Two indie developers have created an homage to Valve's puzzle game, Portal — on the Nintendo DS.
Developer Jordan "Smealum" Rabet and an artist who prefers to go by the name "Lobo" worked on the homebrew DS version of the PC and console game, called Aperture Science DS, drawing inspiration from Portal's mechanics and art style, but putting their own creative twist on it.
The first playable version available to the public is now on Rabet's website. The build includes 14 levels that were created using Aperture Science DS' level editor, and the game features its own original backstory.
As the DS adaption is their own interpretation of Portal, they do have a narrative in mind to couple with it. What they plan is a story based on male protagonist, Doug Rattman, a character from Portal 2 comic "Lab Rat."
"We never really wrote down the entire backstory but obviously the main idea was to have him run around Aperture with his companion cube, battling GLaDOS," Rabet said of the character who currently features on the DS game's title screen. "Evidently the first release doesn't contain any of that stuff, but I'm hopeful we'll manage to cram it in there eventually, if we're motivated enough."
Hoping to ultimately incorporate the Lab Rat-based campaign and story, bug fixes are the current focus at this stage in the homebrew game's development, Rabet said, along with an implementation of a mechanic not featured in Valve's Portal games.
"The game may run alright but as quite a few players have noticed it is nowhere near done and it is still rather easy to break things," he said. "Another thing I'd like to get in there is a new gameplay mechanic featured in neither Portal or Portal 2. I actually programmed it already, and it works rather well, but it's not activated in the current release because creating levels focused around it will take a bit of thinking."
With the ultimate goal of transforming himself into a "better, or at least more experienced programmer," Rabet was compelled to develop the game on the DS because of the development challenges it posed due it its restrictions.
"I mean think about it; essentially what we were trying to do was get all the core mechanics of a 2007 PC game to run on a 2004 handheld, whose hardware was already outdated when it was released," he said. "That in itself is an interesting challenge, and basically means I have to think hard about how to get everything running correctly in spite of all of the console's restrictions."
Work began on the project last September, with Rabet taking "several month-long breaks" in that time. He estimates that September and October were spent getting portals right; November and December were dedicated to the physics engine; February was spent on the level editor; with the remaining time spent on gameplay mechanics.
While the team is already looking ahead to its next projects — they would like to toy with the Oculus Rift next — Rabet has no plans to bring the Portal homage to other platforms, such as the Nintendo 3DS, where he doesn't believe 3D rigid body physics have been developed on it to date.
"This project was in big part interesting to me because of the challenge it represented and because I wanted to push the DS," he said. "And I don't think porting this to anything else would be very interesting. Not to mention, people like me can't really work on the 3DS right now, so even though I wouldn't mind trying a couple things on that, I can't."
If and when Valve finds out about the game, Rabet isn't certain of what its reaction will be. He hopes that the company will see the game as the homage that it is.
"Of course I hope their reaction won't be a C&D letter... we've tried to be very respectful of their IP and not outright steal anything," he said. "I would also really like to hear what they think about it, even though it's not in the most polished of states yet."
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