Portal to Insomnia

Stupid me, arriving early for The Golden Compass (very good, go see it, more later). A half hour to burn and a Best Buy within 500 feet means two new time wasters came home with me: The Shivering Isles and Valve’s The Orange Box. TOB wouldn’t normally show up on my radar, but the gamer blogs/podcasts have been raving about it–especially Portal.

Oh Valve, thank you. Portal lives up to the hype. Definitely first person, more puzzler than shooter, in a setting that feels like a near-future take on Paranoia. There’s a special place in my heart for insane computers, dangerous technology, and dark humor. Expect inventive game play, smooth graphics, great visual style, and merciful brevity. That brevity feels as deliberate as a filmmaker proving a concept with a short film before committing to a full feature. My only real complaint is how the frequent loading definitely broke immersion due to sound glitches and the literal text “Loading”. Tsk, tsk. Hopefully that won’t be the case with Half Life 2.

This is a must-play for PC gamers because of the fresh concept, well-realized setting, and replay value. I cackled, gasped, cursed, and back-talked my way through Portal in one sitting of about six or seven hours. Of course that means it’s 5:30 am. Ugh. So much for getting back into a more work-friendly sleep/wake cycle. More on Portal and other things time-wasting after some shut-eye.

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