I don't like Portal and I really do not like Portal 2. I'm not saying it just to say it, I'm saying it because I mean it and because I feel it to be true for myself. It is a genuine distaste I am sharing and I don't believe any amount of community maps or mods will effect my opinion.
Half way through Portal I felt like I was drifting away from the game because it didn't feel so much like a puzzle game as it did a series of linear events, like a shooter on rails or something. I had similar thoughts about Portal 2 after I had completed it, which I had done only because it was gifted to me by a friend who wanted me to so desperately play it and enjoy it. I told my friend I was enjoying it while I was playing it but really I was bored. The extra animations and voice work didn't seem all that inspired. It was all very predictable for me. When I told him how I felt he had a reaction that I'm sure any Portal fan would. He called me stupid.
This was all months ago now and I'd only just launched Portal 2 since I'd seen it to its end. I decided I was going to go in cold and make my own map with the editor. So I started a map, something simple at first. The level starts, you fall five or six meters, to your right a cube is spawning inset from within the ceiling, dropping orbs continuously into a vat on ambiguous game-over-juice. You take the orb and place it on the orb button, which turns on acceleration gell and spawns a cube in the same fashion nearby. You then place this on the cube button beside the orb button, which triggers the blue jump juice to drop beside the orange gel. using a combination of both or neither, you are then to make your way to a switch which is oddly place on a wall. Hitting this switch in conjunction with the two activated buttons draws back doors in the floor opening to a new level. This level requires a timed loop jump and latter I was going to make it so you'd need to link both gels to get across a precipice.
I invited the friend who called me stupid over to test what I had so far.
He played my level and told me that, "Portal isn't meant to be played like this." I asked him what he meant. He says,
"You don't just do one thing and then another thing." I tell him,
"This is exactly what Portal is to me. A linear chain of events." He says,
"No, this isn't on purpose. Your level is just terrible and you don't know what you're doing." To which I tell him the title,
"Check the name, I've called this level Initiate Step 2." I laugh at him. And he checks the description which reads:
-Step 1: Initiate Step 2
-Step 2: Initiates Step 3
-Step 3: Initiate Step 4
I am then assured that 'this' is not what Portal is about. I tell him that is all it is to me. That it didn't stimulate me even slightly. If Portal is a profound example of a puzzle game then Cathrine is the best puzzler I've ever played.
Some days passed and I realized that yes, Cathrine might really be one of the best puzzle games I had ever played. You have to think quickly and make logical choices with some variance of randomization being thrown in, it really is a great puzzle game and if Portal is hearkened by the public because of the personalities and characters, Cathrine has that in spades. You are left to make critical choices that progress the story and change the tone of and cinematic nature of some characters. The moral questions the game asks players is a level of interactivity on top of the cinematic presentation and well done puzzle mechanics. Not to mention it had challenge maps, multiplayer, and is too difficult for most people to play through on Normal. With all of this criteria, it should have been the best selling puzzle game of all time. Why wasn't it? Maybe because some of the imagery is overtly sexual and has anime overtones, but I digress.
So I thought Cathrine was among the best, probably the best I'd played. Until I played Quantum Conundrum. How did I miss this, how did I not see or hear, or even have any interest in this title?! It has all the qualities that Portal does that people say they liked, it has some level of randomization and quick-thinking required like in the tense situations of Portal, Portal 2, and Cathrine... and you actually have to THINK about solutions to solve puzzles. Not to mention it is as entertaining as it is stimulating. To date; Quantum Conundrum is the best puzzle game I have played with Cathrine coming in second. Braid is an honorable mention but perhaps not in my personal top five.
Please, please, do yourself a favor if you find you enjoy puzzle games and play Quantum Conundrum. You might enjoy it. If you don't, well... I don't know what to tell you. Good puzzles are hard to find.