Valve hit us with a surprise a few days ago: they announced a new game set in the Portal universe — Aperture Desk Job. Even though it’s a demo designed to showcase the Steam Deck’s controls, desktop users aren’t excluded, and I got the chance to play it once it went live today. Available on Steam for both Windows and Linux.
Though the game is set in the Portal universe, you’re not in control of a character who shoots portals. Rather, your job is to test a series of toilets, add water to them, make sure that they flush, then move on to the next one. Sounds boring, right? Well, after you’ve inspected a few, things get a little more interesting. Grady, the Aperture core that is your tutor, adds a turret mode to one of them later on. It will even shoot rockets. This improvised toilet — what Grady calls the “Mark II” — is in the hopes of impressing Cave Johnson, who returns from Portal 2, the CEO of Aperture Science. Grady thinks it will make the both of you rich.
Get into aim mode by holding the left trigger, control the turret’s direction with right stick, then press the right trigger to shoot. Grady encourages you to shoot crates found throughout the facility. Eventually, while the toilet breaks itself apart, the facility goes to shambles, and then you get sent to jail for 18 months. You’ll have to sign a release form, using your microphone to say your name, then use the keyboard to print your name, then sign using a mouse or, in the Steam Deck’s case, the touchscreen.
After the release from prison, you get right back to work at Aperture Science. Grady improves the “Mark II” into the “Mark III” and this time the toilet doesn’t break apart while shooting. Various objects move along a conveyor belt, and you can shoot at them to break them apart. While you’re doing this, Grady explains to you the use of the Deck’s gyroscopic feature, allowing for better precision while aiming. On a regular controller, you obviously can’t do this, except on controllers that have a gyroscope (such as the Steam Controller and the DualSense), but you can still follow along the gameplay anyway.
You and Grady gradually move up several floors — some of which contain washing machines that fire back — up until you get to Cave Johnson’s floor. I won’t spoil what happens from there on out.
All in all, it only took half-an-hour for me to play through the game in its entirety, including watching through the credits. But Valve never misses a beat when it comes to their sense of humor and ingenuity. Grady isn’t quite as crazy as Wheatley from Portal 2, but he still has a sarcastic touch that gave me a few chuckles while playing. Cave Johnson — still voiced by the incredible J. K. Simmons — also carries the same humor as he had in Portal 2. Really recommend giving this a playthrough — it’s free, after all.
As far as the Linux version goes, it runs great. About 90 FPS on a GTX 1660 Super at 1440p. There isn’t much in terms of graphics options; just adjust the resolution and enable/disable vsync. There’s a “battery saver” feature, an option to turn subtitles on or off, and enable/disable rumble.
I wonder if Valve will release an update that will allow a new game mode: get as many points as possible by shooting at objects in a set time limit. I think it would really extend the longevity of the demo and allow people to compete for the highest score. I really hope they do expand on the demo in some way.
When I get the Steam Deck I will probably play through the demo again so I can make good use of the Deck’s features. But again, Valve has no intentions on making exclusives for the Deck, so anyone with a desktop or laptop can play Aperture Desk Job.