The Portal series is a fantastic puzzler, it's even more rewarding and a great laugh when you play in COOP mode. But what happens when you mix it together with a new piece of technology that has you waving your arms like a madman? You get one hell of an experience.
After their fantastic Portal Stories: Mel mod for Portal 2 from last year, Portal Stories: VR only takes a very small portion of new VR based puzzles set in the same universe. Using both the HTC Vive and its twin controllers, you have to solve an ever-increasing labyrinth of puzzles - room style - much like the Portal games set before it.
In one hand you have a beam gun that grabs cubes, the other is your movement device. While this game can be played sitting down (like how I played it for the first time), it plays much better standing. Instead of having to physically walk to your location, you hold the trackpad down, point at the floor, then pull the trigger, you will immediately teleport to that location. A nice touch is that your HTC Vive controllers are reskinned to match the universe as to not break the immersion, it was a nice touch.
The first objective you'll have to do is teleport to a button that releases cube - no not the companion cube, as much as I'd want that! But your initial "I must push a button on the controller to activate it" still rung true at first, wondering what button would give me that cube, but alas I came to my senses "what would happen if I move my arm and hit the button instead?" And voila!
It's amazing how you need to forget about everything you have learnt about gaming with a pad and think more in a real-world sense and Portal Stories: VR has done exactly that. Your sense of presence in these rooms is uncanny. You will often find yourself looking around at your surroundings than playing the game. If you see that you're on a platform then you know you want to look down, it's managed to scare some people that have tried it already, the screams were hilarious.
Eventually, you will get over your surroundings and get on with the puzzles at hand, all of which involve you pushing a button and getting a cube to open the door to the next puzzle room. So it's the same as the other Portal games, great, familiarity. Level after level you're introduced to new things, from a field that you can pass through but the cubes can't (and vice versa), to lasers that open up pathways once connected to a node.
Unfortunately, the puzzles are very simple and a little bit too easy, not only that but there are a grand total of twelve puzzles. If you have time to kill then you can start the game and complete it within half an hour, but the only challenge you will find are those pesky turrets, and they're not the humorous turrets found in the previous games - this might be a copyright reason.
Having said that the narrator is very whimsical and the snark remarks are a welcome addition to what otherwise would be a dull experience without it. The narration in Portal games is essential, and Prism Studios nailed it. Your narrator is a server farm in the starter room where the game begins, only that it catches fire and the narrator loses its senses from that point forward.
After completing the game you have a small section where you can go down the lift from Portal Stories: Mel holding the gravity gun in your right hand. No, you can't use it, though it really does feel like you've entered that game. This time looking down is even more head-spinning scary - for some.
Amazingly this game did not make me feel any form of nausea and it ran extremely smoothly, with only bumping into things and not obeying the play area bounds being the annoyances, but that's a limitation of all VR experiences - or just that my room has barely any room to move around in.
For its price, I would have to say that this game is an absolute must play, and that price is a grand total of nothing! It's a great experience to show what can be done with the HTC Vive and why VR has the potential of completely changing the gaming and entertainment landscape for many years into the future.
Score: Thumbs Up
- Whimsical narration
- Great varied use of VR
- It's Portal
- Not many puzzles
- Can't throw the cubes
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