You might see the title attached to this post and initially think that I must not have liked Portal, because pretty much everyone liked this game, and so for everyone to be wrong, the game must in fact in my opinion not be good. Well, that’s not what I am saying. Quite the contrary to that in fact, I am saying that Portal is fantastic, it’s great and it’s brilliant, and quite simply, Portal is just way better than you think it is.
Call my approach to sharing my opinion cocky, incredibly confrontational, or all too agressive, but alas, I was recently inspired by an occurence at Penny Arcade and the flak they were getting for sharing their opinions in a similar way, but I found myself not only agreeing with what they said, but moreso and more importantly, being really satisfied by the way in which they conveyed their opinions, so I would like to do no less. I’m starting this with Portal, which is sort of ironic because, amidst the plethora of situations in which I find myself having an opinion far different from the general consensus, bordering on opinions that are simply the polar opposite of each other, I choose to discuss a game that is roughly unanimously appreciated for quality. Alas, I generally find myself in the minority in thought, whether I do it to myself accidentally, or whether I really do just go against the grain instinctively, I do not know, but it really does happen to me all of the time, and Portal, an enjoyment I share with most people, is no different.
To elaborate though, people do enjoy Portal, but I hear many complaints from people, albeit minor, I do not agree with them, and furthermore, often times I feel that people missed the point and beauty and purpose of the game being done in this way, and thus found a point of complaint, when instead it should have been a new and inspirational look at game creation. I’m sure you’ve heard most of the same positive things I have, and as well as most of the same complaints I have, so I will quickly try to outline some of these.
First the mutually agreeable positive things about Portal. The technology is cool, the puzzles are fun and interesting, great replay value, amazing atmosphere and story, incredibly quirky concepts to give a life-long lasting appeal. And of course, the cake is a lie, and the ending credits theme, which really and truly tied the theme for the whole game together to give a deeper understanding to the development than most of what existed in the game to begin with.
Now, the complaints. Too short, not enough puzzles, no fighting enemy soldiers and AI and stuff, no other weapons, no “real story,” etc. Like I said, people enjoy the game, but they list these as reasons that keep the game from being an incredible game, or a “perfect” game, generally minor in complaint, but even still these should not be so. All of the complaints above pretty much translate to the same two things, too short and expecting a generic FPS game not Portal. Alas, for the gamer looking for the generic FPS and not Portal, they can thankfully appease their feeble mind by the Orange Box package as opposed to Portal alone, but that is an irrelevant point. On the other hand though, for the gamer looking for variety of gameplay options as well as a game with which they could spend a lot of time with, Portal alone is not the game for them, because I think it was simply designed to be the length that it is, and from beginning to end made with no intention to be more than what is given.
Portal gives you a technology, a system, a new and incredible gun. It gives you a fast learning curve into “thinking with portals,” and causes you to completely experience the phenomena. The game could have created another 100 levels introducing one new concept per stage, but that would add such an artificial length to the game, and would in essence kill the majesty that the story and length gives you otherwise. It gives you the Source Engine, and an idea on how to create good puzzles. Anyone can create a good puzzle for you if you want one, and you can try to create one for others as well, creating more puzzles on their end can truly be an unending process that conceptually would add no value other than more time to play, and would instead destroy so many other things. Why do you think you have so many people who have in fact completed the game, and so many people on the inside of the joke and able to snicker when referring to the popular line “The cake is a lie!” Would the mechanic not get boring and too tiresome and tedious for your average player? How much time do you think the average player interested in Portal will really have to spend thinking outside of the box?
Portal’s length allows it create a funny and entertaining story, and a game that can be enjoyed by anyone. It introduces and gets you familiar with the concept, it gives you the tools and means for anyone to create new levels, and it does it all in a movie-like single session play of a mere two to three hours. I remember back when I thought it was just going to be a trial of levels with no cohesive story whatsoever. Who in their right minds would have preferred that? Portal is a truly unique experience, and it’s something that can be experienced only in games and honestly would be a different experience if done any other way.
Call it personal preference if you disagree with me, and I’m sure there are actually a lot of you that agree even with me, and so saying “everyone,” is somewhat absurd, but alas, I think ‘everyone’ is far closer to being appropriate than ‘no one.’
November 29th, 2007
So, this post is entitles, Super Mario Happiness. Well, why is this? Well, I found it fitting on many levels. First, there is the “URMRGAY” amusing coincidence discovered about the letters that appear to have sparkles on them. Second, and by far most importantly, is the fact that, well playing Super Mario games just plain makes me happy, be it Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and no less, Super Mario Galaxy.
So, needless to say, I love this game. I did in fact play this game almost non-stop for the past two days (since it’s release), and I have in fact “beaten” the game (by which I mean, beaten the game first pass, which refers to the fact that I’ve beaten the game sans 100% completion… on which I’d like to add that I plan on doing it second pass later in the evening tonight.) The thoughts and opinions I am about to share came with much thought and insight, as such.
First of all, I love this game. It’s brilliant and it’s fantastic. So much platforming goodness. It takes me so far back, the feeling is so SM64. It feels so old school. There’s no stress about collecting this or collecting that, completing this objective, not screwing up this side-quest, blah blah blah, or anything like that, it’s all carefree and fun. It’s genuinely fun, at that; not like one of those things where you’re having fun going for a reward and a goal, and collecting the reward is fun despite the path their being riddled with bits of tediousness and the like, no you’re playing it for the pure joy and goal of playing it. It feels like SM64 in that the star is simply a hint at what you could try to do that might be a lot of fun.I love the new mechanics, the new gameplay, the visuals, the music, the powers, the level design, both aesthetically and functionally, the *snicker* voice acting, I love it all, and I love playing it on the Wii and with the Wiimote and Nunchuck. I feel it’s exactly what a Mario game should be. There were moments where I was surprised by what I was playing, where I for a fleeting moment thought that I was getting something below what I expected, but I found that they instead gave me what I wanted knowing more what would please me than I myself knew.
I’ve heard a lot of early critiquing for the game, such as the game being far too easy, well, I disagree with that notion. I think it’s the perfect level of dificulty: it starts out easy, gets more challenging, presents optional challenges for people not up to the task, and especially difficult ones for renown experts. Though, I rarely find a problem with difficulty in a game, or lack thereof… I know I’m pretty good at games, so expecting games created to give me a hard time would, in my opinion, be a game made far too difficult. Also I’d like to add, sure I could be one of the people boasting about only dying a handful of times throughout my entire adventure, but I’d be exaggerating for one, and two, the difficulty in most adventure games today can rarely be quantified by the number of times you were killed.
I’ve also heard some comparisons on the process of shaking the Wiimote to accomplish the spin when a button press could accomplish the same task just as easily. Well, after much thought, I think I prefer the waggling. It truly sends across the meaning of what you are doing in exerting the extra energy on your behalf to get that perfectly times spin and such. If it was just a button press, the action wouldn’t feel as significant, that little bit of energy that you have to yourself exert really truly makes the action feel so much smoother and better. And also, it really moves us into the new generation of timing movements of our body appendages along with movement of our thumbs/fingers/eyes/etc.My only “complaint,” which isn’t really much of a complaint, is that each “galaxy” has the luxury or being like a small level just connected with the launcher stars, so you don’t get to have those well designed large scale levels that you’d see in SM64. I mean, SMG has it’s own unique brilliant level design for sure, and it’s very impressive, and it’s at least as impressive, but I think it’s probably more challenging to do levels like you would see in SM64 than what you mostly see in SMG, which is the only downside to that thought.
Alas, I have not 100%’d this game yet, and believe me I will FOR SURE, but right now where I am with this game I will say this. I love this game, a lot, it is purely brilliant. It has some small flaws here and there that really make me wish for a teeny bit more. But anyway, this game is AMAZING, but it is not as good as SM64. Close, but not quite. Though it is the true sequel to that game in every way shape and form, and it is indeed SM64 reborn. To be honest, it’s almost everything I could hope for.
So, to describe a little bit of what I’m talking about, about doing more: I wish that you had to “earn” powers similar to how you would in SM64, which caused the powers to be unlocked all over the world. By this, new possibilities and areas would be opened in almost every world, giving you all sorts of amusing and interactive experiences. Also, as fun as the comets are, I wish instead that they were, “comet-stars” or something, and you could get one of each type on every level in the games, so like, 4 comet-stars per star basically. Sure, it’d be really hard, but it’d be for the uber-hardcore. And then instead of these stars-from-comets-stages, they had instead put in another 2 challenges on each level for stars, which surely they could have done. Though I must say, I’m glad the 100-yellow-coin challenges are gone. I never liked those.
Anyway, if I were to give this game a score, and though I choose not to do so, I would easily feel no regret about giving it a 10/10, but I feel a 9.5 is the score it deserves (hell, it’d be 9.9 if I believed in going by 0.1 increments)… which really makes me want to re-think the scores I’ve given other games in my mind. Honestly, it breaks my heart that this game has those shortcomings, because it really is so close to the perfect game, and having those extra little bit of tid-bits to make it that 10 really would have been a brilliant game to play, over and over again. Haha, I’ll be playing this one over and over for years to come anyway though.
November 16th, 2007