Portal 2 Review

portal 2
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: April 19, 2011

I am a genius. Well, okay maybe not but I sure feel like it after completing all of Portal 2. This game had a lot to live up to considering the endless praise for the quality of the original and the fact that the sequel was being stretched into a full game only upped the ante. Thankfully, Portal 2 has lived up to expectations as the other side of this portal leads to mind-bending bliss on a much grander scale.

For a game starring a silent protagonist, the story is good and easy to follow. I blame the neatness and overall flow of the clever, humorous writing that personifies the other characters in the game. Only starring a few personalities, with GlaDOS making a magnificent return (who remains the only person who should use auto-tune) and Wheatley, your British personality-in-a-ball, there isn’t much to focus on so it is a godsend they are so interesting to listen to. They’ll make fun of your weight, how your parents didn’t love you, your inherent stupidity, and just general events that unfold around you and all of it is genuinely funny. I don’t think I’ve ever had a video game talk so much mess about me but have me love it at the same time. The humor runs right up to the very end, which is completely awesome and unforgettable. Everything from the last encounter, the credits, and the resolution all should be enough to stand up and applaud Valve.

There are also no jokes about cake or any other sort of pastry. They got the hint on how played out that really was.

A game built almost solely on the strength of its puzzles needs to deliver quality room-in and room-out conundrums and this is arguably Portal 2‘s biggest advantage. To catch up on the fundamentals of this game, you possess a portal gun that fires two portals that act as a sort of door. Easy enough right? Well sort of. Portal 2 takes advantage of this easy premise and tosses so many differing variables to mix up the pace. Three unique gels, light bridges, cubes, tractor beams, and others all are blended splendidly to change up the arrival to the objective.

Puzzles don’t really ever feel similar enough to where you feel you’ve done it before, but they take the same principles to where you aren’t completely lost for too long. The game isn’t easy, there are some rooms where I was stuck for more time than I’d want to admit, but they are never frustrating. Not once in all the times I hit a snag did I feel the urge to chuck the controller at the dog or smash my fist through the wall. I don’t know how Portal 2 pulls this off, but every puzzle seems to be designed for you to complete it in steps. One correct segment always subtly hints at another way to solve one part, which continuously leads to that “Aha!” moment that is extremely satisfying. After a good percentage of the puzzles, I felt like I could beat Einstein in chess but the sad, dream-crushing realization is that this game is so well designed to make anyone feel this way.

If your brain was exhausted at a mere two portals then your brain may explode with addition of two more portals. That may seem like a bit of a problem, but this is when another person is added to the party to help (or hinder). The co-op campaign excels in the same places where the single player mode does, with funny writing and clever puzzles, but the addition of a whole other brain adds another layer of complexity. Communication is vital here and you will be constantly relaying ideas back and forth to each other to find a way to reach the next door. Laying each of your portals to feed your common goal is so rewarding because the collaboration needed makes you and your partner feel like a good team. While it is fun to screw each other time and time again, the true fun lies in cooperating, which is odd coming from a guy who loves to slap his fellow sack people into fire pits in LittleBigPlanet 2. Clocking it at about three to five hours, it is a good length but I was begging to see more of this mode as it seemed to end just after it began to really challenge our brains. I’m hoping DLC will extend the life of co-op because experiences like this are so rare to have.

To some people, Portal 2 will never leave the shadow of the original due to the unsurprising quality that was come to be expected here. This is completely okay because Portal 2 will be remembered on its own merits as a quality game that shows how far flawless puzzles, ingenious writing, and impeccable design can take you.

Pros:
+Clever, funny writing
+Great characters
+Challenging but never frustrating puzzles
+Simple, well-paced story
+Amazing ending, credits and all
+Co-op is a blast

Cons:
-A lot of frequent loading between rooms

Final Score: 9.5/10

Platform differences:
The PS3 version comes with a free Steam version of Portal 2. In addition, co-op play is possible across PC and PS3 through which is amazing and well built.

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