Category Archives: games

Portal 2; what a good game

A word about the screenshots.  The bulbous white thing with wires sticking out of it that’s always in the bottom right corner is my portal gun that I’m holding.  The blue and orange ring floating in mid-air shows where I’ll make a portal, if I fire the gun at a surface that’s allowed to have a portal in it.

Portal 2 is a 3D interactive, animated puzzle game by Steam.  I really like this game, because it’s challenging and funny and the sets are beautifully rendered.  So I want to show you what it’s like to play Portal 2.  (Yes I know, everybody else was playing Portal 2 years ago; I’m so slow.)  You can run it on a PC, a Mac and some TV game boxes.

I’m running a 2011 iMac with 64 GB of memory and MacOS “Sierra” 10.12.3.  I’ve had some problems with Steam on my iMac.  Sometimes it ignores my mouse movements, which I need in order to turn.  To fix this I have to quit Steam and start it again.  Sometimes when I’m using menus my mouse pointer turns invisible.  Then I grope around.

The setting is a vast abandoned laboratory consisting of cavernous semi-ruined chambers where an insane, affectionate robot conducts fiendish “tests” in which you are the subject.  The goal of each test is to escape the room.  Or sometimes to acquire an object.  Or sometimes to not get killed.  You don’t die very often, because you’re tough; you can fall or jump off any height with impunity, and laser beams just make a nasty noise and bump you out of their way.  If you still manage to get killed, you start your last test over again, like Groundhog Day.

Your main tool is a portal gun.  The gun creates a linked pair of blue and orange holes in any white surfaces.  You can move from one location to another by passing thru the portals.  Other stuff can go thru the portals too.  Portals combine with force fields, catapults, weights, laser lenses and various other contraptions to form the elements of puzzles you must solve.

For a sample of Portal 2 action, let’s look at chapter 2, room 09.  It’s taken me about a week to get this far.  Spoiler alert; the fun in this game is figuring out the puzzles.  So if you’re about to explore chapter 2 room 09, you might want to stop reading now.


The elevator opens.  I save the game, in case things don’t work out and I want to get back to this point.  I check the movies playing on the elevator lobby walls for useful information, don’t notice any, and head up the stairs.

05-anteroomAn anteroom at the top of the stairs has wildly-flailing, harmless robot panels sprouting from the floor, a billboard with some visual clues about what’s going to happen next, and a door with a blue-green “running man” exit symbol.  I study the billboard for clues and go to the exit.

10-entranceThe exit is the entry into the test chamber, which feverishly configures itself as I enter.  I’m in a square room that has an upper gallery of some kind (top right).  I don’t notice any white surfaces, so I’m wondering how I will use my portal gun.

15-catapaultIn the center of the room is a catapult (I recognize it from earlier rooms).  Signs on the floor show how it works; I’m supposed to step on it and get shot at a target.  I examine the rest of the room.  But I can’t find the target, and there is nothing else to do here.  I get on the catapult anyway.  It does not shoot me at a target.

Instead, it smashes me against the ceiling.  The mean robot has lowered the ceiling so I will bounce off it, fall back onto the catapult, and get smashed against the ceiling again and again.

20-ceilingThe ceiling is white; so I can get out of this situation by making an orange portal in it.  But when I do, it has no effect, because I haven’t yet made a blue portal to come out of.  It’s hard to look around for a useful white surface while I’m being flung up and down, let alone hit it with my portal gun.

I can’t escape the catapult, which is going to smash me into the ceiling for eternity.  So I restart this test from my saved game.  Now that I know what I’m looking for, I explore the room with better effect.  I notice an overhead beam paneled with white tiles, and shoot a blue portal onto it.

25-portals-on-ceilingBack to the catapult I go, to be flung into the orange portal and out the blue one, dropping onto a hinged platform that has swung out from the wall.

30-objectiveLooking around, I see this test’s objective; a laser-powered motor that’s attached to the opening mechanism of the exit door.  The exit door is in a high alcove, and I don’t see a laser beam to power the motor; but perhaps these details will be resolved as I continue.

35-anteroomGlancing left, I do see a laser beam in another alcove.  To the right I see a white panel slanted at an angle.  I’ve learned that I can make a portal on such a panel and launch myself thru it to fly to a high place.

40-ledgeTo the left in the alcove I see a high ledge, and to the right another angled panel that’s aimed at it.  A sign points at the ledge; and a dotted blue line (I think of these as visible wiring) connects it to a cube dispenser that’s hanging from the ceiling of a higher alcove.  The dispenser’s control is on the first ledge (at the other end of the dotted line).

45-ready-to-flyI shoot a blue portal onto the angled panel.  Now I need to launch myself thru it with a lot of force.  If I just find a white wall somewhere, shoot an orange portal onto it and step thru it, I’ll stumble out of the blue portal onto the floor.  That’s no good; I need to fly upward.  My experience has been that, to attain that much momentum, I need to jump into a pit with an orange portal at its bottom.

I go back to the hinged platform and look down.  No white floor!  What am I supposed to do here?  Oh yeah, the catapult.  It’s still aimed at the orange portal in the ceiling.  I jump down to the lowest level (jumping any distance is totally safe), step onto the catapult again and get launched into the orange and out of the blue portal, zooming up to the ledge where the dispenser control is waiting.

50-dispenser-controlThe pedestal with the huge red button is the dispenser control.  I push it and look over at the far alcove.

55-dispensed-cubeA cube falls out of the dispenser and is sitting on the floor up there, far from the laser beam.

I jump down.  On my way to move the blue portal to another slanted white panel I’ve noticed and catapult up to the far alcove to get the cube, I pause to look at the laser motor more closely.

60-closer-look-at-motorA short wall is between it and the laser beam.  The wall is white; now I know what to do.

70-redirected-laserI get the cube and jump down to the laser beam level.  This particular cube has lenses that can bend a laser beam.  I put it in the laser beam, and adjust it to shoot at the white wall.

I’m going to need two portals to conduct the laser beam from one side of the wall to the other.  That will mean no more round trips to the catapult without a lot of bother.  But it’s going to be fine.

75-laser-into-blueI get up to the ledge with the exit door in the usual way.  I turn around and shoot a blue portal at the laser-washed side of the wall.  In the main room beyond, I can see the laser beam shooting straight down out of the orange portal that’s still in the ceiling over the catapult.

80-work-is-doneI make a new orange portal opposite the motor on the short wall.  The beam hits the motor.  The line from the motor to the exit door turns from blue to yellow, with a check mark at its end.  The exit door opens!


The robot with the love-hate thing about me makes some sweetly nasty remarks.  I consider them carefully in case there are hints amidst the abuse.

85-exitI go up the stairs, thru the door and on to the elevator and the next level.

This room took me about an hour to figure out.  What a good game!