Monday, 18 November 2013
20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #8 - The Orange Box
Nestled in amongst three stellar Half-Life campaigns and Team Fortress 2's class clash was Portal, a short, sharp first-person puzzler. Ingenious teleportation guns aside, Portal lingers longest thanks to some genuinely good character-based writing - quite the coup considering the player controlled protagonist, Chell, was mute. Basically, Portal was Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream if the central hyper-computer was a malfunctioning incompetent. Like the Ellison overlord, Portal's AI GLaDOS had long since outgrown her pre-programmed parameters. She was stuck regurgitating basic sequences, going senile in the process. Instead of openly sadistic trials, GLaDOS strung Chell along through a rotting obstacle course with the strangely specific promise of cake. Sections of the testing area were missing, the gun turrets had developed empathy and any sense of meaning had long since evaporated. When Chell finally disobeyed, GLaDOS threatened her like an admonished child, desperate to cling onto her fading glimmer of half life.