In 2007, gamers were enthralled with that year’s game of the year, Portal. Released by Valve Corporation, Portal was part of The Orange Box – a bundle package for XBOX and PC. It became an instant hit with it’s unique gameplay and hilarious storyline. Unfortunately, the length of Portals was to short and gamers were left wanting more.
Finally, the highly anticipate sequel has arrived and it doesn’t disappoint.
Portal 2 is a first-person puzzle-platformer which allows players to solve a series of puzzles. Wielding a portal gun, players must access unreachable areas or obtain objects by using portals to progress through the game. The gameplay is very simple but the puzzles are not and players will be challenged by the protagonist computer who consistently tests and insults you.
You awaken in a dilapidated research facility. Wheatly, a small robot with an English accent and witty humor, helps you to escape the container you are in. The first few levels gets you accustom to the controls and basic mechanics of the game. It’s very simple. To access certain areas of a chamber, players must shoot either a blue or orange portal on one surface and the other color on another surface. They are connected and you can walk through one and instantly come out the other. This will allow you to access areas you otherwise couldn’t. You will also be able to transport objects through them which you will need to trigger buttons or redirect lasers.
The simplicity of Portal 2 has it’s strengths but also has it’s weaknesses. The story adds depth to the game the simple controls allows players to quickly play. But in the end it’s just a bunch off puzzles that need to be solved. You must use portals, blocks and buttons to reach the exit of each chamber. Automated turrets were added in later chambers to try and add more depth to the gameplay but they are easily defeated. I wanted to interact with more enemy characters. Roaming turrets or attacking robots would add another element to the game. It is explained that if you die, GLaDOS will repair and revive you. This takes away from the difficulty of the game. If I fall into water and drowned, who cares. I’ll get revived and try again. There is no consequence to being reckless.
I was pleasantly surprised, though, in the last few chapters of Portal 2. You find yourself in the bowels of Aperture and learn some of the history of this tomb you are imprisoned in. As you progress through the old test chambers, new interactive elements are introduce which greatly improves the game. A series of gels will allow you interact with the chamber in some really interesting ways. You are able to use a blue gel which allows you to bounce over passes or up to catwalks and ledges. There is a white gel which allows you to “paint” any surface allowing you to open portals on surfaces you otherwise couldn’t. My favorite gel, though, is the orange gel. This reduces fiction helping you to speed up. It was fun to set portals and this gel up to form a “speed track” to rocket across a chamber.
These last sections had the perfect amount of items, triggers and puzzles to thoroughly challenge me. This was what I was looking for in the beginning chapters. More historical elements were added here which was an added bonus. We learned about Aperture’s CEO Cave Johnson and experienced his slide into lunacy through the recordings which played in each chamber. We learn that he was slowly poisoned by moon dust which is used in portal technology. We also learn that his assistant Caroline would be a test subject for a mind-to-computer transfer which created GLaDOS.
What really makes this game, is the atmospheric audio effects and fantastic voice acting. There is no real background music to mask the these effects. When you are in a massive chamber, you can hear the sound of light wind whispering in your ear or the sounds of the mechanical equipment spinning and operating. It really made me feel part of the environment. You are able to hear the depth in sound as it travels around you and through the chamber. You feel immersed in this magnificent world and really feel the massive expansiveness of some chambers.
The voice acting adds another level of depth which helps to complete this game. The main protagonist of the game is the dominate GLaDOS, an AI with an attitude. You tried to kill her in the first game and now she wants revenge. Throughout most of the game, she puts the player through these dangerous test where you must use your portal gun and wits to escape. Her voice acting is superb. With witty humor and insults, she adds to the whole experience of Portal 2. She made me laugh quite a few times with cracks about my weight and appearance. “Computer please! What you say about my mama!” Wheatly’s is also another great addition to the game which will surely entertain. From the dialog of turrets to CEO Johnson’s recordings, the voice acting took an Good game and made it that more entertaining.
Multiplayer, a nice addition
Portal 2 comes with a nice multiplayer feature which completely adds to the replay ability of this game. Co-op campaign introduces two new characters to the game, Atlas and P-Body. They are bipedal robots equipped with portal guns. The story takes place after the single campaign. GLaDOS is now testing with non-human subjects but don’t expect her to be nice. She will try to break up your team with trickery and favoritism.
Co-op consists of five sets of chambers were you must work as team to escape each one. The first four will prepare you to venture outside of the test system to find “the Vault”, which houses thousands of cryogenically suspended humans. Ah, new test subjects for GLaDOS.
I really enjoyed Co-op. It’s fun to work with a partner to solve a puzzle. The game mechanics are the same but now there are two portal guns for twice the fun. With the controls being simple, I was able to play co-op with my son. He’s five and always wants to play what daddy is playing. Obviously he can’t play Gears of War but Portal 2 is age appropriate. It’s not violent and challenges him with puzzles. And with it being two players, I can help him figure out how to solve each puzzle. It’s great to be able to share a “big boy” game with him.
And now my final thoughts
The graphics are nice and the gameplay is smooth. But again, the unique gameplay, storyline and superb voice acting is what made me coming back for more. There could be more depth added to each puzzle by adding interactive enemies or adding more variety to each chamber set but this was an entertaining game. Co-op mode is solid and will keep you playing. I particularly liked co-op because it was something that I could play with my son. So, I’m giving Portal 2 an 8 out of 10. Solid game hands down.
Fans of the original, casual and hardcore gamers will find Portal 2 to be an entertaining game. Again, it’s unique gameplay and voice acting will surely put a smile n your face.