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Posts Tagged ‘Portal’

One-On-One: Jonathan Coulton

The King of Musical Geekdom takes a visit to the Land of ESH…

On an all-new One-On-One King Baby Duck and Pandalicious interview the great Jonathan Coulton, who shares his thoughts on gaming, music, and the themes and ideas of his latest album Artificial Heart. Also find out why he loves PAX so much, why he thinks something called “mobile gaming” will be the next big thing, the story behind “Je Suis Rick Springfield,” and a trip to Three Album Island.

The interview was a triumph, and we’re making a note of it right here! It’s One-On-One: Jonathan Coulton!

Special thanks to Dana Cooper over at Girlie Action Media for setting up the interview

Pre-Game of the Year 2011: Part 5

The final pre-game candidate is an amazing first-person experience which reintroduces an iconic villain to the series and adds some amazing new features.  Obviously, I’m talking about the impressive first-person puzzler Portal 2.  You may, at this point, be wondering why there is an obvious Skyrim-esque void in this list.  With a playtime of about six hours thus far, I felt it a bit unfair to include it.  For the record, from what I’ve played of it, Skyrim was one of the best games I played last year.  Now, let’s travel back in time to 2007 when Valve gave the world the wonderful gift that was Portal.

If you told me that a puzzle game you can beat within about four hours would be among my favorite video games of all time before I played Portal, I would have called you crazy.  The thing is, sometimes it’s hard to strike a good balance with the different elements in a game.  You either end up with an awesome story that’s a chore to play or a fun game with very little pushing it forward.  At the risk of making an awful Goldy Locks reference here, Portal had a mixture that was just right.

A simple concept when you think about it, you’ve got a gun that shoots two different portals.  Once both are placed on a surface, you can travel from one to the other.  Add some creepy turret robots, a whole lot of deadly water and a strangely lovable cube and you’ve got a formula for an incredibly fun experience.  While all of these things made this game both mind-bending and thrilling, that is only one part of this perfect recipe.

Once again, like the rest of this title, the story seems pretty straightforward.  You are a test subject for the portal gun that is being led through a number of tests.  All of this seems fine as you go through each of the testing areas, but there’s something slightly off that you can’t quite put your finger on.  Just when you’re ready to accept the premise for what it is, you find a wall panel that is slightly askew, just enough for you to fit inside.  What you find are the scribblings of another test subject, driven to madness.

The atmosphere in the game is perfectly crafted to give you a sense of both the sterility of the test environment and the hidden insanity that lurks within.  The writing is some of the best I’ve ever experience in gaming and the voice work pulls it off in spades.  Sadly any concept, given enough time, can grow a little stale.  Portal does not offer that chance as it can be completed, depending on the speed in which you solve the puzzles, in one sitting.  It doesn’t feel like too much or too little and it doesn’t leave you feeling cheated.

WIth a game this amazing, I thought it would be impossible to properly craft a sequel that could live up to it.  Thankfully, I was dead wrong once again.  Portal 2 takes all of those concepts and brings them back.  It doesn’t rely on old tricks to win players over and introduces several fun new elements to the puzzles to keep things fresh.  It even features an awesome co-op mode which is almost as good as the single-player campaign.  If you haven’t gotten the chance to player either one of these games, do yourself a favor and get your hands on them immediately.  I’m not kidding, stop reading this and go.  Now!

Episode CV: The Elite Gamers Of The Benevolent Press

What’s better than have the Issues Program dudes show up to talk about the first half-year in gaming? How about having pro gamer, reviewer and model Raychul Moore joining the roundtable?

In a special episode the Bastards welcome Issues Guy, JC Sergeant and Raychul Moore to the program, as they dissect the current goings-on in the gaming world. Find out which games have already made it to their best-of 2011 list, and which upcoming titles they’re looking forward to most. Plus the gang chimes in on the true nature and style of Duke Nukem Forever, and figure out if L.A. Noire is a title that deserves to be on the pedestal that other gaming sites seem to put them on.

It’s all right here on this super-sized episode of the Boston Bastard Brigade. It’s Episode 105: The Elite Gamers Of The Benevolent Press!

Less Cake, More Fillings Amuck In "Portal 2"

The first Portal title garnered a massive following around the world, thanks in part to its interesting gameplay, dialogue that instantly became internet memes, a catchy end theme song and possibly one the greatest villains in video gaming history. It comes as no surprise that a sequel was green-lit, but the task at hand for Valve was to up the ante in just about every way in order to make it as memorable as the first game. Does Portal 2 succeed as well as its big brother, or does it fall flat on the face of failure?

Continuing on from the first Portal title, the sequel begins with Chelle in a room many years after the events of the first game. She is awaken by Wheatley, a circular robot who leads her through the ruins of Aperture Science, leading up to the lifeless body of GLaDOS. Unfortunately due to the lack of true intelligence it has Wheatley revives the psychotic AI, and forces Chelle into doing more tests “for science.” From there you will be brought into the familiar territory of the first title and given the chance to solve more difficult puzzles while GLaDOS inexpressively taunts you. Soon Wheatley helps you escape, and after passing through the manufacturing areas you confront GLaDOS and have her personality switched with Wheatley. And that’s when the real trouble begins…

Throughout the main game you will be brought up to speed as to what happened before the events of the first game. You’ll hear the voice of Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson (voiced by J.K. Simmons) as he welcomes new recruits to its manufacturer, along with his secretary Caroline, a woman who has a major connection with GLaDOS. You will also be able to try out newer Aperture Science products that will help Chelle go faster, jump higher and shoot more portal holes into the walls, tools that will help you in the long run. Plus you will find out the real truth behind how and why GLaDOS is, well, GLaDOS, and what the real purpose of your new “friend” Wheatley is.

For the first time in many years I cannot complain one bit about the gameplay in a single-player mode. The story moves fluidly, and not once did I feel any sort of repetition in Portal 2. Because of it being lengthier than the first title the folks at Valve were able to expand the better ideas of Portal and make them better. The puzzles may be more complex and challenging, and you might need a lot of time to ponder to figure out their solutions, but in the long run it lacks any sort of angry frustration that one may receive while playing other first-person titles. The same cannot be said, however, for its co-op mode.

Along with its single-player mode Valve added a special co-op storyline for friends and online players to solve together. You and a friend play as Atlas and P-Body, two robots built by GLaDOS specifically to try out her tests and do everything they can to succeed. In the first four campaigns the two robots must complete puzzles in order to reach a disk that unlocks something crucial. After the completion of these four campaigns you discover that the two robots need to find what is called “the Vault,” a place where humans are kept in a cryogenically-frozen state.

Because of the two-player style the puzzles are a lot more difficult, the concept of teamwork is strongly recommended. Both robots are given portal guns, so you can use those to your advantage. You can also use the new tools you discovered in the single-player campaign, which will be helpful in places with giant gaps in-between. However the co-op mode is a campaign that will test one’s friendship to the bitter end, with the wrong move possibly leading towards demise and a massive screaming match with the other player on your team. It’s as if they saved all the frustrations they were going to put into the single-player mode and implanted it into the co-op campaign.

One key element that makes the single-player mode lacking in frustration is its control scheme. Its continue usage of straightforward moving, jumping, ducking, shooting and grabbing makes Portal 2 a title that can be played by just about everyone. It’s the sort of simplicity that you don’t see often in first-person titles, and it’s probably one of the big reasons why it was picked up by many.

The biggest reason the first one succeeded was its terrific script and voice acting, and in Portal 2 the storyline and dialogue are just as sharp and witty. Not a single joke from the first game is repeated, thankfully avoiding any sort of dead horse beatings. Its dark humor and one-liners are just as funny as the ones featured in the first Portal title, maybe even funnier. (Cave Johnson’s lines later in the game will have you rolling on the floor laughing, none of which I want to spoil here.) Ellen McLain’s GLaDOS is just as dark and hilarious as ever, and giving Ricky Gervais’s friend Stephen Merchant the task at voicing Wheatley added a tad bit of good British humor to the game. While Simmons seems to still be channeling his Spider-Man character here his Cave Johnson is still a welcoming addition to the Portal world.

Only one thing about the game keeps it from being an all-around masterpiece: its replay value. While it might take you a good ten hours to beat the single-player mode (depending on how good your puzzle-solving skills are) and the co-op campaign will tack up another eight hours there isn’t much more to go back to playing after you’ve defeated it. You can revisit each parts of the levels, but it’s not like there are special bonuses if you beat a test under a certain amount of time. All you can really do is beat the game, and then wait for more maps and content to be released as DLC.

PROS:

  • Great level designs, trickier, clever puzzles
  • Strong script, hilarious dialogue
  • Solid co-op mode, online and offline

CONS:

  • Lack of real replay value
  • Co-op mode might make you lose more friends than gain

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Portal 2 is the sequel no one ever expected to be great, only to blow away its predecessor by a major margin. Everything you liked about the first game is back, only bigger and better. It’s the rare sort of sequel we see these days in the gaming world, one that delivers more than anyone believed it could promise on a higher level. In laymen’s terms: Portal 2 will satisfy just about all of your good sequel cravings in more ways than one.

FINAL GRADE: 9.8 (out of ten)

Episode XCIV: Mother’s Day Extravaganza (Not-So) Special

The Bastards this week spend zero time paying tribute to their mothers, and instead pull back in a comrade that hasn’t been around much.

This week the B3 crew share their thoughts on the death of Osama Bin Laden, as everyone else seems to be. King Baby Duck goes hands-on with the Gears of War 3 beta, and looks at the demo for LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game. He and Blueonic review the demo for Red Faction: Armageddon, Blueonic gives his reasons why the Call of Duty: Black Ops – Escalation pack is a must-own and Shades Blackflame leaves first impressions of Portal 2.

Anvil, Mr. Cuse and King Baby Duck share their reasons why Thor is a must-see, and Blueonic tells the listeners to stay away from the direct-to-DVD S.W.A.T.: Firefight. Finally Anvil and Mr. Cuse look at the week in sports, and what they expect of the Bruins during the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It’s all right here in Episode 94: Mother’s Day Extravaganza (Not-So) Special!

Episode 243: The Proof Is In the Pudding (Mmmmmm, Pudding)

This week we have a bunch of really great looking games hitting store shelves and the sistah’s cover a bunch of them in this week’s episode of the podcast. All big-name titles this week the ladies of the land of ESH are focused on the Mortal Kombat, Portal 2, Michael Jackson: The Experience (Kinect version) and more.

NinJa starts off the show with the Warner Bros. release of arcade (and Sega Genesis) fan favorite Mortal Kombat including which bundles are really full of value and which leave little to offer the purchaser before moving on to Valve’s long-awaited Portal sequel, Portal 2. Not to be left out of the conversation, Pandalicious jumps in with her thoughts on the two titles as well as Ubisoft’s Michael Jackson: The Experience release on the Xbox 360 Kinect system and Bethesda’s newly moved up May launch of Brink.

This episode is chock-full of video game review and recommendations, but more importantly, it’s chock-full of coffee-infused-sisters – which is what you need to be (coffee infused, that is) – if you want to keep up with this week’s ESH Podcast Episode: 243: The Proof Is In the Pudding (Mmmmmm, Pudding)