Portal Runner

Gamestyle Archive intro: this early review from 2001 is incomplete but I think we’re only missing the last couple of lines from Mike Bather – from the general feel of things I reckon we know exactly where he was going with this 3DO title. Maybe straight to the bin?


There are some things that various individuals or companies are famed for failing at; Tommy Cooper was never any good at magic, Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards was never any good at skiing and Trip Hawkins’ company, 3DO have never been much cop with games.

So with much dismay the DVD-Rom containing the latest 3DO game, Portal Runner, took the place of DMA’s Grand Theft Auto 3 and I began to play…… As we all know by now, 3DO don’t seem capable to make a game without basing it on those green plastic fool’s but in Portal Runner they take a back seat and we get to know Sarge’s missus Vikki G a little bit better. Vikki, being a modern woman and an intrepid news reporter, likes to look after her man and that she does, occasionally landing herself in trouble with her father, Colonel Grimm. Unfortunately, being a modern woman also means defying her father after being grounded and this spirals her into a plot fabricated by her arch nemesis, Brigette Bleu.

Now, Brigette Bleu needs a man for some good, fast and hard lovin’ and in a toy shop the choice is pretty limited so she opts out for our Heroine’s fella, Sarge. First of all though, this requires trapping Vikki on the other side of the Dinosaur world’s portal and that’s where the full game begins. Portal Runner plays with the usual action adventure/ 3D platformer third person perspective and contains three graphically distinctive styled levels; The Swamp, containing vicious Raptors, the Medieval World containing Knights in shining armour and finally, the Alien Spaceship, complete with crazy aliens. All of which are tied in together with fairly good FMV cut scenes to help the plotline and portal running to progress.

Each level contains a number of sub-levels where certain objectives and puzzles need to be overcome by Vikki, her bow and arrow and her newfound friend, Leonardo the Lion. At the end of each level the token boss can be found, the bosses being well thought out featuring a certain way to successfully overcome the enemy. A number of gems are dotted around to boost the player’s score and health. Each of the levels is (surprisingly) well designed with initially unreachable gems made obtainable by secret moving platforms and platforms triggered by hidden buttons, accessed by a carefully aimed arrow shot. A number of Vista points are dotted across each level and these open up a pre-rendered gallery of pictures from the levels, accessible from the title screen. Graphically, you can tell that 3DO have made an effort in improving upon their dire track record and that a positive effort has been made in the overall design, look and ambience of the game. Game play, a much lauded and needed commodity in any game; some companies grasp the concept, either by skill, suggestions and tweaks from their testing team or just plain luck.

Portal Runner’s creation has been ruled by the developer using the tools and libraries supplied by Sony themselves and we all know by now that quality games come with the effort of a development team writing, from scratch, their own tools or using quality 3rd party software such as Criterion’s Renderware. Unfortunately for 3DO, they seem to have kept and tweaked the game mechanics of Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes 2 instead of ripping it apart and starting all over again and this shows. Some of the greatest problems with the aforementioned game where control problems such as Sarge stopping midway whilst running in an arc and even though this has now been rectified fundamental game play issues still arise. It’s like the player never feels fully in control of what is happening onscreen and this is an unforgivable error, especially when precision platform jumping is required; To fall and die repeatedly from bad controls rather than lack of playing skill is unforgivable, especially from a full priced title.

Things can only get better, right? Wrong. The latter levels require the control of Leonardo and where 3DO have been successful in implementing the feel of trying to control a ferocious lion, it just doesn’t convert to good game play. Sonically the game has an atrocious title track but each of the levels has its own tune styled towards the graphical setting. A most memorable would be the second level, set in the medieval castle which features a nice track, reminiscent of all those ‘olde wurlde’ RPG’s. But no Dolby digital or 5.1 support I’m afraid! Voice-overs make their fateful return and in the opening scenes prove rather gritty with a lack of quality, but do improve as the game progresses, but the sound effects are nothing to shout from tall buildings about.

Overall, after completing the game within eight hours on the normal setting (with only expert above that, with ‘dream’ and easy below) I did find the story to be entertaining and amusing although aimed at a younger audience and maybe toward a more female audience too. But the biggest problem remains in the realm of playability and at times I felt the urge to hurl the controller at the screen, not due to difficulty but due to the fact that I had died through no fault of my own. At

Gamestyle Score: 2/10


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