Narbacular Drop

by on Sep.12, 2006, under computer graphics, game reviews, gaming, indy, pc


Unfortunately Named HL2E2

Last month, footage for (the unfortunately named) Half life 2 : Episode 2 exploded onto the ‘net with tremendous speed and enthusiasm. And for good reason, too. The game looks fantastic, as we’ve come to expect. The interesting part of this story however, was not the continuing struggle of Alyx and Gordon Freeman, nor the next iteration of graphics and physics technology that the next chapter will have.

The excitement was about a little game that will be bundled alongside Episode 2. A little game called “Portal”.

Most everyone has now heard about it, and have seen the very cool video of the “dimensional puzzler” brought to us by the “Aperture Science Team”. It looks quirky, challenging and fun. When that video was released, a million enthusiastic gamers all cried out in unison, “We wanna play this game right now!”

Portal  Little did we know, you actually can!

The predecessor for Portal is a little tech demo called, “Narbacular Drop”, made by a small team of students at Digipen. They were finalists in the Independant Game Festival competition, and their little creation cleanly won the Student Prize. Shortly thereafter, the makers went to demonstrate their creation at Valve’s offices in Seattle…and were literally handed jobs twenty minutes later! Nice!

So, I decided to give this game a try. And I’m totally glad I did!


The game is quite short. The graphics are quite primitive. There’s no fighting, no weapons, just a little girl that can create pairs of doorways onto any stone surface in the game world. Once I wrapped my head around this new way of solving puzzles, I was portalling my way with ease through all of the game’s tribulations. Although the game is very short, I’d have to say the experience was worth it. As far as FPS-style games go, it’s a gentle and amusing ride. I’d even deem it suitable for people who don’t normally play videogames. If you’ve got a spare 30 minutes, give it a go.

Portal will obviously be a huge success, and saying this long before its release is really saying something about the brilliance of Valve’s marketing. And Narbacular Drop? It’s proof that you don’t need the most high-tech look to make a great game.

Yet what’s more instructive from all of this is that the concept designers weren’t old industry hands, nor “insiders” from any part of the milieu. They are students, and they are gamers, merely wanting to make a fun, cool, and different sort of game. It’s nice to know that fresh perspectives still count for something! 🙂

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6 Comments for this entry

  • Joel

    If you think the game was too short (which it most definitely is), you can't miss the user-created maps, which I've been playing, and they are very well done:
    They'll extend your Narbacular playing well beyond the 30 minutes that the default maps provide.
  • CantThinkOfName

    It was called Narbacular drop because they wanted it to be the only thing people would find when they googled it.
  • digi

    No brutha! "Half life 2 : Episode 2"
  • b1alpha

    Which is a poor name, nabacular drop or portal? =P I loved that demo of Portal but I dont know exactly why I would kill robots. I think this sort of game should be done towards some good electronic music and should be challenging your mind to think in relationships of objects that can portal to other places realy fast and with bugs comming at you to motivate squishing them with the massive wake of speed you are on. anyway, yes a big gravity gun in the hl compound is fine too, so im just going to have to wait till they make super trance fighter.
  • covert.c.

    LOL, yeah, not the greatest name. I keep calling it "Nebracross". Don't ask me where my brain is finding that name either.
  • digi

    Yeesh, that's a poor name. Where's that marketting department?!

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