The Cake is a Lie, but the Portal Board Game Isn’t
Portal is a popular video game from Valve that is best known for mind-bending 3D physics puzzles and an astonishingly dark sense of humor. Exactly one of those things translates well to a tabletop environment, which is good news because someone has actually gone ahead and made that game.
The Portal board game – or more accurately, Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game – is a collaborative effort from Valve and Cryptozoic Entertainment. It recently made an appearance at Gen Con in Indianapolis and will soon be coming to store shelves when it debuts for $49.99 later in the fall.
So what should you expect from The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game?
“It’s not Portal,” Cryptozoic’s Sara Miguel told Polygon. “You’re not playing the video game in a board game, because why would you want to do that? It’s a separate experience, but it’s still very much Portal.”
Now, you’re probably wondering how something can be Portal and not Portal at the same time. Fortunately, we can resolve the riddle with the help of science. The Portal board game does not play like Portal, but it does have the aesthetic trappings of Portal, including turrets, test chambers, and the companion cube. The reckless disregard for the safety of test subjects is also refreshingly familiar.
The game board, meanwhile, consists of three test chambers, and the goal is to make sure that you place as many test subjects as possible in the rightmost chamber before it falls off the table and gets incinerated and recycled on the left side of the table. Surviving players are rewarded with action cards and (maybe) cake, which is very much real in Cryptozoic’s version of the game. The action cards allow players to move other test subjects and items around the game board. The cake is cake, and needs no further explanation.
The game presumably finds some way to incorporate portals into the design, but that’s not as important as conducting dangerous and poorly constructed experiments in the name of science. Portal has always been a game about getting results, and as long as The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition game captures that industrious spirit then the rest of the elements should fall into place. The sterile, off-white design is probably a little too welcoming – no human research facility is that clean – but Valve has thoughtfully included a Steam code for a free copy of Portal 2 so the company should have no trouble luring volunteers. It’s an excellent bonus feature and I, for one, look forward to playing my part.