Portal: Still Alive breaks every rule. It’s the first Live Arcade game to clock in at a weighty 629Mb - well over Microsoft’s miserly 250Mb limit. It’s also the first Live Arcade game to be a re-release of an existing retail game. Most importantly, even one year after its initial release, Portal is a game unlike any other, and once again one of the games of the year. Every game in The Orange Box was an essential for one reason or another. But Portal is the most interesting of the set, and the cornerstone to a collection which was, by some margin, 2007’s game of the year.
As you probably know by now, it’s all very simple. You shoot an entry portal onto one wall and an exit portal onto another, and you can walk between the two as if the two locations were connected. With one simple device, Valve’s team re-wrote the rules of level design, and built nineteen challenge rooms and a lengthy final surprise to test your mastery of the portal gun to its limit. It was never the longest of games, but as part of The Orange Box, Portal’s two hours were the giveaway of the century, with not a single minute wasted, and every second surprising, challenging, and fun.
So yes. It’s good. Buy it. But wait! The Orange Box is such a killer package at such a killer price - especially one year after release - that Still Alive’s asking price and modest selection of extras makes it the expensive choice. Discounting those who loved Portal so much they’ll buy Still Alive for the extra levels alone, the question is whether to buy Portal: Still Alive or The Orange Box if the main draw is Portal. Still Alive bundles the entire main game from Portal with a further 14 challenge rooms of such deviousness and cruelty you’ll grit your teeth hard enough to chew through a small child.
There’s no recommendation to be made here beyond recommending that you play Portal, by any means, immediately. The Orange Box represents the better value overall, but if you’re only interested in the Portal portion of the package then Still Alive will deliver extra content along with your main campaign fix. In either Still Alive or Orange Box form, Portal is, without question, one of the best games of any year, and is of course all the better for the extra content. Whether you want that extra content to be thirty-five hours of Half Life or two hours of Portal challenge maps, is up to you.
Nov 18, 2008