Title  : Portal Runner
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2
Publisher  : 3DO
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 6.5
Review by  : Ken Gagne

3DO's greatest innovation, the 3DO game machine, was a failure and nearly the company's downfall. Having abandoned hardware technology and devoted themselves to software, 3DO has made a name for themselves in the past few years, especially as the publisher of the Army Men games. This multitudinous series has resulted in claims of lack of innovation on 3DO's part. 

Their Army Men spinoff game, Portal Runner, does little to alleviate those criticisms. 

In Portal Runner, Vikki G., intrepid reporter, can travel among worlds in Gumby-like fashion, by entering portals into toy lands, prehistoric vistas, and futuristic locales. Seductive spy Brigitte Bleu tricks Vikki into a strange world, from which Vikki must find her way home through many portals, with the help of her bow and arrow, and Leo the Lion. Vikki will inexplicably find herself alone, accompanied by the lion, or mounted on the feline from stage to stage as she accomplishes various objectives necessary to proceed. Players will spend most of their time collecting jewels and keys, with the occasional puzzle to solve. 

Whether it's Vikki or Leo your'e taking for a spin, prepare to do battle – with the controls. They're not near as tight as they need to be, with the heroes always turning a few too many degrees to the left or right. Vikki automatically aims her arrows at nearby enemies, but only if she's facing their general direction; in the heat of battle, determining the boundaries of "general direction" is not a luxury players have. Characters can strafe, but can neither run diagonally nor jump sideways – both maneuvers which would prove invaluable when navigating enemy-ridden corridors. 

A helpful control feature is the use of the right analog stick to position the camera anywhere the player likes: above, below, or to any side of the action. When faced with precarious jumps, manually choosing a viewing angle can help dictate the position of the platforms trying to be reached. 

Portal Runner excels in the presentation department, but only outside actual gameplay. Vikki's romps through jungles and castles are accompanied by little or no music. The voice acting is appropriately comical and cast with experienced actors, including Jim Cummings ("Darkwing Duck", "Transformers") and Susan Blu ("Bionic Six", "G.I. Joe"). Their dialogue is heard primarily between levels during full-motion video (FMV) sequences of the highest cartoon quality. The rest of the game's visuals are better than its Army Men brethren, but not outstanding among other PlayStation 2 games. 

Among 3D platformers, Portal Runner does not send players anywhere they haven't already been. The changing landscapes and the company of Leo contribute to a varied experience, but the gameplay is unspectacular and hampered by dodgy controls. Vikki may be a looker, but players won't miss much if they run past this title.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 08-Oct-01