Written by  :  -Chris (7565)
Written on  :  Aug 14, 2000
Platform  :  PC Booter

5 out of 6 people found this review helpful

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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.