Thursday, July 3, 2014

Portal and Portal 2 - 1.5/20 hours

You can only have a single first time.

After an hour and a half playing Portal, I find myself in a surprisingly melancholy mood, and I think it's because I can only have a single first time. Nostalgia has not exaggerated this game in the slightest  - the controls are as flawless, the puzzles are as clever, and GLaDOS is as wickedly over-the-top as I remember . . . but there's something missing.

The first time I played this game, it punched me in the gut. I remember coming to the gradual and hilarious realization that the funny robot with the gentle sing-song-y voice did not have my best interests at heart. I remember wracking my brain trying to detangle the more devious chambers, and the flood of relief and pride when I finally figured them out. I remember the bleakness and isolation of the abandoned testing facility, and how it felt to be successfully manipulated into caring about the companion cube.

This time, though, it's different. It's like I'm playing the game at a remove. Like I'm not really experiencing the game, and more like I'm walking through a cherished memory. It's been 3-4 years since I last played this game, but everything about it has come back to me almost instantly. I'm at the point where you learn that GLaDOS's offer of baked goods may have been somewhat disingenuous, and none of the first 19 chambers has so much as slowed me down.

Everything is exactly as I remember it, but it's just not the same.

That's not a complaint, by the way, except in so far as it is a complaint about the slow yet inevitable unwinding of my youth. You cannot go back. You only get one chance to play Portal for the first time. It was a sublime experience, but it is in the past now. All that's left is a memory.

But, as memories go, it's one of the best.

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