Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Punting through Portal

I’ve already mentioned in my origins how I’m not the most experienced gamer. Whenever I would mention never having played Portal, people would give me a look of disbelief and question my being a “gamer” and a “nerd.” How could I not have played this classic? I promise I haven't lived under a rock folks, I've just never been much of an XBox/Xbox 360 player. If memory serves me well, Portal was originally released on this console and the PC. Until recently, I’ve also never been a PC gamer.

     Gaming cluelessness aside, I’ve always loved puzzles: Tetris, Bejeweled, Jenga, metal-mind-teaser-whatever-they’re-called things. Probably not so well known is the game “Crayon Physics.” My dad is a PC-man. I’m pretty sure he used to play DOOM or some FPS. He was the one who would tell me stories of his D&D group. I don’t remember why, but he was always interested in learning new, preferably educational, puzzle games. Crayon Physics is one. The concept, much like Portal’s, is incredibly simple. One draws planes, balls, boxes, and what have you that act within the rules of the game based off of real world physics. My dad, brother, and I would compete with the hope of either having the most creative way to solve a level aor to see who could go the furthest. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on stream before, but I am not the most spatially-conscious person. When I had to take my AP Physics class in high school… It was incredibly difficult for me. This game was a great exercise and challenge to help me practice spatial thinking processes. Granted, the game was only 2 dimensional but still, any help is a big help.

     Crayon Physics is the only sandbox/puzzle game I have any real extensive experience with. It has 70-something levels, and gods know I spent an obscene amount of hours to make it ¾ of the way through the game. I never completed it…but maybe I’ll download it to play as a mini game on stream. It holds a dear place in my heart, as games my dad, brother, and I played tend to do. Most of the puzzle games I’ve played are incredibly long. Tetris feels like it never ends. Bejeweled 2 has so many different modes of play, I’d be impressed to learn of anyone ever “completing” it. I was surprised this is not the case with Portal. I just played through the levels until they started to become a lot more difficult... then I started to wonder if the rest of the levels would be as difficult. I started wondering about the number of remaining levels sometime around level 14. Until then, I hadn't felt as though I had too much trouble with solving the levels. Any issues I had had more to do with my lack of playing with the controls or timing. Levels took me about 5 minutes to complete, with the occasional level taking approximately 10 minutes. 
Have I mentioned I love puzzles? Or sarcastic robots with killing tendencies? Any review I've read about Portal has always praised GLaDOS, the robotic she-devil. As much as I love her, I had no qualms with tossing her parts into the incinerator. The few times I sat down to play Portal, I've always enjoyed her snarkiness. Before this playthrough, I didn't know that the other little robots had their own voices and inklings of personality. Robot [cow] tipping? "Aaaaaaah!" "Are you still there?" "We pretended we were going to murder you." The little tidbits of character sprinkled throughout the game just added to the charm. Em, why are you talking to the game? Because I like to imagine the ridiculous answers the mechanical folk will give, of course! The game might be short, but these interactions just made the experience all the more enjoyable and make it worthwhile to come back. 
Character of the game aside, this is the first video game I've played that utilizes the WASD controls. It... took me quite some time to get somewhat adept at moving around this way. Em, don't you play FFXIV? Yes I do! Unlike Portal, FFXIV utilizes the mouse to move around, thankfully! It wasn't until I sat down to write this post that I realized this is also the first game I've played through that could possibly be considered a first person shooter. I've never been decent with FPS gameplay of any sort, mainly because of my atrocious eyesight. For those of you who have seen me play MtG Pictionary on stream, I have a difficult enough time just trying to keep track of my mouse courser. I'm glad that the game had a rather large "eye scope" to use for aiming to place portals.
Other than my difficulties adjusting to the game controls, the only complaint I have for the game has to deal with it only being playable only in full-screen mode. As a streamer, I try to have a set up that allows me to use the most of both monitors. When I have a game that forces me to use one screen, it causes a lot of issues since I use OBS as my broadcasting software. As far as I know, there are limits on the number of certain kinds of capture per monitor. I usually have my set up as the game and Twitch chat popout on one screen. When it's full screen, it doesn't let me do this and messes up the layout of everything else on my second monitor. Best way to describe it, which this has also happened when I play a few other games full screen, is to imagine everything on my monitors as having shifted to the right a few inches.
GLaDOS is the icing on the cake - see what I did there! - during the credits. I had a blast listening to her being "Still Alive." Portal doesn't have much of a story line, except for the constant promise of cake and not being murdered. I'm extremely competitive, so just the satisfaction of solving through the puzzles was enough of a motivator. I honestly believed the cake to be a lie, as some of the markings on the wall say. GLaDOS/Aperture delivered! We did it Blogger! Now let's make our escape before being dragged back to that awful testing place.