LO500 Battle of the Week: Portal vs. Myst

A truly immersive gaming experience hinges on atmosphere. And I would argue that few video games burrow under our skin as effectively as the ones that drop us into the middle of a desolate universe, and force us to Figure Shit Out in wordless solitude. It's what's made the Metroid series so haunting. (Until Team Ninja decided to take a rusty icepick to Samus Aran's prefrontal lobe. But enough about that.)

Which brings us to this week's Laser Orgy 500 match-up: Portal vs. Myst.

In many ways, Myst and Portal are vastly different: Myst is a relatively languid adventure game set in a strange, relic-filled island world, while Portal is a dizzying, oft-violent puzzle-platformer that has you blasting around an empty research center while an insane AI tries very hard to exterminate you. But each envelopes you in an intense sense of isolation: when you step into either game, your protagonist is utterly alone.

Then again, considering that both of these games give us some highly memorable characters (with Portal's omnipresent GLaDOS being one of the greatest baddies in video-game history), perhaps I should clarify: when I say that you are "alone," I mean that you have no face-to-face contact or two-way communication with any other characters. In Myst, Atrus and his backstabbing sons transmit cries for help from the pages of the books in which they are imprisoned, while in Portal, the all-seeing, all-knowing, "arguably alive" GLaDOS taunts you from afar until you finally reach her hardware chamber. And these are the only living creatures you will encounter for the entire game. Moreover, in both games, the NPCs are deliberately feeding you misinformation, hoping to lead you to your doom (in Myst, that's getting trapped in a book for eternity; in Portal, it's being murdered by GLaDOS). There is no one to help you here. If that's not alone, I don't know what is.

So when it comes to a battle between the two battles of wits, which comes out on top? Let's take a look.

When Myst first hit shelves in 1993, it became a chart-topping PC-game juggernaut whose sales would not be topped until 2002 (with The Sims). Its runaway success propelled sales of CD-ROM drives. The game was a breakthrough in 3-D rendering, with superior sound design and video integration. Meanwhile, considering that Portal was basically a 3-hour game Valve tossed into The Orange Box, it sure did turn heads. The teleportation game mechanic -- adapted from the student-developed game Narbacular Drop -- was fresh and new and sexy, and ensured that Portal racked up loads of awards in 2007.

Advantage: Myst -- it was a big deal, guys.

Myst sets up an intriguing universe -- revolving around inventor Atrus, his drama-fraught family, and their ability to transform books into wormholes between worlds -- that proved ample grist for plenty of sequels and novelizations (and hey, maybe even a movie). Yet it all feels a bit stiff compared to the genius of the far-more-compact plot of Portal: thanks to the writing talents of Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek (who pioneered the "Crate Review System"), GLaDOS's absurd, freaky reign of terror is nothing short of glorious.

Advantage: Portal.

Tiresome Meme Creation

Advantage: Myst.

Myst's puzzles are set to "fiendish." Portal's are set to "vertigo." So: do you take your masochism at a glacially slow pace (with a high probability that you will be ripping out tufts of your own hair by the time you hit the Spaceship), or with a side of Dramamine?

Advantage: Toss-up.

And the winner is ...
Oh, hell, this is a tough one, but I'm going to have to go Myst. And it seems like I might be in the minority here, considering that the current Laser Orgy 500 standings have Portal at #8 and Myst at #80. So, hey, maybe the people have already spoken -- but any Myst boosters out there might want to help hoist this classic a little higher on the leaderboard. Get to it!

| More


Follow us on Twitter for updates and links to general coolness

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Laser Orgy Archives