WADE MANNS – The Corsair
By Valve Software
Genre: First-person puzzler
There haven’t been too many really, really original science fiction stories lately. Even fewer which put YOU, the reader (or in this case, the player character), in as the protagonist. In this pair of incredible games, you play Chell, who is never really given her name in the games. She’s about as ordinary a woman as you can imagine; in fact, she doesn’t speak at all, a la Gordon Freeman of Half Life fame, to further immerse you in the character.
Aperture Science has had a long and storied history starting back in the fifties and continuing on to the future, somewhere around 2100. Cave Johnson founded the company with a motivation to create science, with a wanton and cheerful disregard for human life and safety. To that end, he invented the Aperture Science Quantum Shower Curtain… which failed miserably when he got mercury poisoning attempting to engage in a little low-grade terrorism (for which he received no real punishment). So he re-concentrated his efforts into the Aperture Science Handheld Quantum Tunneling Device, which was only slightly less dangerous than his previous endeavor, but far more successful.
Unfortunately for Johnson, the carcinogenic ‘gels’ created to aid in portal travel proved to be his downfall, and the company soon fell into ruin… until it was revived mysteriously, sometime in the 20th century, with one lone test subject, Chell.
Chell is a subject in the testing laboratories of Aperture Science, and is put through an increasingly rigorous set of tests involving the aforementioned “portal gun.” This allows two portals to be created at, say, opposite ends of a room, and allows you to pass between them as easily as through air.
But that’s the simplest of applications for this very handy yet potentially dangerous device. For one, momentum is kept through the portals, so you can turn a fall into a long jump. If you miss, don’t worry; Chell’s springy leg braces keep her from taking any damage from the fall. It’s the trips into toxic waste or into the paths of cheerfully murderous turrets, that you have to look out for.
Eventually, you and Chell discover the machinations of the maniacal rogue AI, GlaDOS, who has unfortunately got it into her head that you have to die for some perceived slight. Along the way to your inevitable doom (she thinks) she will politely usher you through the various tests, until she decides you’ve outlived your usefulness. Needless to say, since there’s a sequel, Chell makes it out alive…
Wait! No, she doesn’t leave! In the months before the release of the sequel, a series of patches were released which changed the ending of the game to indicate Chell’s re-capture and insertion into stasis; she wakes up several hundred years after this and is assisted in her various tasks by Wheatley, a whimsical British-voiced AI who helps you with your initial tasks, re-familiarizing you with the portal gun and instructed in the use of the aforementioned gels.
Nothing and no one is as it seems in this game, so be prepared for many twists, turns and revelations that will have you open-mouthed in shock, as well as awestruck at the moves you must pull off to advance.
Multiplayer (cooperative only) has its own story and its own main characters, the robots Atlas and P-Body. You can play either online via Steam or Xbox LIVE, or via split-screen on the consoles. Player 1 has control of Atlas, the pudgy, blue-highlighted robot, while Player 2 has P-Body, the skinny, orange-highlighted robot. After the events of the second game, which I will not go into here for obvious reasons, GlaDOS decides that instead of delicate, emotional humans, she can use easily reassembled, replaceable robots for testing purposes, and so she does.
You and your partner must use teamwork in placing your own pairs of portals for each other to use, as well as timing certain moves just right between the two of you (this can get frustrating at times, but is quite rewarding in the end). And death simply means a re-assembly and fast re-insertion! GlaDOS SAYS it’s not a competition, but she seems to be keeping score for some reason…
All in all, a wonderful pair of games; you owe it to yourself to check them out! Five stars for both!
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