Review: Portal 2

April 27, 2011

Reviews

Back in 2007 Valve released a hidden gem known as ‘Portal’ or as I knew it ‘ohmygodthisisthebestgamesinceslicedbread’, despite the fact there never was a game called ‘sliced bread’. Only lasting a measly three hours it was more of a test than a full blown game. You were a guinea pig inside the Aperture Science Laboratories, chosen to test the inventive gadget which is the portal gun.

Now the portal gun has returned, along with the star of the first game, Chell. Many years have passed as you wake up from a contained stasis in a room reminiscent of a 1970s motel. A robot with the IQ of a potato wakes you up and explains how you’ve probably suffered a minor case of a serious brain tumour. The delicious humour from the original game is back and sometimes darker than ever. Your new robot companion is Wheatley, voiced wonderfully by Stephen Merchant (co-writer of The Office and Extras).

The premise of the game is simple. Advance through the test chambers littered through the laboratories while trying to find an exit, a way to escape. Aided by the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device this is made slightly easier, if not a whole heap more complex. You are able to fire 2 portals on to a white surface then travel through them like a magic door seen in an episode of Looney Tunes. Fire one above you and one below and you can theoretically fall forever.

The chamber you awaken in at the start of Portal 1 has severely overgrown...

Puzzles start off simple to introduce you to the mechanics of the game. Put a box on a switch to open a door. But soon all of that changes. You’ll have to redirect laser beams, fly through the air on aerial faith plates, manipulate hard light bridges as well as redirecting different coloured gels to make floors bouncy or even the ability to propel you and high speeds. Coupled with the usage of the portal gun there is an infinite vista for complexity and ingenuity which Valve recognises and grasps wholeheartedly. Do not worry though, the difficulty curve is fair and never do you feel you are out of your league.

The story, which is best kept a surprise, guides you through this journey which is a multitude of environments and locations to keep your eyes glued to the game. Looking so much more beautiful than its predecessor, Portal 2 starts you off in an overgrown, almost jungle-like laboratory. Soon GLADoS guides you and repairs the facility around you. Walls shift as you walk past them, living and breathing. The ceiling shakes off broken tiles and replaces them with gleaming new ones. Before your eyes can take all the information in Aperture is in its prime and looking better than ever. Valve has done a fantastic job to make a game running on the same engine as Half Life 2 look this pretty.

GLADoS is a fantastic returning character, keeping all the sarcasm and wit from the previous game, strongly hinting at how much she hates you for killing her. “Most people emerge from suspension terribly undernourished. I want to congratulate you on beating the odds and somehow managing to pack on a few pounds.” Another character steals the show within this game, but even mentioning his name would be giving too much away. All I can say is he is voiced by the actor who played J Jonah Jameson in the Spider Man films.

Co-op is a blast

New to Portal 2 is a co-op mode which sees you teaming with a buddy and taking control of a pair of silent robots called Atlas and P-Body. Despite being mute, these characters are teeming with personality. Given the ability to gesture with each other, they can laugh, hug, high five and even play rock paper scissors. GLADoS doesn’t appreciate their human like behaviour and sends them on to the hardest test chambers in the game.

You know have up to 4 portals under your control and with this puzzles become a great deal more complex. Thankfully 2 minds are better than 1. You will have to think in whole new ways to solve these new ordeals but never is there an infuriating moment. The wow factor when you think to yourself ‘eureka’, then blabber away to a friend about how to get through a chamber is amazing. Although only lasting roughly 5 hours, it is a great deal of fun and not to be missed.

As a whole, Portal 2 is a great deal more than Portal 1. The original was all about exploring the intricacies and possibilities of the portal gun. Portal 2 is about the spectacle of other devices and gadgets developed at Aperture Laboratories and how they can be manipulated by the portal gun. With never a dull moment, exciting new puzzles and an astonishing cast of characters, Portal 2 could be the perfect game.

10/10

-Mevans

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