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by Rob Swigart and Brad Fregger

Science Fiction

(based on 2 ratings)
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About the Story

Where are all the humans? Upon returning from your 100 year voyage in the milky way, you find earth empty and abandoned. Between the decaying remnants of civilization, you discover a terminal for Worldnet, the global network that recorded all human activities. The answer must lie deep in its database. Anxious, you log on.

Portal is a computer novel - an attempt of creating and adapting a novel specifically for the computer. The story of the boy Peter Devore, his incredible discovery and the mysterious portal are told by an AI named Homer, who reconstructs it piece by piece out of database fragments. As the plot develops, you acquire accompanying information by accessing eleven additional databases - for example a historical archive, military files or social backgrounds. As you switch between the databases to uncover new details, an extensive sci-fi story unfolds.

From the front of the box:

"Homer, a biological computer. The final link to the past and the only conduit to the future. But Homer is dying and access grows weaker moment by moment. Will you discover where everyone has gone or will the doorway to humanity close forever, leaving you totally alone?"

From the back of the box:

"It is the distant future. The 21th century has long since come and gone. Returning from a failed 100 year voyage to 61 Cygni, you re-enter earth's atmosphere to find that the world is not as you once knew it.

Where once there was teeming humanity, now there is quiet. The empty shells of mile-high skyscrapers stand at rest in the awesome silence. The vista, nothing but forests and meadows, rivers and lakes, is beautiful but eerie, for there are no people...

Finally, you discover an on-line computer terminal that you can operate. Through it you contact Homer, the ultimate achievement of man's technology - a living computer. Together you and Homer must unravel the mystery of the vanished civilisation before it's too late. If not, you face an eternity of total solitude."

Game Details

Editorial Reviews

The Digital Antiquarian
Thematically fascinating on at least a couple of different levels
Yes, its pacing is often glacial... And yes, its actual story is fairly underwhelming... Yet for the thoughtful reader theres a lot here. You may just find yourself chewing over what Portal has to say about the world about our world for some time to come.
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Back in 1986, Activision published interactive fiction not unlike Twine games.
Critics of the time frequently expressed the idea that it should have just been a traditional printed novel, but really, that was missing the point. Portal, as a novel, wouldn't have anywhere near the atmosphere and intrigue without the slow build up and interactive detective work to uncover the story. Indeed, Swigart released the text as a traditional novel and, sure enough, it didn't have nearly the same effect.
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Internet Archive
Zzap!64 Magazine Review of Commodore 64 version (March, 1987)
Portal is not a game, it is a computer novel. It would be unfair to compare it in any way with the type of program we normally review - thus there are no ratings.
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Computer Gaming World Magazine Review (May, 1987): A Very Novel Game
The story is interesting and well written, and well it should be, having been written by Rob Swigart, a noted science-fiction writer... It is a classic tale of a benevolent future society gone bad, a story of adventure, mystery, suspense, love, and plausible scientific fiction.
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Review: Portal (1986)
What's great about Portal is that everything is connected: what seems like utterly incongruous side-bars turn out to be central to the story of Peter Devore, and indeed the story of humanity. There is a great synthesis of medium and message here...
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Portal on IFDB


The following polls include votes for Portal:

Games which take place in chat messenger systems or on a digital interface by grimperfect
Specifically, works where the main mechanic is either exploring a in-game digital interface(ala Secret Little Haven) or communicating using a type of chat/text messenger system(think Emily is Away).

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