The original Portal was a masterful piece of work that premiered in a collection known as the “Orange Box” which included Half Like 2, Half Life 2: Episode Two and Team Fortress Two.
The plot was simple: You were a test subject in the Aperture Science underground lab, that was supervised my a mentally unstable computer called GLaDoS. Using your portal gun, you navigated your way through the impossible tests GLaDoS tries to kill you with and ultimately destroying her and escaping. It was short, filled to the brim with dark humor, sometimes frustrating, but always entertaining piece of mind-bending gaming. So, when Valve Studios announced a sequel, I was a bit nervous.
I am happy to report that my fears were groundless! Portal 2 succeeds in almost every way in which you could possibly want it to, and does it with a smile.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
The game takes place after the events of the original game, with your character, Chell, being woken up from stasis by a helpful sphere known as Wheatley (voiced by Britain’s Stephen Merchant). This starts Act One, which acts as a bit of a tutorial to Portal for those new to the series. But things rapidly go wrong when GLaDoS wakes back up and is not really happy. The second act takes you to the bowels of Aperture Science‘s facility, where you get to meet the (former) head of the testing division, Cave Johnson (voiced by the hilarious J.K. Simmons). Act three is your triumphant return to the testing labs to reclaim the space.
Not only does Portal 2 expand the story of all the characters, but new elements are added to increase variability in the test chambers: Light bridges allow you to make your own ways to traverse gaps, thermal discouragement beams are deadly lasers that can be moved about using reflective refractor cubes, Repulsion gel makes you bounce like a super ball, propulsion gel makes you run incredibly fast, the excursion funnel messes with gravity, and conversion gel allows you to make portals on any surface. All these elements are used to great effect and creates some nifty little head-scratching moments.
One of the only complaints people had about the original game was how often the difficulty ramped up. Some stages it would be low, but others would take a long time to figure out. Portal 2 has lowered that a bit, but it doesn’t take away from the experience of trial and error and finally getting that “Ah ha!” moment. And believe me, you WILL die … alot, but you always learn a little bit, and it makes the eventual solution all the better.
The single-player is roughly three times that of the original game, but the co-op is where the game really shines!
Taking place after the single-player campaign, Portal 2‘s co-op puts you into two testing robots: a short and fat one named Atlas, and a tall and skinny one named P-Body. By including a well-thought out and insanely funny campaign completely separate from the single-player takes great thought, and the madness of utilizing four portals instead of just two is amazing. Playing with a fellow expert at Portal is like a well-choreographed routine with just a few simple instructions solving a complex puzzle, while playing with someone who has no experience with it is often just as fun (if a tad frustrating) at instructing them on the various aspects of portal usage, like the fact that speed is conserved.
I simply cannot recommend this game enough, but it is not a perfect game, as there are a few problems.
The biggest one is that of loading times. Every time you finish a chamber, the game goes to a loading screen that can last what seems like a long time. It is not a lot, but does begin to get annoying the 20th time. And Portal 2 does not really break new ground as its predecessor did, but sure as hell gives it a nice coat of paint (or gel, as the case may be).
I give this game nine and a half companion cubes out of ten for its humor, “ah ha” moments, its stellar single player campaign that manages to be out shined with its co-op counterpart. The game may not be as long as others you’ve played, but it will certainly be one of the most fun!