Portal: the game that created one of the most stubborn memes on the net and had the best atmosphere, characters, and set pieces of any other game that year. Portal 2 continues this stretch in a new direction, with few flaws. You aren’t required to play the first to understand the second, but I highly recommend it for the experience. Read on for a detailed review of Portal 2. (No spoilers, I promise :))
The Holy Grail of Games
For those of you who don’t know; Portal involves a very simple gameplay mechanic that creates a myriad of possibilities. You shoot a blue portal here. You shoot an orange portal across the street. You can now walk through the blue portal and end up across the street. This is quickly complicated by adding in goals and obstacles for the player to solve and get past. You need to get to a button, but you can only shoot portals on one side of a deadly death trap. You shoot one up high on the wall and one on the ground and generate momentum to reach the other side. Puzzles get more and more difficult and you get even more satisfaction when you finally solve them.
Lasers, this isn't your grandmas microwave
The addition of gels, funnels, lasers, and aerial plates spice things up. The gels can make you run faster, jump higher, and must be maneuvered using portals to an optimal place for use. The funnels allow you to float through the air wherever you guide with portals. However, these are a tad slow and wreck the pacing, albeit not too much. The lasers add new ways to solve puzzles, and the laser can, you guessed it, be guided with portals. The aerial plates just shoot you places. Very fast. Adds lots and lots of speed to the game. It all sounds half baked on paper, but once you get into the action and solve tons of challenging puzzles at high speeds you will fall in love. There are no lasers in Sudoku, are there?
Despite having particle effects resembling light speed, you move slow as hell in these funnels
However, the gameplay category contains my only negative comments about the game. I hate to agree with a majority but this sequel has been “consolified” or at least been notched down for a bigger audience. The first Portal required precision and speed. You had to pop portals out moving at terminal velocity just to beat mid game levels. In this sequel you are given all the time in the world to accomplish any task. GLaDOS has a quote during co-op that goes something like “Without the fear of death this isn’t science at all!” This is exactly how I feel about the puzzles. Sure they take some time to figure out, but once you do it’s a cakewalk to accomplish the task. Jumping to coop again, there’s a test with a rather large jump followed by some portal movement and clever timing. However, your partner controls the portals during your jump and you have no need for reaction or thinking during your jump.
So I did it myself. I only let my partner do the parts he absolutely had to and did all the portal timing in midair. I had a blast. It was the one time between single player and multi player I felt my wits were being tested the same time my reaction skills I’ve been building up since I first became a gamer were being pushed to the limits. I can only hope some more challenging courses are released later as DLC.
Otherwise, the game is fantastic. Valve writes exceptional narratives for their characters and this game may be the height of their writers work. The jokes are dark, mindless, or perfectly situational, and never miss a beat. Adding Wheatley into the GLaDOS and Chell formula of the first game works perfectly. Besides introducig a brand new character we see the old ones opening up in new ways as they react to the new kid on the block. The introduction of more scenarios rather then just the testing rooms really allows the game to open up and allow you to be engrossed into a changing experience, unlike plodding through whitewalled room after whitewalled room in the first game.
Hugging my coop partner... D'AWWWWW
The co-op adds incredible variety that should not be missed. The gestures allow the mute avatars to really make an impact on you, and you are sure to form bonds with whoever you are playing with as it takes a lot of direction and cooperative thinking to solve and implement the puzzles.
Portal 2 hits all the right notes and provides an ever-satisfying experience whether you are a story nut, an action nut, or any nut in between. My qualms are small, and you won’t even notice them as you enjoy this solid game. Everyone buy this now.
~~The ending, oh man, the ending…