Portal was released nearly seven years ago as part of the Valve Orange Box, which also included a few other games. Seven years is an eternity on the internet, but the excitement was still palpable when Nvidia announced it was working on a version of Portal for the Shield. Now here we are just a weeks later and the game is about to hit the Play Store. The questions we have to ask are... has Nvidia done the original game justice, and how does Portal hold up after so long?

Thinking With Portal

There may be those among the Android Police readership who have not played, or (gasp) were too young to have played Portal when it came out back in 2007. If that's the case, be warned there will be some spoiler-ish content, but mostly toward the end. I don't need to go into extreme detail about how Portal works or what it is, seeing as the game existed long before it was ported to the Shield. Here's the short version with visual aids in GIF form.


At some point in the indeterminate future, your character (Chell) wakes up in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center. That's a polite way to refer to what you quickly discover is a diabolical experimental laboratory under the control of a maniacal artificial intelligence called GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System). At the urging of GLaDOS, you venture out into the testing grounds to complete first-person puzzles with the super-neat portal gun.


There are no bullets to be fired (at least not by you), just portals which form a bridge between two locations in the level. You can walk through them yourself, but they also transport inanimate objects and energy. You'll have to toggle switches, fling yourself through the air, and avoid automated defenses to survive and unravel the mysteries of Aperture Science.

Portal Hopping With Shield

The original game had full controller support, so getting around with the Shield's controls is just fine. If you've ever played a first-person game with a controller, this is pretty much the same thing. I played Portal (and indeed most games) on a PC with a keyboard and mouse – that's just what I'm most comfortable with. I'm hopelessly bad in most first person gaming situations with a controller, but Portal is still a solid experience.

2014-05-04 00.58.12 2014-05-04 00.44.15

To be successful in Portal, you need to plan ahead and place your portals carefully. You can get that done even if you're more of a PC gamer type. The thumbsticks are used as you'd expect, to walk and look. The triggers are bound to the blue and orange portal action. Then you've just got the action button (right bumper/X) and jump (left bumper/A).

There's really nothing to complain about with the controls – it's all set up for you and the defaults are fine. Although, in the beta version I had for review, the look setting seems to be backwards, at least I think so. When set to inverted, it behaves the way I expect a controller to behave (i.e. push stick up to look up).

The Source Engine On Android: Huge Success?

Portal was built on the Source game engine, the same basic version powering titles like Half-Life 2. This incarnation might be a few years old now, but porting that to Android/Tegra 4 opens up a huge world of possibilities for more PC games. Of course, that only holds true if it's any good. So is it? In a word: mostly.

2014-05-07 02.04.17 2014-05-04 01.11.41

The Shield is rendering Portal at 720p on a 5-inch screen, and it looks great. It's very much what I remember from the PC version of the game. The textures are solid and all the animations are very smooth (the GIFs above were captured on the Shield). There were only one or two places I saw a slowdown, both of which involved rendering flames.

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2014-05-04 03.51.37 2014-05-04 03.26.18

If you look at the screens blown up, you can see a fair bit of aliasing (jaggies) along the edges of objects. Let me stress again, this is hardly noticeable on the Shield. However, it does indicate Nvidia backed off the antialiasing to make Portal run smoothly. That might be a problem in games that take place in more open areas with greater draw distance or at higher resolutions.

Load times felt a bit longer than a PC, but memory bandwidth is still much more limited on mobile devices than PCs. The game launches in roughly 20 seconds and levels seem to load in 8-10 seconds. That's fine by me.

2014-05-04 03.06.09

I'd say with a little tweaking, Source could run extremely well on Android at 720p. If you crank it up to 1080p on some other device in the future, I don't know if the Tegra 4 will be able to handle it. Perhaps Tegra K1 will knock it out of the park at 1080p, but Portal as it exists on the Shield looks more than good enough.

It's Hard To Overstate My Satisfaction

Portal is certainly not a long game with only 3-4 hours of gameplay to be had. However, every second of it – from the first portal, to the final showdown with GLaDOS — is fabulous. I haven't played the original Portal for a number of years, and I relished every moment of it on the Shield. I chuckled at GLaDOS' cold, impersonal death threats and felt a little sorry for the robotic turrets when I had to knock them over. And don't get me started on the Weighted Companion Cube.

2014-05-04 01.21.56

I'm happy to say this game holds up. The jokes are still funny and the puzzles are still delightfully challenging. When you finally figure out some of these quirky little physics trick, you can't help but smirk. Great game design never goes out of style.

Nvidia was working from good material, and it didn't mess anything up. I'll be interested to see what, if anything, this means for other Source engine games. For the time being, you can get Portal on the Shield starting May 12th for $9.99. That's the same price it's selling for on Steam right now, but it really is the same excellent game. Is 3-4 hours of Portal worth ten bucks? That all depends on whether or not you like awesome things. Now here's some cake...

2014-05-04 03.57.53

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Matthew DiGiacomo

    So... when can we download it??

    • GazaIan

      " starting May 12th for $9.99."

      It's even in bold.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/77537273@N03/ Herman

      "For the time being, you can get Portal on the Shield starting May 12th for $9.99"
      I recommend you to read an article if you're interested in the topic.

      • Matthew DiGiacomo

        It wasn't there when the article was first posted.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/77537273@N03/ Herman

          In that case you're just very unlucky.
          Because right now it looks like a dumb question :p

        • RyanWhitwam

          Yes, it was. I promise you.

  • h4rr4r

    Good job on the section headlines.

  • Danny


  • Ahmad Nadeem

    I haven't played Portal(I was one of the "too young" ones) but I have played Portal 2, and I loved every second of it.............. So I personally am really excited for it to come on Android devices other than the shield

  • Péter Friedrich

    Flames kill my pc in garr's mod too. It's a source engine thing in my opinion.

  • remister


  • Eloy Antunez

    Is it really only playable through the shield?

    • LazarusDark

      more than likely. It's possible it might play on other devices, but it is most certainly tweaked only for Tegra 4. so It might play good on other Tegra 4 devices, but I wouldn't expect to play on a Nexus device or something. Besides, Portal needs a controller, touchscreen controls would never work.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        Well we have a solution for controller part

        • Rodney Whitfield

          It uses Nivida Controller configuration app. Look at the apk, you will see that it might not work with the moga other controllers. the program escape me but its there. Rooters may be able to get past it though

          • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

            Should be doable with sixaxis controller app

  • Maxime Henrion

    The cake is a lie.

    • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

      Hey dude, spoilers are not cool...

  • Don Gray

    Damn. Now I have to get a Shield.

    • Misha Bear Lipkin

      wait for it, Shield 2 will be out before you blink. It's already hit the rumor mill and speculations about it's specs are better than shield (one).

      • shitbox fangay

        With Tegra k1 please please please *_* *_*

      • nobodyspecial

        Already been benchmarked (in tablet and shield r2, and I think even the AIO was benchmarked IIRC), so probably announced next month and buy-able in July. Yes, it smokes T4 and probably with better battery unless they just use that battery savings to amp it up more ;) I'm ok with that as shield already gets FAR more life than Vita/3DS and phones while gaming or vids.

        Yes, benched in Jan. The latest benches were Tegra Tab7 with K1 and shield r2. The tablet was benched with denver and without (so denver already running fine 6 months from xmas, so should be in many things for xmas). Both the Quad A15r3 and dual Denver scored almost identical. Clock speeds show Denver must be very potent as NV's first In-House design which will be facing Qcom's first screw up (810, not in house). This should be interesting as the GPU takes over the modem ;)

  • Mike Harris

    This is one of those rare games that I've urged friends and family to get because I loved it so much. I'm glad to know there are other people out there who share my enthusiasm.

    A little OT: there's an Xbox360 achievement for Portal 2 for which you have to hug a certain number of people (three, I believe) on your friends list. I don't know if there's some sort of trick to it, but I added so many random players just to hug them and was never able to get it to pop. I guess maybe they have to be on your friends list before you start playing with them, but the fact that I can't get that one stupid achievement really annoys my OCD.

  • SimonPieman

    And these companies were claiming that mobile devices would be as powerful as consoles. What a bunch of lying BSrds. http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2320995/ces-nvidias-192-core-tegra-k1-promises-to-match-ps4-and-xbox-one-performance

    • techpunch

      Stop reading sites which have no clue about what they are reporting. NV never claimed to match the performance of Xbone or PS4. Their comparsion was against PS3 and XB360 [which are like 7+ years old]

      • Davis Hernandez

        well they run gta v soo.... we could see some cool games on the k1 shield

    • renz

      nvidia claims TK1 will match PS3/360 performance. does it make sense when they said TK1 should match previous gen console but at the same time also as fast as current get console that it a few times faster than last gen console?

      all i know nvidia claims that it will have the same or matching last gen console performance BUT at the same time TK1 will also offering the SAME graphical feature as PS4/XBone. many misunderstood the second portion of the statement as having the SAME PERFORMANCE as PS4/XBone. when nvidia mention graphical feature that refers to DX11 and full OpenGL 4.4 support.

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Holy shit, this game looks AWESOME, why can't we have more titles like this instead of all that F2P/P2W bullcrap developers like to feed us with?

    • Martial Clausse

      Why ?
      Because it takes a lot of time for a lot of people to develop one game like portal.
      While it takes a lot less time and a lot less people to developed a F2P bull crap game.

      So it's more financially efficient to do that.

      So yeah, that's what gets done.

  • gacl

    This is a technical achievement. If Nvidia ships a K1 Shield and it has a native Portal 2 or preferably Demon's/Dark Souls game for it, then I'll buy!

  • Derik Taylor

    Well AP, you do what you must because you can.

    But in all seriousness though, thanks for an awesome article. This makes me consider the Shield even more.

  • WhoaManWtF

    Hopefully they release this for the majority of Android users and not just the few that have a shield..

  • didibus

    Definitely getting this game on my Shield. I really hope since they now ported Source, that all the other Source engine games and mods are on their way to the Shield and Android as a whole.

  • Priceless

    So when will we get Halo 1 & 2 on Nvidia Shield/ Android ?

    • Matthew Fry

      When Hell freezes over. There's more chance of Microsoft releasing a Windows 8 handheld than Microsoft releasing Halo on a device running Android.

    • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

      When Google buys the Halo franchise from MS

  • Godofdrakes

    It's important to remember that Anti-Aliasing is just to smooth out the edges. If you can't see the edges anyway then it's just a waste of processing power. And if you blow up a 720p image you're going to get aliasing anyway. That said, if you're really worried about it you can force AA in the developer options of the Shield.

    • Misha Bear Lipkin

      anyway you look at it... if you commute and in a taxi or train or bus... you have Portal on a handheld device to play. If they bring more Console quality games do some tweaks to accommodate for a smaller screen. This will best Almost any handheld

    • Matthew Fry

      Yeah. I'd rather the next Shield to be 720p and K1 if it's staying at 5". The jaggies are only going to get more noticeable on a 1080p screen and pushing more pixels is less important than smooth running games imo.

      • Godofdrakes

        It's more about DPI on the screen than rez. The 360 runs at 720p for most games. So long as the DPI gets better I'd love to see 1080p on the K1. That alone would make it look better than almost any gaming desktop.

  • Cheeseball

    Argh, they better make this compatible with the Tegra Note 7 and the Wacom Companion Hybrid. Apparently, developers keep forgetting that the SHIELD isn't the only Tegra 4-equipped device.

    • Martial Clausse

      Or perhaps developers have a financial agreement with nvidia so they have a shield exclusive game ?

      Not everything is the fault of developers. Most of the time it's the guy who pays whose at fault.

      • Cheeseball

        If they have a financial agreement with NVIDIA for exclusivity, then that means it would still be the fault of the developers (and NVIDIA) since they're the ones who decided that restricting the amount of devices would be viable for business.

        They're affecting the customer since they won't be able to play, and they're affecting themselves since not everyone can buy the app.

        What makes it even worse is that all the Tegra Note 7 variants out there (except for certain models made by HP, Wacom, and ASUS) are all made by NVIDIA, so it doesn't make sense when they're the ones who made Gamepad Mapper.

        • Cory S

          Well you know much as I do that they could put a 98pt font warning that the game will not work without a controller and you have to click "I understand" 4 times before the purchase goes through and they would still get a one star rating from all the idiots saying the game doesn't work.

    • Cory S

      I think they are artificially limiting it to the Shield because it is the only device they know for sure the buyer will have a controller to actually play the game on.

      • Cheeseball

        This does make sense. However, with that they should also add support for the Mad Catz M.O.J.O. since it is also a Tegra 4 device with dedicated controllers.

        What they really should do though is allow it to work with other Tegra 4 devices then place a warning saying that the game does not have any functionality for touchscreen controls. Unfortunately Google Play doesn't have any permissions related to game controllers (or devices with confirmed OTG support) which would probably help in restricting supported devices in a careful manner.

      • primalxconvoy

        And they want to promote shield, too. R regular android version should be out soon, though.

    • renz

      i think other tegra 4 device should be able to run this game. i heard that the porting was done by nvidia with the bless of Valve. so it doesn't make sense to restrict the game to shield only even if the need of controller is a must for the game.

      • Cheeseball

        Exactly. I use a Logitech F710 gamepad hooked up through USB-OTG (it uses a wireless dongle) to my Tegra Note 7 and it's perfect for all the games and emulators I use (particularly GTA San Andreas).

  • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

    How long until the steam app for android sells games for android as well?

    • Matthew Fry

      That would be fabulous and would render Humble Bundle's Android app useless (which I'm ok with it is kind of buggy).

      • someone755

        It might be useless most of the time, but if you want to download something, it's never failed me yet. Unlike whatever app the OS uses to download things.

  • Lyriel

    "Still Alive" is now stuck in my head. Thanks a lot! =p

  • Chris P

    Now, if TF2 were to release on Shield, that would be amazing... As long as the game is under 14GB...!

    • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

      Just take out all the additional hats and it'll be fine

      • http://about.me/inversesandwich InverseSandwich

        What?! Have you lost your mind! T̶e̶a̶m̶ ̶F̶o̶r̶t̶r̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶2̶ Valve® Hat Simulator™ 2014 wouldn't be a hat simulator without hats!

  • Al McDowall

    Why don't you just marry that thing if you love it so much? Well, I won't let you.

  • Samyak Ranjan

    That cake! <3

    • Davis Hernandez

      ...is a lie </3

      • Samyak Ranjan

        Can't get enough of it.
        In the end, there actually was a cake. XD

  • Davis Hernandez

    source engine on adroid? half life 3 confirmed

  • someone755

    Any other keyboard-and-mouse-only PC gamers around to see this, drool, then realize we can't handle controllers?

  • cancer

    You are all faggots