Portal Stories: Mel Released Free On Steam

Gosh, the work and dedication that goes into some mods can still surprise me. Look at Portal Stories: Mel [official site], a new Portal 2 mod which launched this evening.

Mel brings a new protagonist with a new companion sphere, boasting over 300 new voiced lines, an hour of original music, and 22 levels that its creators say may take anywhere from four to twelve hours to complete depending on how well you think with portals. It looks quite pretty. And it’s entirely free (if you own Portal 2, natch), available direct through Steam.

The mod plops itself between the first and second Portal games, though it starts before either of them. Another person is awaking from an experimental slumber, see. Here’s the skinny:

“In the early years of Aperture: Science Innovators, Cave Johnson’s scientists rushed to get everything working to catch up with the growth of the company. Not everything worked as it should have. Mel unfortunately took part in a faulty test called the Aperture: Science Innovators Short-Term Relaxation Vault, falling asleep for years. Now, with a fake Cave Johnson telling her she needs to escape the facility and a new device called the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, her mind races with questions. ‘Who is this imposter Cave Johnson?’ ‘What happened to the facility and its staff?’

“‘What happened to me?'”

Portal Stories: Mel garnered went through Steam Greenlight while it was still being made, so its initial release comes directly through Steam, where it’ll appear as a separate entry in your library without any fussy unzipping or anything.

I do like the look of its tacky ’70s portal gun. Beyond that, well, I’ll need to play it more to say. Hurry up, download!


  1. RogerioFM says:

    Looks very good, I’ll surely check out.

  2. brat-sampson says:

    Not sure if I’m just rusty or it’s hard, but it’s definitely pitched at folks who’ve finished Portal 2 and are already comfortable with all the mechanics. I’m only on about the third real chamber and there’s both gels and some portal-wall hunting going on.

    • Al__S says:

      Surely that’s not a massive problem- it’s not something aimed at newbies. Rustiness will be an issue for me too, but it is an expansion aimed at those familiar with the game

      • brat-sampson says:

        Not a problem at all, I’m enjoying it. Plus I was checking the steam forum and they’ve made video walkthroughs of every puzzle if you really feel like you’ve been banging your head for an hour too many.

        • Chirez says:

          And that is all that needs to be said about the quality of the puzzles.

          • Blad the impaler says:

            I think that could actually be both a good and bad thing. It does say a lot about the quality of the developers however!

          • Jeroen D Stout says:

            To each their own. My problem with Portal 2 was that I never felt like the game required me to think, which says something about the ‘quality of the puzzles’.

  3. 7hink says:

    Oh boy. There might even be cake! Downloading now.

  4. Sarfrin says:

    Been following this for a while. Can’t wait to play it!

  5. Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

    Yeah, really been looking forward to this.. I honestly don’t get the free mod thing for such complete pro level packages like this and eg the fake factory half life 2 mod. I’d gladly throw these guys a few squid for their efforts. Hold on… I’m a lying shit.. I didn’t buy aperture tag…

  6. Chirez says:

    Ok, caveats ahoy: It’s free, it’s not a professional job, it is impressively large. I’m sure a lot of work went into it and I don’t want to take anything away from the achievement.

    But it’s not very good, is it?

    I mean, it’s incredibly difficult to make a portal game. It’s incredibly difficult to make a portal puzzle, even when given the tools, even the very best community chambers can suffer from physics issues and slightly broken solutions.

    So it’s hardly surprising that when you try to make a portal game in your spare time, you end up with something which doesn’t really work. The environments are unintuitive, the voiceover alternates between patronising and unhelpful, the puzzles themselves only make sense to the person who designed them…

    It’s grossly unfair to compare this to either of the actual portal games. I kinda think we have to though, right? It’s a bold effort, but when you look at it coldly it’s seriously cracked. Has anyone had the little lightbulb moment which is so critical to portal? At least once in this game have you suddenly seen a puzzle from a new angle and everything has made sense? Or is it just a matter of bulling through, working out what silly kink is preventing you from progressing until you reach the next section that’s not had enough testing.

    • gwathdring says:

      I would caution that lightbulb moments are more a feature of the player than of the game. The eureka moment isn’t something you can design consistently for different player type.

      That aside, I felt how you describe feeling in Portal 2. The writing was fun, but the puzzles were all too reliant on obscurity rather than complexity. “Ohhhhh. There’s a portalable surface THERE. Well, then. That’s solves that.” Which some people don’t seem to have minded but I found it incredibly tedious.

      • ironhorse says:

        There was only one point in all of Portal 2 that I banged my head into a wall, and it was just because of some visual obscurity. I also once watched a friend try *everything* but jump across a broken catwalk for over 20 minutes before i couldn’t bare it any longer and told him he’d be able to jump across safely if he timed it right. He couldn’t believe that was it, and really I couldn’t blame him for it.

        A room’s design in every way should be intuitive in assisting solving the puzzle. This means trimming the fat when necessary, and not providing gigantic “shoot here” signs despite the different skill levels. This is the best guide for allowing those player created eureka moments, so that the player can focus on the complexity of a puzzle instead of trying to figure out where to go next..

    • Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

      Sounds like somebody found the puzzley-wuzzleys too hard…?

      • Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

        Hmmm… That was aimed at Chirez…

      • gwathdring says:

        There are different ways to make a puzzle hard.

        One of the worst, in my view, is the way Portal 2 did. I found none of the single player puzzles difficult, but that on it’s own says nothing–different people are good at different puzzles and balanced puzzle design is rather difficult.

        What I do find more telling from a design point of view is that of the puzzles I found the least easy, the difficulty was in figuring out what was possible rather than figuring out what, of the possible, would work. That is, I never found myself trying to use my brain to shortcut the brute-force method … rather I found myself using environmental exploration to short-cut using my brain.

        There’s nothing wrong with this, in principle, as a design goal. Some people love hidden object games, so why not hidden-portalable-surface games? But that’s not what I expected going in. That’s not the kind of challenge I wanted. It’s not what I got out of the few difficult Portal 1 rooms, the Portal 1 room challenges, or the Portal 2 co-op. It’s not only what I prefer in my puzzle games in general, but it’s what I feel the Portal franchise promised fairly explicitly. It did not deliver.

      • Chirez says:

        I’m not surprised that someone would say that, though I am a little disappointed that anyone would say it quite that way.

        I personally would say that I have no problem with difficult puzzles, I will cheerfully spend an hour bashing away at something and come out the far side perfectly happy, so long as the solution actually makes sense.

        The extreme counterexample would be spending an hour bashing away at something, and then discovering that a wall that looks just like any other wall is actually portalable and critical to the solution. Not a real example, but the best way I can think of to illustrate the difference. What gwathdring says about Portal 2 is spot on, though I think Mel is worse in that regard, it certainly has more excuses.

        • Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

          I think i understand the point you guys are making, it echoes some of the trickier puzzles in The Swapper, which I’ve been stuck on, stopped playing for n months, returned and progressed, now stuck again. I didn’t see it as you do though.. I thought it showed that the designers were masters of their game’s environment, to abstract solutions that required precision movement and timing, almost to a stress testing degree, rather than just playing with the logical swapping and multiplying parameters of the games core design. It does it to a more extreme level than portal 2 ever did… But I love them both for it. You feel cheated, I feel