Codex Gamicus

Narbacular Drop is an environmental puzzle video game developed by Nuclear Monkey Software. It was released free online in 2005 on PC (DX9). It was the senior game project of students attending DigiPen. The gameplay consists of navigating a dungeon using an innovative portal system. The player controls two interconnected portals that can be placed on any non-metallic surface (wall, ceiling, or floor). The developers went on to write the critically acclaimed Portal using many of the same concepts.

The word Narbacular, not existing in any dictionary, was chosen primarily to aid in internet search engine results.[1]


The plot involves the plight of a Princess "No-Knees," so named because she is unable to jump. Captured by a demon, the imprisoned princess discovers that the dungeon she is held in, is actually a sentient elemental creature named Wally. Using Wally's portal making ability, the princess sets out to escape and defeat the demon.


While Narbacular Drop features a 3D world reminiscent of such first-person shooters as Quake, the unique portal element and the character's lack of a jump ability makes navigation and puzzle-solving very unconventional. The player can open a single pair of interconnected portals at a time, each styled as a huge face with flaming eyes (red or blue to tell them apart as the player repositions one or the other) and an open mouth big enough to see and walk through. Positioned with a point-and-click interface controlled by the mouse, portals are allowed only on natural surfaces and are prohibited from any metal or other artificial surfaces in the game, or on lava. Aside from the portals, important game elements include switches, boxes and huge rolling boulders which can crush the character. The player cannot save game progress.

Being mostly a proof of applied concept, the game itself is quite short, containing only six or so puzzles. However, members of the Narbacular Drop forum community are creating a growing catalog of custom maps.[2] Additionally, a large number of speedruns and "Crate Runs" (in which players must complete the game while bringing a small box from the first level with them to the last as fast as possible) have been recorded.

Awards and honors[]

  • IGF Student Showcase Winner (2006)
  • Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition Finalist (2006)
  • GameShadow Innovation In Games Festival & Awards Nomination (2006)
  • Game Informer The Top 10 Games You've Never Heard Of
  • Edge Internet Game of The Month (March 2006)
  • Gamasutra Quantum Leap Awards: Most Important Games "Honorable Mention" (2006)


Main article: Portal

After the release of Narbacular Drop, Valve, developers of the Half-Life series, discovered it and hired the entire development team to work for them. The team developed Portal, a spiritual successor to Narbacular Drop, using the same basic concept. In Portal, the player takes the role of a test subject tasked with trying out the "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device", and along the way discovers that the test facility has been mysteriously abandoned. The main antagonist is a sentient artificial intelligence named GLaDOS, similar to the demon in Narbacular Drop. The game was released on October 10, 2007 on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as part of The Orange Box, to critical and commercial success.

See also[]

  • Half-Life series


External links[]