aka: Portal: A Computer Novel
Moby ID: 2164
Commodore 64 Specs
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Description official descriptions

Where are all the humans? Upon returning from your 100 year voyage in the milky way, you find earth empty and abandoned. Between the decaying remnants of civilization, you discover a terminal for Worldnet, the global network that recorded all human activities. The answer must lie deep in its database. Anxious, you log on.

Portal is a computer novel - an attempt of creating and adapting a novel specifically for the computer. The story of the boy Peter Devore, his incredible discovery and the mysterious portal are told by an AI named Homer, who reconstructs it piece by piece out of database fragments. As the plot develops, you acquire accompanying information by accessing eleven additional databases - for example a historical archive, military files or social backgrounds. As you switch between the databases to uncover new details, an extensive sci-fi story unfolds.

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Credits (Commodore 64 version)

11 People (7 developers, 4 thanks)

Written by
Produced by
Original Concept by
Designed by
Graphics by
Commodore version programmed by
Sounds by
Documentation by
Special Thanks To



Average score: 78% (based on 4 ratings)


Average score: 3.2 out of 5 (based on 37 ratings with 1 reviews)

An unique and exciting experiment, well written, perfectly designed.

The Good
You could go to great lengths arguing why novels on computers are doomed to be utter failures, and I wouldn't contradict. Reading lengthy texts on a screen is plainly painful. Literature and computers don't mix. However, this should not condemn the attempt, and I am very, very glad that this experiment was undertaken in Portal. Because it succeeded. It succeeded greatly, astonishingly, as it went as far as would ever be possible in uniting two media that are simply incompatible. The two excellent design features of Portal: An extremely comfortable, easy interface; and the ingenious idea to break down the story into tiny fragments. Pour an even amount of oil and water into a vessel and shake heavily. What will happen? The two won't mix -- there will be little bubbles of oil floating in the water. This is exactly what Portal does. Those bits of the plot, served as snacks and thus digestible, are woven into a network that slowly forms a picture, like a puzzle. This is the merit of Portal: Finding the only way to present a written novel on screen without growing boring, using the possibilities of a computer to induce thrill, and offering a structured interface and comfortable save function to transport it. Of course, this would all be in vain if the story wasn't well-written. Thank god it is.

The Bad
Now I went to great lengths to argue in favour of Portal. And as much as I love the game, the disadvantages of relying on written text on a PC are just too great to be overcome even by an attempt as perfect as Portal. To put it in a nutshell: As good as the story is -- it would have been better as a book. That's about all that Portal does: It eliminates as many funkillers as possible in this unholy merger of book and game, but it can never add a new experience.

The Bottom Line
A brave, imaginative experiment to adapt a novel to a computer, and the only one necessary: Being perfect in its implementation and design, Portal has taken the blend of media to its deepest depths. As it rendered further tries obsolete at the moment of its publication, Portal stands out as the one, truly unique computer novel.

PC Booter · by -Chris (7766) · 2000


Subject By Date
Next up to the Kickstarter trough... Pseudo_Intellectual (66248) May 17, 2012


If you don't have the patience to read the story of Portal within the game interface, Portal was also published as a novel by Rob Swigart. There was a U.S. hardcover edition from St. Martin's in 1988 (ISBN 0-312-01494-5) and a U.K. paperback edition from Grafton in 1989 (ISBN 0-586-20649-3).

The novel uses the game's format of presenting the story as short fragments "written" by Homer, supplemented by information from other databases. I haven't compared in great detail, but the text appears to be mostly unchanged from the game.


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  • MobyGames ID: 2164
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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by -Chris.

Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST added by POMAH. Macintosh added by Corn Popper. Apple II added by ClydeFrog.

Additional contributors: andyhat, Salim Fadhley, formercontrib.

Game added August 14, 2000. Last modified August 30, 2023.