This Next Test Is Impossible

I’d like to pretend I’m all nonchalant about Portal, because we’ve all played its predecessor Narbacular Drop to death, and knew a Source version was coming. Or that the trailer was old hat, since Graham procured it from Valve a few days before release. Instead, I’m still watching this thing an average of five times a day. The bit I love, apart from every line of the gorgeously wonky synthetic voice-over, is the trick the player pulls in the fast montage of whacked-out nutsoness, just before the plummet through the infinite loop before the end. And it took me a long time to work out what he was doing.

Portal 1

Here’s the setup. The player needs to get to the X, a lower platform that’s too far for him to jump. I think he takes a rather unnecessarily complicated route, but we’ll assume some hidden rules prevent him from doing it the obvious way. He’s about to cast two portals, the first at 1 and the second at 2.

Portal 2

He casts 1 first, close to the platform he wants to reach, then throws himself off and casts 2 beneath him as he falls. The reason for casting 2 after jumping, as near as I can tell, is that it’s easier to know where you’re going to land once you’re in the air. Also it looks more rock.

Portal 3

He plummets through 2, shooting him up through 1 with all the velocity his fall has given him.

Portal 4

At the apex of his climb, he turns to face the place he came from – 0 – and opens a new portal there – 3. Since he’s using right mouse rather than left, this new portal replaces 2, rather than the 1 he’s just come out of.

Portal 5

Here we’re looking at the ground – he’s falling back toward the portal he just shot up out of, 1, and through it he can see the same view as from his starting point 0, but upside-down – note the X is now on the ceiling.

Portal 6

His downward velocity is translated into lateral velocity because the portals are perpendicular, and he’s flung all the way across the chasm – automatically spinning in mid-air to realign himself with gravity…

Portal 7

…to land on his feet at the destination. Bravo, test subject!

“At the enrichment centre, we believe a highly motivated test subject can carry out rather complex tasks while enduring the most intense pain.”

10 Replies to “This Next Test Is Impossible”

  1. He has to take that route (or any similarly complicated alternative). You can’t create portals against those metal walls.

  2. I don’t see a visual difference between the metal walls at O, which he casts a portal in, and the metal walls just to the left and right of X, before the brown ones start.

    I also don’t see why he can’t turn around at the start, cast a portal behind him, then cast one in the same place as 2 as he falls. His downward velocity must be the same in both cases – the topsy-turvy turret earlier in the trailer demonstrates that principle fairly clearly.

  3. You’re right actually, the walls at 0 look the same. In which case, I can’t explain how he cast a portal there – when I played, those metal walls were portal-immune. As for the second scenario, I can only imagine the reason why not being that you’d still lack enough forward momentum to make it to the other side. I don’t remember that bit though, to be honest, probably because I didn’t get that far or maybe my memory’s showing wear and tear.

  4. I blame me. For the last comment, thus creating this blog post. And for what’s about to happen since I read the above post.

    *Head Explodes*

  5. Sorry Tom, you’re right, I just re-read your post and see what you’re saying now. You’re right, it wouldn’t have made any difference had he “cast a portal behind him, then cast one in the same place as 2 as he falls”. Like you originally suggested, I think it was just complexity for complexity’s sake, showing how you can fiddle around/experiment with portal placement for fun in the game.

  6. I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to modify this space so that the player’s solution is necessary. If I’m visualising it correctly I think you could just move the starting platform further from the destination, and put a barrier hanging from the ceiling such that you couldn’t see X from the start. You’d then have to use portals to shoot yourself under and up to the other side of the barrier, whereupon you could cast a portal into the side of it facing your destination, and fall back down to be catapaulted through it. They should do this. Or I should. Making custom maps for this is going to be genius. One of the main reasons I love games is that I get to use chunks of my brain that usually have nothing to do.

  7. It sounds like it will make people be sick, being faster and spinnier than ND, especially when showing off.

    I hope it is like AVP as the alien, the expert player will be a mentalist whirlwind, spinning round, flipping, zapping, flailing. Yeah.

    /cries for the lack of //real// sequel to AVP.

  8. Wait, you wouldn’t even need to move the starting position back – the barrier would prevent a lateral launch from 0 anyway. I’m going to love this.

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