www.thegamer.com Aperture Desk Job Review - Good Job

Valve's new Portal spin-off is a good time, even without a Steam Deck.

Aperture Desk Job, Valve's short, new Portal spin-off, lets players forget the problems the puzzle series has typically asked you to solve. Don't expect to break your brain thinking with portals this time. Instead, the game handles the movement for you, rooting your anonymous Aperture worker to their desk and presenting the world to you from that fixed vantage point. Though the game was designed as a companion for Valve's new line of Steam Deck portable PCs, you can also just play it on your regular non-portable PC. That's what I did, and despite some very minor hiccups, Valve's latest software is worth checking out even if you haven't sprung for its costly new hardware.


Valve has described the game as a reimagining of the walking sim "in the lightning-spanked, endorphin-gorged world of sitting still behind things." And, yeah, as that might lead you to expect, Aperture Desk Job is fairly light on gameplay, more in line with what you would expect from a tech demo than a full-fledged game. If you owned a DS circa 2005, Aperture Desk Job may bring back memories of early titles for Nintendo's kitchen sink handheld. You will write on the touchscreen to sign a contract. You will speak into the microphone to name your character. You will use gyro controls to aim a toilet-mounted gatling gun. Of course, given that you can also play this game with an Xbox controller and a laptop, you can also do none of that.

Related: Aperture Desk Job Datamine Points To A New Half-Life Game

www.thegamer.com Aperture Desk Job Review - Good Job

Since 2015, Valve has leaned, increasingly, into its role as a hardware manufacturer. That year, it put out the Steam Controller and the Steam Link. The next year, Valve and HTC launched the Vive, a room-scale VR system, and with it The Lab, a collection of VR minigames set within "a pocket universe within Aperture Science." Similarly, Aperture Hand Lab, which Valve published in 2019, was designed by Cloudhead Games to show off the finger-tracking tech of Valve's Index. It seems that Valve has a tough time getting games out the door unless those games can be built to take advantage of a new piece of tech. When they do, Aperture Science — home of dangerous gadgets, killer operating systems, and strange, brightly colored goos — seems to be a natural fit.

The new game takes you on a guided journey through the legendary lab. You may not move from the desk, but the desk often moves you, shifting vertically and horizontally, forward and backward, on a perfectly straight axis. It feels like an on-rails shooter, but one where the rails you're riding have been designed to accommodate a Wes Anderson dolly shot. The building is presented to you like this scene from The French Dispatch, with the camera passing through walls and floors, following the action and revealing moments of wonderful spectacle hidden beyond what the humans of Aperture Science can see.

Chuckle-worthy humor, too. As you get to work, a personality core named Grady, voiced by stand-up comedian Nate Bergatze, comes and goes. At first, you are testing toilets, pressing the face buttons to put them through their stress-test paces. Then, Grady brings you a toilet outfitted with gatling guns and missiles. The story gets wilder from there, but Valve smartly uses Bergatze to fill in the gaps beyond what you can see. Don't expect big revelations, but if you come looking for funny gags and a few choice dollops of Portal lore you won't be disappointed.

As Aperture Desk Job explores the past of Aperture Science it draws from a similar well of aesthetic influences as production designer Kasra Farahani did when creating the look for the Time Variance Authority's headquarters on Disney+'s Loki series. Here, as in Loki, there is a Modernist touch, with swaths of faded orange, gleaming surfaces, wood paneling, and '70s-inspired interior design. This corporation has existed at many different moments in time and the Portal games have made a point of digging through the layers of temporal crust, revealing the ways that the Aperture Science of the future was built onto the Aperture Science of the past. Aperture Desk Job gives us a peak at the company at one specific point in that history. The game's scope, and Aperture's long history, suggest that Valve could find an ample creative vein in returning to other points in that timeline, too.

This is a small project, but it packs in its share of indelible images. Aperture Desk Job confirms that, even when working on a limited scale, Valve is still the best in the biz at plopping you down in the middle of a well-realized sci-fi world and conjuring up a host of imaginative sights before your wide, unblinking eyes.

Score: 4/5. Review was conducted on a PC retail copy of the game.

Stardew Valley: Complete Guide And Walkthrough

Your complete guide to Stardew Valley.

Read NextShareTweetEmail Related TopicsAbout The AuthorAndrew King(13 Articles Published)MoreFrom Andrew King