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Portal

3 April 2007

As if the upcoming Half-Life 2: The Orange Box edition wasn't jam-packed with enough content already - Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Team Fortress 2 - Valve have recruited the DigiPen student team behind the brain-bending Narbacular Drop to produce Portal, a first person puzzle game of sorts using their always-impressive Source engine.

Armed with an "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device" that creates in and out points for teleportation purposes, players will navigate puzzle-oriented environments, set in the Half-Life universe in a capacity that has yet to be revealed. Is sounds complicated, and it is; just go watch any trailer for the game to see a range of possibilities you hadn't even thought of, such as chasing yourself in an infinite loop.

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Puzzles often seem to revolve around transporting boxes, disabling sentry guns and reaching platforms. For example, if you were to shoot an out point above an out-of-reach switch that needed depressing, then an in point under a heavy box, it would pop over there and do your job for you. Narbacular Drop received attention for it's similar "outside the box" approach to FPS puzzle gameplay, and armed with the Source engine they should be able to pull off some pretty interesting stuff.

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In the end, the worst part about Portal might be its length - a sadly short four hours, according to level designer Kim Swift. Hopefully it will do well and Valve will let it expend into its own series, though they're not known for timely sequels (or even timely "episodic content"). Regardless, we're looking forward to Portal-induced aneurysms.


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