You, there! Does your t-shirt say ‘I Love Portal, Especially Mods’? And is that a giant foam handheld Portal device? Say, aren’t you the chap who runs pleasemakemoreportalsmodes.com? Didn’t you name your twin sons ‘Blue’ and ‘Orange’? Is that a map to Erik Wolpaw’s house in your back pocket? Nope? I was wrong on all counts. Well this is horribly awkward. You’ve never even heard of Portal, and you’re now calling the police. Fine: I’ll just have to find someone else to talk to about this marvellous Portal mod I’ve been playing. The mod is Rexaura, and it’s more Portal in the best possible way.
It has the set parameters of a biting, funny computerised antagonist running you through a series of troubling test chambers. I like it because most of the puzzles require a certain amount of testing to conquer: the puzzles are focused around the bouncing powered plasma balls, so you have to test bounces and ricochets before the final tumblers click over in your brain. Each level’s intimidating complexity eventually withers under scrutiny, although it takes time, which makes you feel like a Portaling genius.
That’s partly because there are a few new tricks: the balls can be deflected with cubes, and there are light barriers that you can send them through that act as switches. The slow, steady unlocking of each puzzle segment is endorphin-a-licious. And because it’s easier to show you how Portal works, rather than having to explain how I manoeuvred awkwardly around like a rat in a maze, here’s an annoyingly fuzzy video of me solving an early puzzle. You’ll note I only have control of one Portal: Rexaura pulls the same trick that Portal does with a slow drip of mechanics, but having said that it does it in service of the puzzling fun rather that Portal’s overlong hand-holding. Using one ball to open the gate for another to pass through took me about five minutes to figure out after watching that cursed ball bounding between the shut gate and wall. Later on, the balls get a life span that can be altered by passing them through the portals. That’s when the puzzles shift a little towards tasking your movement as much as your ability to ponder the portal positions.
It’s utterly delightful, probably the best chunk of non-Valve Portal modding I’ve played. It’s consistent with the tone, nicely paced and rewarding to play.