539070_largerBetter Than Portal [$0.99] certainly makes lofty claims with its attention-grabbing title. With clever storytelling, a cheeky sense of humor, fresh mechanics, and interesting puzzles, Portal is an amazing title. Better Than Portal is, of course, not better than Portal. While it openly draws inspiration from that title, it contains almost none of what makes Portal the outstanding game that it is.

The basic setup of the game isn't going to win any prizes for innovation. Each stage is a single screen affair where you need to reach the exit. There are barriers, spikes, and bottomless pits applied liberally to impede you. Naturally, some devilish fellow has strewn exactly three stars in each stage in ostensibly hard-to-reach places. You know the drill.

The main play mechanic involves the use of a gun that allows you to create a portal on specific surfaces. You can have up to two portals on-screen at one time. These portals work as you would expect portals to, allowing you to travel from place to place by placing them intelligently.

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You can also use the portals to move around crates that can be used to hold down switches or create paths across dangerous surfaces. Apart from walking left and right, this is the only thing your character can do. You can't jump or even push crates, leaving you to rely entirely on using portals to perform what would be completely mundane actions in most games.

It's a fun mechanic that forces you to think about how you're going to progress in new ways, and even if it's not a new idea, there are still plenty of ways it can be used to create a very fun game. Unfortunately, Better Than Portal suffers from a lot of problems that keep it from realizing its full potential.

Right from the get-go, the controls just don't work as well as you'd like them to. It's very easy to accidentally touch the area around the on-screen controls, launching a portal when you simply wanted to walk. This is a problem because if you have two portals on-screen, launching another will erase the first portal you had set down. At best, you'll have to set down both portals again, and at worst, you'll end up trapped somewhere and need to start the stage over again. The character's movement is also very sluggish. This isn't a fast action game, so it's not as damaging as it could be, but you'll often wish your character would pick up the pace a little bit. It's also a bit strange, for a game that relies fairly heavily on physics, how completely unmovable crates are. Gravity and momentum will toss them around with wild abandon, but they're essentially bolted to the ground as far as your character is concerned.

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Ultimately, though, this is a puzzle game, so the puzzles are what count the most. Better Than Portal does have some good head-scratchers, though not nearly as many of them as you'd like. You really need to work out a plan for many of the later levels, and it's quite satisfying bringing it all together. However, even here, Better Than Portal missteps. In the first few levels, the game teaches you some basic techniques, but the levels very quickly require some advanced techniques that the game never even properly hints at. If you've never played a similar game, you'll probably be at a loss as to how to proceed. However, if you have played a similar game, like, ahem, Portal, the puzzles will for the most part be incredibly familiar, leading to an all-too-brief game.

Even with all of its problems, there is some fun to be had with Better Than Portal, particularly in the latter part of the game when the puzzle difficulty steps up. The visual design and sound are both inoffensive but unspectacular, adjectives that could be applied to the game in most respects. In the end, the most notable thing about this title is its cheeky title, pointing to ambitions it's ill-equipped to achieve.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

    Didn't you guys review this a long time ago?

    • Gucciipad

      I thought so too

    • catharsis6163

      In think they had an article but not a formal review.

    • ZarieoZ

      The way I remember it is that brad (or somebody) wrote a small preview about it as part of the upcoming tonight articles ( when they started to make them separately)... He was heavy on it & criticized it much which earned him some criticism himself for delving deep in just a small preview, which is meant to be just , well... A preview. TA & all the drama, it's like living in a soup opera. We should give them some break guys ;-) TA is more opinions than reviews set in stones, TA is just me & you writing our opinions in somebody else's voice... Or pen... Keyboard, whatever :D

      • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

        I wasn't criticizing that they reviewed it again (which they didn't, not necessarily), just to put that out there. I was just curious. But yes, TA drama is a bit ridiculous these days.

      • ZarieoZ

        Oh don't worry, I wasn't saying you did, I was only clarifying it to you... Then I remembered all the drama & had to post something about it ;-)

      • MantaNZ

        A soup opera? Tasty :)

      • ZarieoZ

        Hmmm For the lack of a better term, I think it fits though ;-)

      • Karzay

        I can't wait for the next episode. I think we'll find out the Eli and Brad have the same mother and Jared is their father, but Jared has another child with a mystery woman (Lily Tomlin), and that child is Temple Run. (James Franco plays the part of Temple Run, since Nicolas Cage turned it down because their wasn't enough explosions in the script.)

        New episode tomorrow, 8/7c NBC*

        *only airs in Ohio.

  • James

    If this becomes popular I can only imagine the run of "better than" knock offs. As we speak someone probably already has a better than Mario in the works which, in fact will not be.

    After all a leps world clone already ironically exists.

  • Allen Arcelo

    This review in a nutshell: This game sucks, well not really. No, it actually does suck, but then again I guess it doesn't. But in all actuality, yes, it's a bad game; No, not really. Seriously though IT SUCKS! Well...

    • ZarieoZ

      Looooooool I love how you put it :D

    • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

      So basically, this game sucks, but has some good elements. Unfortunately it doesn't all come together into a well-done game.

      At least, that's what I got from it.

    • godelescherbach

      Reading your comment out loud is so much fun.

  • wiesse

    Why is TA giving attention to a game they don't like... Twice

    • MidianGTX

      Because if they don't they get whiny comments about only ever giving out 4-5 stars.

  • pdSlooper

    So how many stars would this have gotten if it hadn't created instant antipathy with its name?

    • DannyTheElite

      3-3.5.

    • Carvool

      I would doubt that it would even be reviewed without the title; like the review says, it's about the only thing that makes this game notable.

    • OnlyMe.Asia

      4 stars

  • Cookies

    Maybe they were referring to the 2D flash game Portal is based on.

Better than Portal Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 2.5