The portal will open in 3… 2… 1…

Portal and Portal 2 have remained two of Callum’s favorite video games since he was 7 years old (here he is at 11 years old in a Star Trek uniform playing Portal 2 – yup, he’s my kid). For those not in the know, Portal is a first-person puzzle-solving game. There isn’t any combat involved (though you occasionally do get shot at) – it’s mostly logic puzzles, where you’re completing each puzzle in first-person perspective.

Callum has been such a fan of the game that on my Steam account (which he used as a kid), together we’ve logged over 120 hours of Portal and over 360 hours (!!) of Portal 2. He even got into speed-running for a while.

Just for kicks, I replayed Portal and Portal 2 a few weeks ago, and it was a lot of fun – I didn’t remember how to complete many of the puzzles (I guess I’m getting old), so playing was still a fun challenge. While loading the games on Steam, I noticed that Callum had installed a few mods as well – Bridge Constructor, the Sixense Perceptual Pack, and some others. I also noticed he had a mod called Portal Stories: Mel installed.

Now, I’d never heard of any of these, but he had over 30 hours of Portal Stories: Mel logged, so I looked into it. I discovered it was a full game in the form of a Portal 2 mod, created by Prism Studios and released in 2015. And it had a really good rating on Steam (95/100). It’s about a former Olympian named Mel who travels to Aperture Laboratories to volunteer as a test subject (always a bad idea). When something goes wrong (as something invariably does at Aperture Science) she has to pick up an old prototype of a portal gun (sorry, Handheld Portal Device) and get moving.

I’m not usually into game mods and the like, and noting that Prism Studios, not Valve Software, had created this game, I wasn’t too excited about it. But I figured I’d give it a try anyway – at the least they might have some fun test chambers to play. Well, it turns out that the game is actually really darn good! I played the newer Story Mode (rather than the super-hard Advanced Mode), where the challenges weren’t quite so brutal, though I still found the game to be more challenging than Portal or Portal 2. Some of the tests were quite difficult, and there was a lot of use and re-use of weighted storage cubes in order to complete the various puzzles. On more than one occasion I quit the game with an unsolved test chamber to go to bed, and came up with the solution to the puzzle in the morning. Not only that, the story was engaging, the voice acting was good (at first I thought I wasn’t going to like the main companion character, but he ended up growing on me), and the game tied in really well with the lore and story line of Portal and Portal 2. If you do play the game, be sure to watch until after the credits have rolled.

The best part of this mod is, it is free on Steam! The only thing you need in order to play the game is a copy of Portal 2, and if you don’t have a copy of that already, you really should. And a computer I guess.

Anyway, this is as much of a recommendation as I ever give anything, so well done to the Portal Stories: Mel team. The game is definitely worth checking out.

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