Everyone’s favourite artificially intelligent computer, GLaDOS, is back with a vengeance in the latest Zen Studios pinball table. The decision to choose Portal as the inspiration for this table is a rather bold one and it looks set to be one of the most adventurous adaptations by Zen. Will this successful puzzler platform game transfer well into the world of pinball?
At first I wasn’t sure because upon my first impression, I felt it had a bland set up for the table and without knowing how to trigger features, I genuinely thought to myself… this could be the most boring table in recent times. It was almost like Zen had given a standard table a Portal makeover visually and forgot to add in the little quirks to go with it. That was until I got to grips with the layout and then I become slightly hooked, almost unable to pull myself away.
With this being a Portal pinball table, GLaDOS is your villain in disguise for this piece, just like old times. Using your skills flipping the ball, the idea is to navigate Chell and Wheatley to safety from this evil super computer, through test chambers and past the turrets in an attempt to escape the Aperture Laboratories Enrichment Center. It is the very unique Portal gimmicks that make this table stand out from the rest.
Take the actual portals for example, which are used initially as the skill shot bonus but also during play they can pop up. That’s not all though, if you remember the blue and orange gels from the Portal series, well these are present here too. The blue repulsion gel actually makes the table’s main character Chell jump if you press the launch button when the ball is in it, whilst the orange propulsion gel speeds the ball up on the ramp that it covers.
In order to take on GLaDOS in the final battle you’ll need to complete all the Test Chambers which are fairly easy to activate. Completing them is another matter entirely. Amongst the many chambers, the Ratman mode became a favourite instantly due to it taking the player to a separate mini-table where lots of points can be earned and if you can take out the turrets within, it can make the boss battle easier.
When it comes to the layout there are numerous lanes and holes to shoot the ball down, with some positioned at strange angles, so it’s quite fortunate that it’s given us four flippers in total. I often used to get confused by having to manage additional flippers but it puts more control in the player’s hands. This is especially true during the awesome Atlas & P-Body multi-ball co-operative mode, where it’ll give you two balls in-play and use flashing icons to show you where the big points are at. Chaining a few of these shots together, which is even beneficial outside of this mode, will ensure you leave your leaderboard rivals behind.
I didn’t think that Portal would suit the pinball world, but it’s turned out to be a great table with gimmicks aplenty. The fact that the artwork and voiceovers are taken directly from the video games gives the assurance that they are of a high standard. With that being said, one of the few negative points I found was the sound effects drowning out poor GLaDOS and Wheatley time and time again during the triggered modes.
The Portal Pinball FX2 table takes some getting used to, but given time it becomes a great homage to a fantastic puzzler platform game series. Ideal for fans of the Portal games, however maybe a bit too quirky and ‘out there’ for those who have never delved into that world before.