Portal 2 Review


It's rather interesting that one of the games most beloved by gamers started out as a tech demo and was released as what amounted to bonus content. The game's first person, physics-based puzzle-driven gameplay was unique, and coupled with the dry and diabolical humor of a sweet-talking, cake-promising homicidal computer the game was a short, sweet, and oh so enjoyable experience. It was only a matter of time before Portal earned the top tier treatment it so deserves, and that time is finally upon us.

First of all, if you're a CBG kind of gamer then this move to the spotlight will certainly earn your scorn, simply because now everyone will know about Portal, thus ruining it. This review isn't for you as I'm not going to bash the game simply for not being the original Portal. Even though Portal is no longer the little game that could, it is still an immensely enjoyable game, and well worth picking up by anyone without a deep dislike for games that make you think a lot and even by those who never had the chance to play the original.

Now about that … if you've played Portal, then story-wise you'll get a lot more out of Portal 2. After all, you'll already have some sort of relationship with GLaDOS, the aforementioned soft-spoken, slightly bored, ever sarcastic, entirely malevolent AI directing your "testing" at Aperture Science Laboratory's facilities. However, if you're new to Portal you won't be lost as the story is a complete narrative on its own. You just won't pick up on all of the in-jokes and references to the original. As for the story, you are once again Chell, the silent and persistent protagonist from the first Portal, who once again finds herself waking up at Aperture Science's facilities. This time around she's quickly befriended by the "AI core" Wheatley, who offers to work together to escape the clutches of "her". I won't go any further so as not to spoil any of the fun, but I will tell you that Portal 2 has one of the most enjoyable narratives in a game that I've seen in quite a while and that it is backed up by some of the most entertaining and high quality voice acting in a game to date.

This next part will be familiar to Portal veterans, so those of you out there please bear with me. The essence of the gameplay in Portal 2 is to get from one end of a series of rooms to the exit on the other. Sounds simple enough, right? Not quite so, I'm a afraid. Between you and said exit are any number of traps, precipices, and high ledges, all designed to impede your progress or kill you, or both. Luckily for you, you have a powerful little tool in your possession that will make it possible for you to make it to each and every one of those exits – the portal gun. The portal gun is a simple yet powerful tool that does exactly what its name implies. It creates portals that you can pass back and forth between, no matter where they're placed. Place one portal on the wall behind you and another on the wall behind an impossibly high ledge, and you can simply walk through the first and come out through the second and find yourself on that previously inaccessible ledge. When you pass through a portal your momentum is preserved, so you can place on one the floor below that previously mentioned ledge, jump down and fall through it, and you'll come flying out the original portal with the same speed you had falling into the first – a handy trick for flying across large gaps in the floor. And it's not just you that can pass through portals; lasers, cubes, beams, liquids, and just about everything else can be made to pass through a pair of well-placed portals. There are a couple of restrictions on your portals, though. First, only one pair of linked portals can be active at a time. The portals are colored orange and blue and you can freely pass between them until you place another one – place another orange portal and the previous orange one disappears. The other restriction is that you can't place a portal anywhere; only on surfaces that are colored white. You don't want the puzzles to be too easy, do you?

This brings me to the topic of challenge. I have to say that I found the puzzles in Portal 2 to be a lot more challenging than those in Portal. Partly because a lot of new elements have been introduced such as bouncy and super slick gels and conveyer beams and partly because they've simply been designed to be more challenging. This additional challenge just means that you'll have to give the puzzles additional thought and spend a little bit of time experimenting before you realize the path you need to take to reach the exit. None of the puzzles are cheap in that they don’t rely on obtuse or frustrating solutions, and you'll generally find yourself having "ah-ha" moments in which you wonder why you didn't see the answer sooner.

Portal 2 adds a new element of gameplay not found in the first Portal: co-op gameplay. You can play with another gamer either on the same console or over Xbox Live on an entirely different series of puzzles designed to be solved through the cooperation of two players. There's a bit of a story to the co-op game in that you play as a pair of robots being tested by GLaDOS who are treated to her famous artificial sarcastic wit, but it's not nearly as in-depth or enjoyable as that in the single player mode. The developers have done a pretty decent job of giving you the tools to communicate with the other player even in the absence of headset communicators, but it's still by far easier to coordinate with a friend sharing the couch than it is to do so with someone online. The co-op puzzles are every bit as enjoyable as the single player ones, though, and you'll definitely want to play through both sides of the game to get the full experience.

There's probably not too much replay value to the game – once the puzzles have been solved, they've been solved and the only thing that may motivate you to go back and do them again is to sweep up any missed achievements. In the case of Portal 2 it doesn't really matter that much that the game will probably only provide a single play-through before you're done with it because you'll have so much fun with that play-through. Portal 2 is really a worthy successor to Portal, and is a great example of a very well-designed, well-implemented game. I recommend it highly.

Final Rating: 100%. I don't give out many 100s, but if this game doesn't deserve that score than none of the other games that I've given it to do.