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Description official description

Aperture Science is a secret weapons research organization in competition with Black Mesa. Chell is a test subject at the "Enrichment Center" facility who awakens to find an A.I. construct called GlaDOS requiring some tasks to be completed. They are testing the Aperture Handheld Portal Device (aka Portal Gun) which is able to create portals in space, allowing Chell to move from one point to another without actually crossing the distance. Chell is promised cake should she be able to overcome the obstacles and perform the necessary tests.

She has to use her new gun to fling, jump and fall her way through 19 puzzles. These include obstacles but also androids that fire at her. Although the game is played as a first-person shooter, a large amount of strategy and puzzle-solving is involved. After completing the game, two additional game modes become available: Challenge where the game needs to be completed in either as little time, as few footsteps, or as few portals as possible. The other mode is Advanced, where levels are made harder through additional obstacles.

Portal is set in the Half-Life universe and it is considered the spiritual successor to Narbacular Drop, some of whose original developers worked on this game. The Windows game can be bought stand-alone, while the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions are only available in The Orange Box.


  • ポータル - Japanese spelling
  • 포털 - Korean spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

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Average score: 87% (based on 41 ratings)


Average score: 4.2 out of 5 (based on 249 ratings with 6 reviews)

An exercise in how to tell a story without cutscenes

The Good
Portal is, at its heart, a puzzle game. You can place one portal here another there and walk through one to get to the other. Although the interface is typical of a first person shooter, there is no shooting of bullets on your behalf, the turrets on the other hand are rather trigger happy.

The FPS style wrapper for the game makes it immediately accessible to fans of that genre, but the game play is all about the puzzles. You proceed through the game completing rooms of increasing difficulty using portals to get around the obstacles. When you figure out the trick to a room there's a rewarding "Ah ha!" moment in your brain.

The story elements emerge out of the frame work of the game seamlessly. We don't need to be told exactly who we are or what we are doing there. We are put in the position of a mouse in a maze. A maze constructed by a sadistic AI personality. That's all there is to the story but how it unfolds is a brilliant example of minimalist writing.

You are never thrown out of the game world by an expository cut scene. The story happens through the dialogue and also later through pieces of the environment which suggest you are far from the first rat to run this maze.

The simple story reminds one of Harlan Ellison's AI gone mad in "I have no mouth but I must scream". And you have no mouth. Your character, though given the name Chell, is as silent as Valve's Gordon Freeman. Your own voice cursing or laughing is Chell's voice.

As simplistic as this may sound, the game is executed to a high level of quality. It's short. There is nothing extraneous present in it. Just very distilled puzzle game play surrounded by a simple plot that carries you along.

The ending, although well known and quoted to death by now, is one of the best I've seen in a video game. The end song flips the feeling of hatred you felt towards the AI in the game on it's head and makes you wish for more.

Should there have been more? Making a game this tight is a balancing act. I feel that if it had been longer perhaps the impact of the first play through would not have been so good. As it stands, they did an amazing job of creating the world of Portal around you as you played through the puzzles.

It does say something to the strength of the game that despite being bundled with an episode of Half Life 2, Portal has seen a sequel well before the next portion of Half Life 2. Talk about stolen thunder.

The Bad
I did feel that the difficulty in the game was a bit weird. Most of the earlier puzzles are easy to figure out. For a game having less than twenty total levels, the majority are easily cruised through.

The last couple of levels do present a challenge but some of this is from pure twitch mechanics not from brain work. For a game that relies so much on puzzle solving, it's odd that the hardest parts are just twitch timing.

The game is very short. An expert player could probably clear it in an hour or hour and a half. I replayed it before the sequel was released and it took me about three hours. I wasn't racing though, I spent time seeing the sights and messing with portals for kicks. For the price, it's not a bad value versus an evening at the movies but compared to the majority of video games it may seem way to brief.

The Bottom Line
Portal is a puzzle game in a FPS wrapper surrounded by dark humor. As Chell, the poor girl stuck like a mouse in a maze, you must use the portal gun to navigate the tests you are put through. The gun is simple to operate, one mouse button shoots the first portal, the other button shoots the second portal. Walk through one of these portals and you pop out where the other portal is located.

A simple concept, but you must use these portals to navigate some devious rooms, defeat or avoid bullet shooting turrets and even figure out how to use them to launch you up to seemingly unreachable locations.

The game runs smooth and using portals to get around is the essence of simplicity. It's almost too simple until you get to the final truly difficult rooms, which require you to generate new portals quickly while you are in motion.

The story comes in the form of dialogue from an insane AI, dedicated to testing the portal device. The humor is enjoyable and the voice acting superlative.

Short and sweet, Portal is a rare example of a game that doesn't overstay its welcome but rather leaves you wanting more.

Windows · by snuf (14107) · 2011

Fun but extremely overrated casual-type puzzle game

The Good
I got Portal through a free download promotional offer on Steam, so I really can't complain about value for money. I didn't really know anything about it except that I was aware of its positive reception back when it was released. Since I'm almost exclusively a retro gamer, I also took this as an opportunity to try out one of the very high-tech recent games to take advantage of my GeForce 9600, which has not seen any real load for the past two years since I bought it.

As it quickly turned out, this is actually a pure logic puzzle game. Your task is essentially to find your way through a three-dimensional level from the single entry point to the single exit point. The tricky part of this is to move between platforms that you can see but which are either vertically on a different level than you are or which are on the same level but horizontally removed from where you are standing (so there is a chasm between the two platforms). Unlike other platform puzzle games, you can neither jump nor climb ladders or ropes to reach a different platform. Sometimes you can use an elevator, but mostly your only way is either to fall on the platform you want to get to (which obviously only works downward) or to open a 'portal' between one of the walls of your current platform and a wall of the platform you want to reach by pointing the device you are carrying (the 'portal gun') to the the positions where you want the two openings of the two-way portal to appear and pushing the fire button. Or you can also create one end of your portal on the ceiling above the platform where you want to go and you can fall through that ceiling if you walk through the other end. Simple as that.

There are very few other elements in the game: Walls that you can't open a portal on (which are clearly distinguished from those that can be used for portal). Buttons you have to push to get sliding platforms moving. Stationary things that fire various (slow or fast) missiles that you have to avoid or that you have to use cleverly to destroy obstacles in your way. Floor switches that you have to put boxes on to open doors you couldn't get through otherwise. Deadly floors that you must not fall on. And finally the very clever use of gravity as a game mechanic in the maneuver called 'flinging' which is the only way to (sort of) jump in this game higher or longer than a foot or so.

There really isn't much in this game that we haven't seen before. Portal is basically like any other puzzle platformer (think Rick Dangerous, Lost Vikings, and so on), the main difference being the fact that it's a 3D world, which is of course by no means a trivial thing. Nor is the fact that this isn't such a revolutionary game (contrary what most reviews want you to believe) a bad thing as long as it's fun.

Getting into the game was very straightforward. The learning curve was VERY nicely balanced, new concepts (like how to move boxes on floor switches) are introduced step by step and are very easy to grasp this way About a quarter into the game you have learned everything needed to solve the later puzzles. The difficulty of the puzzles then steadily increases until you reach about half of the game (the 19th 'test level') and remains about constant from that point on. Difficulty is very manageable throughout the main game. There are a few tricky stages that you have to try over and over again until you solve them, but it never really becomes frustrating.

The story as such isn't really integral to the game, but it's entertaining nevertheless. Your aim in solving the puzzles is to defeat the rogue AI that tries to kill you. This AI called GLaDOS keeps talking to you throughout the game - think System Shock. But unlike System Shock, Portal isn't scary at all but funny. Many of the AI's lines, as well as the song she sings for the player during the end credits, are hilarious, and her voice acting is also extremely good. These two things (in addition to some other jokes you come across) are easily the two most memorable aspects of Portal, rather than the gameplay itself.

This is a short game. Some reviewers claim that they finished it in 2 to 4 hours. For me it took somewhere between 7 and 8 hours, although I didn't feel like I was being particularly lame. This is actually a good thing, since it's fun while it lasts but I wouldn't have wanted to spend like 30+ hours playing this.

One reason why the game can be finished so quickly is that you can save anywhere. This is something definitely to be applauded. Other studios/publishers would probably have introduced fixed saving locations to force the player to replay larger parts of levels and thereby artificially extend the game time.

The Bad
The same thing I've always hated about 1st person platformers. You aren't aware of the body of your player character since the only thing you see is your gun. You can't even see your feet when you look straight down. But the point of a platformer is exactly to guide you player character precisely. If you don't know where the body of your player character exactly is, it's basically impossible to fall through portals to fling to difficult-to-reach platforms exactly like you would like this to happen. What's going on instead is that you try the same flings over and over and over again (quick-loading all the time), hoping that you'll accidentally get the trajectory right this time. This mostly works out eventually, but it's still extremely annoying. And there were in fact several situations in the game where I was simply unable to use a combination of portals to get to a platform that looked reachable that way. I always failed to reach the edge of the platform, but I never knew whether this was just because I wasn't falling through the portal the right way or whether it was physically impossible to reach that platform that way. I didn't even have an idea whether I was missing the platform just barely or I wasn't near its edge at all.

The graphics aren't particularly impressive, though that's of course not really relevant for puzzle games. They are functional and get the job done, so there's no real reason to complain. I just add this as a negative point because most players probably expect current FPS games to be chock full of eye candy. Portal isn't.

The presentation (the humor, the introduction of the game mechanics, the balanced learning curve etc.) is excellent, this is clearly a very solid game in this respect and up to Valve's standard, but what about the gameplay as such? This is obviously a very subjective question, but personally, I found Portal's gameplay just dull. I do like puzzle and other strategy games in general, and I've played several addictive games in this genre, but Portal definitely isn't one of them. In the second half of the game, especially, after you leave the test levels, there isn't really anything new or interesting going on in the game. It's just the same puzzles, or combinations of puzzles, over and over again, in just slightly different rooms.

Finally, though this is just an odd technical issue, I don't understand how on earth this game can occupy 5 GB of disk space. The whole environment is extremely 'sterile', as one of the developers put it in the audio commentary, so as not to distract the players from the puzzles. No fancy textures, no enemy models, no objects or decorations, no movies, not even cutscenes, just walls, platforms, and sometimes the odd fan, turret, piston or staircase you come across. Still, downloading the game from Steam took about as long as playing it through.

The Bottom Line
Contrary to what its MobyGames category says, this is no action game. It's a traditional platform puzzle game, just in 3D from a first person perspective. There is very little violence involved, which is a good thing, although blood splatters appear on the walls when you are hit by the guard robots' machine guns - I found this both out of place in this game and distasteful. There is very little time pressure in the game, and very few situations where proper timing or 'manual skill' plays any role at all. Portal is mostly about figuring out where to place your portals and in what order to move through the levels.

Overall both the gameplay and the tone of the game felt slightly similar to the classic Shiny games MDK and Messiah, both of which involve a lot of similar puzzle elements, gliding around on 3D levels, and humor. But contrary to Portal these are actually exciting and action-packed games that offer a lot of fun and never get dull (though they sometimes get extremely hard).

To sum it up, Portal is a fun and rather easy puzzle game that you can quickly get into and play through over one or two afternoons, much like the 2D level-based Flash puzzle games you can play for free on the internet. It's definitely worth playing for the jokes and a few memorable moments. But I'm glad I got it for free. I would be quite disappointed if I had paid $25 for it. The game isn't that good, it's very short, and there is very little reason to replay it.

Windows · by Ferragus (46) · 2010

A fun game, but way too short

The Good
The story was amazing, and the fact it used artificial intelligence as the main enemy of the game was exactly what I was looking for at the first time I played it. I would watch every lets-play on youtube as many times as possible as I waited to actually buy the game- and when I did I was so happy to get it that I beat it in a matter of three days. I love how the gameplay was, and how not every 'chamber', or test level, was easy and how you had to use your mind for quite a few of them.

The Bad
I really didn't like how short the game was in general. They could have added a lot more interesting things to the first game and still had it lead up to the seemingly even more popular sequel. Personally, I could play through this game with my eyes closed- I memorized the levels since I played it through so much, and over time it just got flat out boring.

The Bottom Line
Personally, this game is one of the coolest games I've played in awhile. Sure, it has some pros and cons about it and its not all completely amazing. Sure, it gets boring after awhile for people like me, but it is definitely worth getting.

Windows · by Mae Spencer (4) · 2011

[ View all 6 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Free until May 25th, 2010! (on Steam) Patrick Bregger (290109) May 23rd, 2010
Valve re-writes the ending. Starbuck the Third (22652) Mar 5th, 2010
Steam can't so I can't play Arachia Botanical Nov 20th, 2009
Incorrectly grouped vedder (68275) Feb 17th, 2009
The Device Has Been Modified xroox (3892) Jan 17th, 2009


1001 Video Games

Portal appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

German version

In some German versions, the colour of blood was changed to grey.


According to a boardroom projection in the game, GLaDOS stands for Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System.


  • Eurogamer (UK)
    • December 28, 2009 - Game of the Year 2007* Games for Windows Magazine
    • March 2008 - #1 Game of the Year 2007 (PC Game Awards)* GameSpy
    • 2007 – Best Puzzle Game of the Year
    • 2007 – Best Character of the Year (for GlaDOS)
    • 2007 – Best Sidekick of the Year (for The Weighted Companion Cube)
    • 2011 – #8 Top PC Game of the 2000s
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • March 28, 2008 - Most Innovative Game Mechanics in 2007

Information also contributed by jean-louis and LepricahnsGold.

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Related Sites +

  • A Piece of Cake
    An Apple Games article about the Macintosh version of <em>Portal</em> (May, 2010).
  • ApertureScience
    website of the fictional Aperture Science company with an alternate reality game
  • Design Language: The Portal Paradoxes
    <moby developer="Noah Falstein">Noah Falstein</moby> presents a comprehensive design critique of Portal - from intro to 'Still Alive'.
  • MacGamer Review
    A review of the Mac version of <em>Portal</em> by the news and review site, MacGamer (May 18th, 2010).
  • Portal Is for lesbians
    A look at the female cast and the influence on the theme, on Heroine Sheik (17th October 2007)
  • Portal flash pack
    A pack of custom maps for the game, based on the unofficial 2D flash version.
  • Wikipedia: Portal
    Article in the open encyclopedia

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Dakota Bob.

Android added by GTramp. Linux added by Sciere. Macintosh added by Kabushi.

Additional contributors: PCGamer77, Sciere, Foxhack, Zeppin, lee jun ho, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, Harmony♡.

Game added October 16th, 2007. Last modified February 22nd, 2023.