Mod of the Week: Aperture Tag, for Portal 2
Without his gravity gun, Gordon Freeman is just another geek. Without his grappling hook, Rico Rodriguez is just another agent. And, without her portal gun, Chell is just... fine? As it turns out, removing the portal gun from Portal 2 isn't that much of a detriment, provided you replace it with a gun that shoots endless streams of science gel. That's what the Aperture Tag mod plans to do, and now you can get a little preview of how it'll work.
Typically I don't write about mods I haven't personally played, but in this case I have little choice: the Aperture Tag mod hasn't been released as it is currently attempting to get onto Steam Greenlight. Luckily, though, we can cobble together all the test maps and concept proofs into a little Aperture Tag campaign of our own. Here's the Steam Workshop collection page: just subscribe to all five items, and start splashing the walls.
What's it like playing Portal without portals? Just fine. It honestly doesn't feel that different than playing Portal with portals. You're still flinging yourself through a 3D puzzle while trying to avoid plunging into poisonous floor-water. This time, instead of a portal gun, you've got a paint gun, capable of squirting repulsion gel or propulsion gel to bounce you higher or speed you faster. No portals? No biggie. It seems like you'd miss them, but you really don't.
Having a portable paint gun in your hands makes gel feel a lot more like a dynamic and useful tool, too. Typically, in the vanilla game, you slathered gels here or there using a combination of leaking pipes, gushing nozzles, and some well placed portals, and then ran through the chamber. If you didn't smear the right spots with the right gel, you'd make a couple adjustments with your paint, and try again. Gels, really, were part of the planning phase of solving a chamber, not something you used reflexively or on the fly.
With the paint gun, though, that changes. As with portals, you might suddenly realize you need one when, say, you're plummeting toward a wall or the ground after a faith plate launches you in a direction you didn't expect or a bounce vaults you over the surface you were planning to land on. Being able to dispense a dollop of goo while hurtling through the air makes the gels a lot more fun and exciting. Not to mention, the added enjoyment of being able to slather an entire room like you're wielding a gooey machine gun. It may not lead to the chamber's solution, but it's still viscerally satisfying to make a big dumb mess.
The test chambers available start off simply: a few proof of concept puzzles that mostly involve bouncy gel to launch you onto taller and taller objects. But even in the small sample available to us, puzzles get more and more complex, involving lasers, mirror cubes, faith plates, poison floors, and even some turrets. Of course, now that you can spray turrets with bouncy gel at will and from any distance, they've lost some of their adorable menace.
The mod, when fully released, promises 26 levels to solve with splatter, as well as a new personality core with custom voice work, who you can hear in the trailer on the Greenlight page. I'm not sure what the new core's name is, but my guess is "X-Games Snowboarding Announcer." (As far voice work in these demo levels go, there's only a couple of Cave Johnson clips.) Speaking of the trailer, you can play through the exact map that's showcased.
Will it really be fun to play through a massive amount of Portal levels without a portal gun? If the chambers are creative enough, I think it could be. I had a good time with the few maps available, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more.