LIKE WATCHING PAINT DRY?
Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative is a modification for Portal 2 which chooses to take away the beloved Portal gun, instead of replacing it with the Paint Gun, a portable unit capable of launching Portal 2’s Repulsion and Propulsion gels. Unfortunately, while the concept may sound interesting, Aperture Tag doesn’t manage to live up to expectation, botching the transplant of Portal 2’s more successful elements. Perhaps most interestingly, Aperture Tag has a $6 price tag, which is easily the most puzzling decision about the whole project.
Set within the Portal universe sometime after the events that transpire in Portal 2, you take the role of yet another unfortunate test subject forced to take part in a series of life-threatening exams, all in the name of science. The game then introduces a completely original character, a personality core tasked with leading you around the once industrious testing facility. From there, the game makes many attempts at producing an interesting narrative, filled with surprises, humour and twists, all of which manage to fall flat, leaving a vastly forgettable mush in its wake.
The whole of Aperture Tag takes place over two-dozen original test chambers, although a couple are ripped straight out of Portal 2, challenging the player to think with paint rather than portals. Starting with just the blue propulsion gel, the game is slow to evolve, making sure that you really, truly understand how the gel works, prior to giving you access to the orange propulsion gel.
Once the player has free reign of both gels however, the game ramps up the difficulty rather suddenly, bringing to light one of the game’s most obvious flaws – the level design. Despite featuring some interesting puzzles throughout, I couldn’t help but feel that the level design didn’t reach perfect synchronicity with the platforming mechanics featured, often leading to frustrating sections in which puzzles became impossible to complete unless done absolutely perfectly.
Boxes would consistently fail to reach their intended destination, just because of how they landed on launch-pads. The player character would often build either too little or too much momentum, causing me to just miss the ledge I was aiming for, despite going the correct way. It was a common occurrence for me to tediously repeat and repaint sections, hoping that luck would actually be on my side.
Despite all of this however, when lady luck blessed me with good fortune, I must admit that I had quite a lot of fun recklessly painting the walls of a test chamber, overcoming all of the obstacles in a fluid, bouncy nature. However, these segments were few and far between, ultimately being overcome by the tedium of re-doing levels over and over, hoping to get lucky.
Aesthetically, the game is positively Portal, with most of the newly developed assets such as the “Fizzler” — a large gun-disabling force field — being able to fit believably into the universe. However, the Paint Gun, possibly the most important asset of all, looks pretty terrible. It’s clear that the Paint Gun is heavily inspired by the original Portal Gun but ends up looking like a knock-off children’s toy, with paint unconvincingly ‘wobbling’ in line with the player’s movements.
All in all, I have to admit that I left Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative feeling disappointed. Throughout the entirety of its campaign I had fun only a handful of times, with the rest of the game becoming a tedious adventure through a series of clever, but poorly implemented chambers. It’s clear that a lot of love went into developing this modification, but in the end, it all fell flat.
On the flip side, I’m glad to see that Aperture Tag has opened up it’s doors to the Steam Community through the Steam Workshop, allowing modders to further mod the mod.