1. stronger character and voice
2. Have a story and goal
3. On future games, have Early Access to work kinks out before full release
4. floors, more save points, water
Having finished "Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative" and even replayed about 75% of it so I could go back and look at different aspects, I'd like to share some thoughts, opinions and suggestions.
First and foremost, I want to say that I loved the whole concept of trying Portal with a paint gun. I think this was a great idea and although the final product had weak points, overall I felt the developers really did a great job with the potential.
1. VOICE ACTING and DIALOG. At first, I really didn't like the new voice. I felt it wasn't a particularly STRONG character. The dialog and acting had none of the acid wit and biting sarcasm of GlaDOS, the manic ranting and lunatic ravings of Cave Johnson, or even the befuddled surprise of Wheatley.
However, ultimately, I commend the developers for NOT trying to emulate any of them. The narrator and the dialog are VERY different from the characters and dialog of Portal and Portal 2, and I think this was a GOOD decision.
SUGGESTION: It would help if the character were a bit stronger, more dramatic, dynamic and compelling, or more complex. Bring out some emotion and personality. More suggestion under STORY.
2. STORY. Portal was, at its heart, a puzzle-platforming game, but it very cleverly told a story through dialog and graffiti and whiteboards. We had a central antagonist, and it set up a very clear goal: defeat GlaDOS. It also gave us compelling reasons to do so: GlaDOS was an insane murderer. While I commend Portal 2 for not simply being a repeat of "Defeat GlaDOS", and further commend Portal 2 for a GREAT story on Cave Johnson and Aperture, I felt that (compared to GlaDOS) Wheatley was not a very compelling villain. I found him annoying (which is as good a reason as any to unplug him). So overall, I found Wheatley (as an antagonist) to be weaker than GlaDOS from a story-telling point of view.
Aperture Tag however doesn't really have a story or a goal. One of the strongest points in the game was shutting down the ALSSER generator and the escape. Actually shutting down the generator was a non-event: push these two buttons. But the escape was epic. More on this later. However, we then went on to more testing chambers, and that to me was kind of anticlimactic.
SUGGESTION: Have a strong, compelling, interesting antagonist. Have an end goal (which might NOT necessarily be "defeat the antagonist"). Let the game lead up to and build towards that goal. Many of the whiteboards were underused. Make each whiteboard worth looking at. Use them to help create a story and guide the player to the goal.
3. BUGS. I found no game-breaking bugs, which was nice. However, I did find a few rough places and did have one crash that didn't happen again on replays. So nothing major, but it did dampen my enthusiasm.
SUGGESTION: If the developers make another game, I'd strongly encourage them to consider Early Access to let others play the kinks out of the game before release. I know some people don't care for Early Access. I like the idea for many reasons. More on this in GAMEPLAY and LEVEL DESIGN.
4. GAMEPLAY and LEVEL DESIGN. Portal was a brilliant game because it was very much a THINKING game. Almost all of the rooms gave you ample time to think about what you wanted to do and experiment. There were a couple of very difficult puzzles, but it was, for the most part, quite casual. Portal 2 was, in many ways, easier than Portal (in large part because we'd learned from Portal).
Aperture Tag's puzzles were difficult but not impossible. I felt a lot of the chambers were interesting, varied and creative.
However, there were some gameplay and level design decisions I felt detracted from the fun of the game. In most of the puzzles, I could see right away where I needed to go and what I needed to do, but in order to do it, I had to place the gels in EXACTLY the right spot and jump at EXACTLY the right moment. It wasn't so much about thinking as platforming.
That said, my favorite part of the whole game (even though it was very difficult and often frustrating) was the escape from ALSSER. I thought that was brilliantly fun.
I also want to thank the devs for putting a button next to ALSSER that let people SKIP the escape if they wanted to! I thought that was very considerate and I really approve. I used it once to see what it did, but honestly wasn't satisfied until I'd completed the run on my own.
The other thing I liked was that sometimes I knew where to put gels because of the difference in tile colors. I thought that was good. The narrator also often gave hints on what needed to be done. I think in future games, these kinds of things could be used a bit more, especially on "easy" difficulty settings.
Another thing I felt detracted from the experience was that practically every chamber had a toxic floor. If I missed a jump, I had to start all over again (or at least from the last save). Most of the time, this was not a big deal because almost all the saves were in good points. The only place I really had a problem was in the escape from ALSSER. However, I tried using quicksave, but soon realized that if I loaded from the quicksave, I rarely had enough time or momentum to make a necessary jump or ultimately finish the path in time.
SUGGESTIONS: make some of the rooms (not all, but some) have normal floors so that I don't have to lose painting progress or start over. In a long run like the escape from ALSSER, it would be nice if there were one or two points at which it could be safely reloaded, such as having several doors that would close behind you and from which you could safely restart from a full stop without losing too much time (maybe have a separate timer).
Again, I would encourage the devs to make their next game Early Access so that players could find places where there were unintended obstacles that devs could then move or realign if possible (I had two places where, if I hit a curve wrong, I'd stumble to a dead stop and drop like a rock).
Furthermore, I would encourage a reset button that would wash the entire area clean (not really necessary since you can more or less usually restart a room from the beginning). I also think it would be cool (if the devs do a future game, and I hope they will) to select the middle mouse button to be water that could wash away the gels.
Also, without spoiling, let me say that there was one secret room I learned about on youtube that was (at least in the video) VERY hard to reach and which had only minimal clues in game (an arrow and a comment from the narrator) that indicated its existence. In a future game, I'd LOVE to see more secret places to discover, especially if (like in this game) it served a useful purpose, or (like in Portal and Portal 2) it served to help tell the story and create the antagonist.
Although my initial feelings at the halfway point were not so positive, by the end of the game and subsequent playtesting, I had a much more positive feel about the game.
I've suggested Early Access several times, and I'd like to justify that. I like Early Access games because it makes players part of the creative process. Developers often know how they WANT the game to be played, but sometimes can't predict how players WILL play the game. As well, Early Access gives players a chance to talk to devs about things they want more of or less of, or features they'd like to see. I genuinely feel it creates a better product.
One final note I want to say is that the music was awesomely done.
Again, overall, I had a good time with this game, andI hope very much that we could see another game from these developers that could further develop and improve this idea.