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A Beginner’s Guide to Portal

Are you looking for Portal gifts but confused by the references to Chells and Companion Cubes and cakes? Read on for your crash course in all things Portal.

Portal Logo

What is Portal?

Portals created on walls Portal and its sequel, Portal 2, are popular video games released in 2007 and 2011. The player controls Chell, a test subject trapped within a labyrinthine testing facility run by corporation Aperture Science, as she uses a portal-shooting gun to escape from the deserted facility and its insane computer -- not once, but twice!

In the first game, Chell wakes up in a holding cell and is forced use the portal gun to pass a course of test chambers by solving puzzles. She’s guided by GLaDOS, a helpful A.I. who soon betrays a sarcastic, erratic, and murderous streak. Chell eventually escapes, but in Portal 2, she is recaptured and awakens in the ruined Aperture Science labs after many years have passed. Unfortunately, GLaDOS is still alive and out for revenge...

The Portal series is famous for its humour, visual design, and quotable dialogue.

Chell - the heroine in Portal

Who is Chell?

The player character is a test subject employed by Aperture Science. She never speaks, and little is known about her, but her personnel file notes that she is abnormally tenacious.

Aperture Science Logo

What is Aperture Science?

This company creates bizarre and advanced inventions such as the portal gun, long fall boots, and mobility gels -- though they got their start in shower curtains. The games take place in their HQ, the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, where GLaDOS has taken over and killed or captured all the employees.

What is the portal gun?

This is a hand-mounted cannon that can shoot two-way portals, one blue and one orange. Solving the test chambers requires clever use of portals to navigate the rooms.

long fall boots

What are the long fall boots?

These allow Chell to jump higher than average and land safely from any height. In the first game, they are simple springs, but Portal 2 updates them with a sleek white look.

Gel Splatter

What are the mobility gels?

These three gels will stick to any surface and create unusual effects: super speed, super jumping, and the ability to place portals. Chell must solve several puzzles in Portal 2 by strategically coating platforms, floors, and surfaces with these gels.

Chell vs Glados

Who is GLaDOS?

GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) is the central computer of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, and Chell's nemesis. Initially friendly and helpful, her true personality is sadistic, passive aggressive, and sarcastic. She delivers most of her dialogue in a mix of robotic monotone and deadpan snark.

Space Core

What are the personality cores?

These are small A.I. spheres, each with their own unique personality. They can be attached to GLaDOS' main body to alter her abilities and personality; Chell uses this to gain the upper hand. Famous cores include:

  • Curiosity Core: "What is THAT?" "Ooh, that thing has numbers on it!" "Oh, what's in here?"
  • Space Core: "What's your favorite thing about space? Mine is space." "Space. Space. Gonna go to space." "SPAAACE!"
  • Adventure core, a.k.a. “Rick”: "I don't want to scare you, but, I'm an Adventure Sphere. Designed for danger. So, why don't you go ahead and have yourself a little lady break, and I'll just take it from here."

Wheatley close-up

Who is Wheatley?

Wheatley is a bumbling and inept personality core that helps Chell during the first half of Portal 2. He’s designed to be an incompetent moron, which is problematic once he replaces GLaDOS as the Enrichment Center’s mainframe…

Sentry Turrets

What are sentry turrets?

The sentry turrets are tripod robots that shoot you whenever you cross their eye beam. Extremely polite, they ask, "Could you come over here?" before riddling you with bullets, and chirp, "I don't hate you," when disabled. In Portal 2, Wheatley tries to make his own turrets, but they end up defective, bitter, and unable to shoot.

Companion Cube

What is the Companion Cube?

One of the games' breakout memes, the Weighted Companion Cube is a gray crate with pink hearts on the sides. Chell receives it at the start of a difficult test chamber and must use it to overcome many obstacles. GLaDOS encourages Chell to form a close bond of friendship and trust with the Companion Cube, and then refuses to open the exit door unless Chell throws her new “friend” in the incinerator.

The Cake is a Lie!

What's with the cake?

Another popular meme. Before revealing her dark side, GLaDOS bribes you to continue with promises of cake. However, the player can find a secret room where another survivor scrawled a message over and over: "The cake is a lie."

What about…

Cave Johnson  Atlas and P-Body

Still Alive? A song that plays during Portal’s ending credits. Written by Jonathan Coulton and sung by GLaDOS, informing us that she is, well, still alive.

Want You Gone? The ending credits song for Portal 2. Also written by Coulton and sung by GLaDOS, who by this point just wants Chell out of her hair.

Cave Johnson? The eccentric founder of Aperture Science with a deranged affection for bizarre, unusual, and even dangerous inventions. Voiced by J.K. Simmons.

The two robots? Two android test subjects, Atlas and P-Body, built by GLaDOS as a replacement for human test subjects. Players control them in the online multiplayer mode.

The potato? Halfway through Portal 2, GLaDOS gets removed from the lab mainframe and inserted into a potato battery from a science fair. Look, it makes sense in context!

Featured Portal Products

Portal 2 Turret Hoodie Portal 2 Aperture Labs Shower Curtain Portal 2 Undeserved Compliments T-Shirt Portal Weighted Companion Cube Plush Companion Cube Pink Creeper