without slipping, while the slow, strategic nature of the game naturally lends itself to feet-up-on-the-couch.

Graphically, while we're never going to compare it to a ninja PC rig on a 40-inch monitor, the 360 version stands proud alongside its PC counterpart.

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The console edition sports some lovely hi-res textures and lighting effects, while the framerate, most impressively, refuses to budge even when arsing around with portals is literally turning the game world on its head.

One small step...
In typical Valve fashion you're eased into the concept slowly, starting off with a portal gun capable of shooting entrance portals onto the surface of walls and ceilings.

The set-up isn't all that different from a puzzle game. You wake up in a lab with no idea of why you're there or what the hell's going on. As you work your way through the 16 floors of the Aperture Science Labs things start to come clear as you begin to master the power of portal hopping to cross gaps, get to high ledges and reach otherwise unreachable areas. Yes, it's all a bit mental.

Cross into a blue entrance portal and you'll pass through the orange exit portal. Simple, until that is you're falling from the ceiling and flying across gaps in gaming's biggest physics head-spin.

The swish, clean art style isn't a mistake either. It makes figuring out where things are, and what you're supposed to do, far easier than if Portal took place in Half-Life 2's industrial warehouse.

Subtle, visual cues are everywhere; sparks and scorches on ceilings and walls provide easy reference for aiming, so manoeuvring energy balls and objects to exactly where you want them is never a problem. It's another example of Valve's famous play-testing in action.

Your only company in empty, sterile labs of Aperture Science is the voice of GLaDOS, the computer overseer of all the complex's whacky physics experiments. You've likely heard her distinctly robotic voice in Portal's advertising, and know full well what we mean when we say she's one of the most charming game characters we've ever encountered.

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Stand next to a switch for too long and we're told to move along quickly, because "the effects of overexposure to the button are not part of this test".

Later when we've teamed up with our equally loveable 'Companion Cube' GLaDOS alerts us that the cubed comrade isn't a real person and, in fact, can't even talk. "In the even that the Companion Cube does speak, we advise you disregard its advice."

She's the centre piece of a storyline that goes far deeper than originally expected, and holds plenty of secrets that need to be unravelled.

Dancing on the ceiling
Once the training wheels are off and you gain the power to control both portals - entrance and exit - things get a lot more fun. Again in typical Valve fashion you're eased into the idea of hopping through space; the same puzzles are laid out in front of you only this time the exit portals are left completely in your lap.

Once you've gotten your head around the general idea Portal introduces the main puzzle theme, which is using our old mate gravity to assist your hole-hopping - and your head will be left well and truly spinning. Figuring out how to jump vertically downwards into a portal and thrust horizontally out of the wall exit is incredibly satisfying and a blast to play.

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