Recursive Portal

As I will point out in the Orange Box Manifesto if I ever complete the darn thing (and I’m planning to work on it in the break between spring and summer semesters), Portal: The Flash Version is one of the things that convinced me to take the plunge on The Orange Box.

P:TFV was actually made before the OB came out (I’m pretty sure, unless I’m wrong). The reason the guys at We Create Stuff were able to make it is in part due to the detailed trailers of Portal Valve released. As a result, while P:TFV kept with the spirit of Portal, it had a bunch of stuff the final Portal game didn’t have and vice versa.

Until now. They’ve remade P:TFV as maps for Portal and added a bunch of extra stuff for good measure. (If you try to play it yourself, bear in mind that you need HL2 installed as well.) I’m going to stop typing now and play it!

EDIT: It is gooooood.

The plotline is mostly similar to the original with a few crazy twists thrown in. It doesn’t end with the destruction of Aperture Science (it’s supposedly a prequel, though there are a couple parts that aren’t necessarily canon) or a song, or a big reveal*, but it’s an adequate ending. The pacing is a bit off, with the scenery switching back and forth between test chambers and behind-the-scenes parts, so it’s difficult to determine just how far you’ve progressed at any given point unless you’re counting how many lines GLaDOS has yet to say (I think they use all her standard lines, a couple re-edits and one or two lines that were cut out of the original).

The environments are a LOT more lethal than in the original. This is definitely designed for Portal veterans. The puzzles are slightly trickier for the most part, compounded by the extra death-trap-per-square-foot ratio, but definitely solvable with a little patience. I do admit I cheated, but only to deal with turrets that were distracting me too much from figuring out the solution. A few of the jumping puzzles in the beginning are unnecessarily tricky to pull off, and could have used some extra tweaking.

The biggest problem I had with it, which is the same mistake 98% of HL2 mod makers make, is that you rarely get a break. This is a particular problem during the final battle, which starts as a chase (with you as the prey) and ends with a hide-and-seek section. Figuring out how to beat the boss is a pain, and I’m not 100% sure how I did it (I think it’s vulnerable to it’s own energy balls, but I was too busy trying to get it to smash down a particular wall to realize it at the time.), but it seems that it will do itself in given enough time (because the balls bounce around and hit it, I think). But even before the boss, there’s too many test chambers with not enough breaks in between. There are some breaks, but not enough.

Despite these problems, it’s almost on par with the original. Because they didn’t have any new voice acting (most mods don’t, but there are a few), they couldn’t just add in extra instructions, so I’ll cut them a break for the parts that were a little vague. They added a lot of new puzzle elements that feel like they belong rather than being out of place, and the HL2 elements were subtle and cleverly worked in. Overall, it’s a pretty decent prequel, and definitely worth checking out. I wouldn’t take the time to complain so much if it wasn’t worth it. 🙂

*They obviously didn’t want to mess with canon too much, other than the one room where you encounter other Aperture Science test subjects (being vague here to avoid spoilers). So there’s a limit as to the kinds of endings that make sense. But given that they were using HL2 resources already, I would have ended with a cameo by HL2 characters at the end. But that’s just me nitpicking.

P.S. One last little nitpick: this should have been made as a proper mod, rather than a map pack. It’s big enough and original enough to justify being a mod, and I’ve seen plenty of mods that should have just been released as map packs. Also: it might be trickier to implement than I may be thinking, but the character in the original P:TFV was a guy, so why not change the character model from Chell to, say, Male 07 in an orange jumpsuit? They did almost exactly that in Rock 24 already. But I really should stop nitpicking now…

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