Portal was intended to be a mini-game released with Valve’s much-anticipated “Orange Box,” a game bundle that marketed several of Valve’s most-loved games as one package. Thanks to its excellent writing, a unique platforming mechanic and highly accessible gameplay, Portal soon vaulted into popularity and has since become a staple of gamer culture. It was created with Valve’s Source programming engine, the same engine that was used to create the lauded Half Life series of games, and fits loosely into the same continuity; all of the action in Portal takes place at Aperture Laboratories, the rival of the company employing the protagonist of the Half Life games.
Portal 2 expands on the “captured test subject in abandoned lab” narrative begun in the first game, and while it doesn’t connect to Half Life’s story any more than its predecessor, it does substantially expand on the history and inner workings of Aperture Labs. The player discovers why the protagonist is stuck in the testing facility in the first place, is introduced to more AIs within the testing facility itself, and uncovers the rather sordid history of the company that created the Portal gun and the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, which the player is trying to escape.
The Portal series of games differs significantly in tone and gameplay from the Half Life series, and both can stand alone as fully realized games despite how well they work together to form a more complete universe. Portal’s writing is full of gallows humor that both counterbalances and enriches the darker moments of the storyline, while Half Life is more often than not quite serious. The biggest connections between the two games occur not in Portal itself, but in Half Life; the player encounters technologies similar to those used in Portal, learns about the rivalry between Aperture and Black Mesa, the company the protagonist works for, and discovers that Aperture Labs somehow managed to teleport an entire research vessel to the Antarctic. Half Life 2 ends when the protagonist is tasked with finding said research vessel.
Overall, the Portal series of games is less an adaptation and more a fascinating expansion of a well-established universe. Fans of both titles are eagerly anticipating how the events of Portal will factor into the continuation of the Half Life series, and hopefully we’ll get to see a tighter integration of the two games as Half Life progresses.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCt2nZF2nLk The ending theme of the first Portal game, which went viral almost immediately after release.