"Who are we, and why are we here in this white-walled labyrinth?' At the outset, it isn't important. The Aperture gadget dazzlingry different, distracts all attention, as does the fuzzy female voice that goads us on. Carry crates here, warp there—we do as we're told until the tasks turn lethal and "she" sounds more and more like 2001: A Space Odysse/s amok mainframe. At this point, one of many moving platforms malfunctions. What's behind its sanitized surface hints at the rabbit o hole's true dimensions.
The more intricate the rat maze, the more necessary the rewarri—part of Portafc sinister genius lies in the cheese-crumb trail it leaves Puzzle solving is an end in itself and the game's Skinner boxes (note that, like the computer intelligence pulling our strings. Valve remotely tracks player progress. indirectly seeing what stumps us) are supremely entertaining to crack in on-again-off-again sessions. With the help of a narrative nicely tied to that of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, however, "now and again" becomes 'nonstop, three-to-four-hour play-through" (but that's between you and Valve).
Easy to spoil, the plot is also archly comic. Know that automated sentries, there to eviscerate test subjects who fail to upend them with portal improv. whisper sweet and oddly pitched "Marco's to our suspicious "Poto"s. Know that the game's PMSing HAL 9000 provides us with a Valentine's heart-tagged crate and calls it a "companion cube* Know that it orders players to incinerate the thing once we've used it to depress switchplales (a pun on the infamous 1960s Mikjram social-psych experiment that showed people's readiness to perform acts that conflict with their personal conscience, provided an authority figure instructs it). Know that Portal, alongside Episode Two, proves the creative viability of games that are neither low-rent/casual/arcade nor costly all-or-nothing wagers in the monolithic triple-A market. But above all, know that we're being f'"ed with in the best way.