Review: The Entropy Centre
You can never go home. And when I say that, I mean you can never really have that first cozy experience of a game or piece of media over again. The Entropy Centre, while a competent Portal clone, never really strikes that same feeling I got from the first time I accidentally figured out a Portal puzzle and felt like a genius.
If for some reason, you’ve somehow skipped out on Portal, you wake up disoriented and, with the help of an AI voice guiding you, you start solving harder and harder puzzles for what appears to be no reason other than the fact that there’s nowhere else to go and nothing to do but continue to move forward and solve the next puzzle. The Entropy Centre is a little more upfront about what you’re doing when you wake from your strange coma in the strange abandoned corporate office. You quickly come across a portal gun…erm…I mean “time reversal gun” that has a little face on it from an AI named Astra, who is pushing you to move to the next room and solve puzzles.
Unlike Portal, you are not a silent protagonist but play the role of amnesiac puzzle solver Aria. Between solving puzzles, you and the AI Astra have a bit of banter back and forth that is clearly drawing inspiration from the malicious AI GlaDOS from Portal, where there’s a level of “I’m trying to help you…not really” coming through, but Aria does it with a smile and pleasantries vs. GlaDOS’ deadpan robotic delivery.
So as I intimated earlier, you are solving puzzles in The Entropy Centre, but where in Portal, you are solving puzzles using space by firing portals onto walls, in The Entropy Centre, you are manipulating time in 38-second chunks. If you grab something and move it around, you can hold down the right trigger after you drop the object to rewind it back in time, which allows for all kinds of shenanigans with time puzzles. As you complete puzzles, you get more and more mechanics thrown into the mix, like boxes that can grow and shrink, puzzles that project bridges one way, and so forth.
Unfortunately, with a lot of The Entropy Centre puzzles, it turns into simply looking in the room, figuring out what the solution is (eventually), and then just rewinding it all. The best way to solve The Entropy Centre puzzles is to look at the end of the puzzle and solve for it in reverse. Once you figure out that little nugget of wisdom, puzzle-solving becomes dramatically easier across the board. I don’t want to say that it is a problem, but there were definitely a handful of puzzles I was able to blast through in a minute or two until the next mechanic was introduced, and I was forced to rethink how I was solving puzzles.
One of the other strange problems with the game is that I am a gamer who has a backlog a thousand games deep, and so I am a fan of getting through games somewhat quickly. The Entropy Centre gives you a definite feeling of how long it is going to take to complete, only to later throw it back in your face. You solve a handful of puzzles, get to an elevator, and the elevator has eight floors to it. You get through each floor, then run out of buttons to push on the elevator, aaaaaand…The Entropy Centre just keeps going. Much like the halfway point of Portal when the game flips the script on you, and you find out there’s far more ahead of you, there is a screen that shows you after you finish each puzzle that gives you a percentage of completion that seemed impossibly far from what seemed to be the end of the game. And then it dawned on me that percentage, where you’re getting 1-2% completion (without me spoiling any of the story points), might actually mean there are 50+ puzzles involved in the game. My brain kind of snapped a bit. Hell, there’s even a dialogue between yourself and Astra, the AI in your time portal device, apologizing for all the puzzles you have to complete and how not to worry because you’re getting closer to your final destination (which turns out to be untrue, ironically).
I think the problem with the increased length vs. the surprise switch midway through Portal is that in Portal, I was desperately interested in seeing where the story was heading, whereas, in The Entropy Centre, the writers telegraph the story pretty early on. I did not finish the game (I got stuck in Chapter 11), so unless there’s some major twist at the end I couldn’t possibly see coming, there really didn’t feel like there was enough to motivate me to try and figure out what was going on with The Entropy Centre.
It’s a weird gripe, but in a world where developers feel compelled to make their games longer because longer = better value for your gamer dollar, The Entropy Centre feels like it just keeps dragging onwards. Solve puzzle, quick back-and-forth banter between Aria and Astra, go to the next room and solve the next puzzle. And that’s never a good place to be as a game. I should be sitting on the edge of my seat and not wanting the experience to end, not groaning to myself, "Oh, crap, there’s yet another new mechanic?”