Innovative puzzler with first-person action.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Players are encouraged to form an emotional bond with an inanimate object, which they are later forced to destroy. The chief antagonist is an overbearing maternalistic robot that offers cake in exchange for good behavior.


In some of the puzzles, automated turrets fire on the player, splattering blood on nearby surfaces. There is no person-on-person violence.

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this game contains some blood, the potential for the player to die, and some violence against inanimate objects. Parents should also know that the game is set in a near future in which humans are mysteriously absent, with suggestions that they have met some disturbing but unspecified fate.

What's it about?

In PORTAL, the player controls a human character as if in a first-person shooter, only the player doesn't have any weapons, and there are only a few inanimate \"enemies\" to shoot. Instead, the player must work their way through increasingly difficult puzzle areas, guided by audio instructions from an artificially intelligent computer named \"GLaDOS.\"

To solve the puzzles, the player uses a device called an \"aperture gun\" which creates a temporary passage between surfaces. It works like this: shoot at a wall to create an opening, then shoot at the ceiling to create a second opening. Step through the opening in the wall, come out the one in the ceiling. Portal's sophisticated physics engine takes care of the rest.

Is it any good?


Puzzle areas generally take the form of a room or series of rooms through which players must proceed in order to "win." The aperture gun makes it possible to create a portal in order to get to out-of-reach areas, drop onto moving platforms, or retrieve distant objects. That fairly simple formula produces some fiendish puzzles which invite the player to repeat them many times over. That's good, because the game is unfortunately quite short, with only a few hours of game play to finish off the main story. And finishing is required: the charming little song at the end makes the struggle well worth it.

Portal is an excellent game, the standout star of 2007's Half-Life 2:The Orange Box game compilation, which also included the Half-Life 2 saga and Team Fortress 2. As a stand-alone product, Portal includes no additional game content on top of what was included with The Orange Box, so those who own The Orange Box should not pick up this edition of Portal. But since The Orange Box is an M-rated title, if you have a teen looking for an interesting puzzler, this stand-alone version of Portal is an outstanding choice. It represents a new genre of game that combines the sophisticated physics of a first-person shooter with minimally-violent puzzle content.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the possibility of sapient machines in our future and what our ethical responsibilities might be. Because this is set in a future mostly absent of humans, families could also discuss dangers, both real and imaginary, that could cause human extinction.

Game details

Available online?Not available online
Developer:Electronic Arts
Release date:April 9, 2008
ESRB rating:T

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byGoodReviews330 April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written bynsvv April 30, 2011

A near perfect game, but unsuitable for under 13s

From a gameplay point of view, Portal is simply one of the best and deeply though out games I have ever played in my life. The puzzles are at times maddeningly difficult, but never impossible. Although Portal is now 5 years old, the graphics are still nice and run fluidly even on older machines. Now for the problems. In the later levels, there are turrets that shoot at you, with moderately realistic blood splashing onto walls behind you. Turrets are also heart-breakingly adorable, and they make you love them even though they want to kill you. The main enemy of the game (GLaDOS) constantly taunts you with messages meaning to hurt you, and may upset younger players. Nevertheless, she is an excellent character and is undoubtedly one of the best video game characters of all time despite the fact that she is a megalomaniac who has wrested control over a science facility. A final problem is the last level, where the player is running through the 'behind the scenes' of the facility. The environments are at times scary and disturbing, that unsettles even me. Portal's fantastic puzzles create an excellent challenge for teens and above, but the mild violence and negative themes makes it unsuitable for pre teens.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Adult Written byfgh8ud May 17, 2010

Good game with a story too dark for younger children.

This is an amazing game, one of the best of all time, and it would be appropriate for younger kids if the storyline wasn't so dark. GLaDOS is a robot who will twist and manipulate you and later on the game, try to kill you with things such as turrets, falling cubes, poison water, and an attempt to incinerate you. Don't get me wrong, the storyline isn't so dark and twisted that it deserves an M, I think it is fit for a T, maybe even an E10+. Plus, it might be appropriate for younger kids, if they don't listen to the storyline on games really. But, it's not recommended for young kids. While GLaDOS is very manipulative, she is also likeable and very funny. The game is humorous, in a dark sort of way. GLaDOS is also creepy, because of everything she says, and what she has done (you will learn this at the end of the game, if you haven't already figured it out by the clues they gave you before you got there.) Overall, this is an amazing game, and even though it is short, I wasn't expecting a big 10-20 hour game on a disc with 5 games on it. 10/10
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages


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