Puzzle game

Fan Remakes Valve’s Classic Puzzle Game For Nintendo 64

Although Gate came 11 years after the launch of the N64 (and five years after the release of the GameCube, the N64’s replacement), a talented developer is slowly tackling the seemingly impossible task of recreating the classic puzzle game running on the Nintendo’s first 3D console – and it doesn’t work it looks half bad.

Creating graphically intense demakes of popular modern video games has become one of the internet’s favorite pastimes, but it usually involves recreating the graphics of an A-list game as raw pixelated sprites, which are then animated using animation software. In other words, most demakes are just funny, but faked videos. James Lambert instead takes the long way and actually recreates the Gate engine so that it would run on console hardware a decade earlier than the game itself, which was a PC exclusive when it was first released.

Lambert’s first videos of their Gate demake was simple graphical tests showing that the portal effect – which essentially renders the room the player is in repeatedly from alternate camera angles – was in fact workable. Lambert then figured out how to let the player move through portals, then began testing a physics engine that would run on the N64’s hardware without taking the game’s framerates to a crawl. Unlike modern games, where hundreds of objects can bounce around a level with realistic animations powered by real-time physics calculations, the N64 provided relatively raw and non-interactive 3D environments. But for the puzzles in a Gate demake works, the Weighted Companion Cube should behave exactly like it did in the original PC game.

In just two months, Lambert’s progress on Portal 64 has been impressive. The game now includes a real portal gun capable of firing portals on flat surfaces, with bugfix if a user attempts to fire one into a corner or edge of a structure where portals cannot exist, as well as anti-gravity capabilities to pick up and manipulate the Companion Cube.

In their latest progress video, Lambert spends more time discussing the logistical issues of getting a game like Gate to work on the N64’s hardware, such as doing everything possible to avoid drawing off-screen objects to reduce time-consuming texture swapping. The demake can also now render recursive portal rendering, similar to looking into a mirror with a mirror behind you, up to 14 levels deep, although to keep framerates manageable the final version of Portal 64 can limit the effect to many fewer iterations than that.

You can follow Lambert’s progress at Portal 64 via their YouTube channel, but it looks like they’re also sharing their source code and a game ROM via GitHub.

Editor’s note: The release dates in this article are based in the US, but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.