Do you ever play a game and immediately feel a little bit of nostalgia? I managed to get my hands on a copy of Portarius and yes it did remind me of Portal but only for a second. I immediately remembered playing a game many many years ago on the TV through Sky Entertainment. Does anyone else remember when Sky done this? It had games like Beehive Bedlam.
Anyway… I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the game but the object was to fly a small yellow spaceship from one side of the screen to the other and land safely. It took some getting used to but after some time I was able to manoeuvre the ship and land without exploding and dying horribly. Despite much internet searching, I cannot find any details of this game. If you are reading this and know what the heck I am referring to then please put me out of my misery and tell me what it was. Even better send me images of it so I know I didn’t just dream it.
In portarius you must manoeuvre your spaceship from one side of the screen to the other. This sounds incredibly simple, however it is not. Your goal is to get to the centre of the Earth. I must admit I only knew this from reading the description, the internal story/purpose of the game was lacking. This didn’t immediately put me off and I wanted to see if I could master this!
Your spaceship is basically a bubble. Your little character can be easily seen through the window, staring at you ominously, mocking you when you make mistakes. Mistakes which you will make! (He doesn’t actually mock you but in my head he was. Now that I think about it, this would be a nice little addition to the game.)
There are 3 themes/chapters to this game. Each one has its own challenges for you to overcome. What you want to know is how you actually move your main character. Quite simply this is achieved by mouse clicking. Your spaceship is equipped with a portal gun. When you first start you will notice that your little ship is orange. Once you click anywhere on the screen, your ship will fire a little orange blob. This blob will shoot across the screen until it makes contact with something and then it will rest, waiting for you to make your next move. You will also notice that your ship has changed colour and is now blue. When you click on the screen again you fire a little blue blob which will latch onto an object it encounters also. You have now created a portal between two locations.
Your ship has no other method of movement. So you must act fast when you are dropped into a level. Quickly look at the screen and figure out what you have to do. Don’t worry though, if you drop to the bottom of the screen you will bounce around for a while before coming to a compete stop. Even if you come to a total stop you can open a portal beneath you and exit from the ceiling above.
You will encounter obstacles that threaten your very existence. You will soon start to think that the Earth does not want you to reach the core. You must push on, forge ahead. Ignore those whispers in your head that say, give up!
Graphics & Music
The graphics are actually very well done. 2D in nature and manage to set the tone and locations very well. The music is original and manages to make you feel very relaxed. However as you progress the same tune starts to get monotonous. If you get frustrated that you can’t figure our how to get past a certain point it really starts to grate on you.
You can revisit the previous levels you have unlocked. However there is no score based system or timer that you can improve upon. If a system like this was implemented I can see many people retrying levels just to beat their previous score or star rating.
Portarius is a great little puzzle platformer with some beautiful graphics and uses a unique character movement system. Although I enjoyed the game I feel a few changes could increase its replayability factor. For one there is a lack of a story, aim or purpose within the game. You have a one level introduction to learn the ropes and you are left on your own after that. Increasing the tutorial level to 2 or 3 might help first time players. Introducing a hint system could also be very beneficial.
The music does get tiring and repetitive. Mixing this up a little would change the atmosphere just enough to make you feel like you have made some sort of progress. There is no award based system, star rating for completing a level or timer. So effectively you have no reason to revisit the levels and replay the game.
With all that being said it is clear that a lot of work has been put into Portarius. The graphics are beautiful, the physics system works very well and in my humble opinion is one of the best casual puzzle solving games on the market at present.