Portal 2 Reader Review
Portal was a very special game. Not only was it a very clever and original puzzle game that developed its concept to perfection without overstretching itself, but it reached new heights in pushing forward videogame narrative through the excellence of, and delivery of its script. It went on to almost universal acclaim, garnering several ‘game of the year’ awards and a strong fanbase.
So what of the sequel...
You awake in a facsimile of a tired 1970’s motel room. Shortly afterwards you are joined by a robotic helper named ‘Wheatley’ who helps you to escape your surroundings and acquire your portal gun. Wheatley is voiced by Stephen Merchant, the co-writer and co-director of ‘The Office’ He does an excellent job of bringing Wheatley to life. Once again the writing and script is very good and the emerging narratives help keep you interested and engaged with the game.
The game is spread over eight chapters. Gradually, new game play elements are introduced which extend the scope and repertoire of the puzzles. The quality of the puzzles are still excellent and very rewarding to complete. I suspect perhaps that they were a little easier than last time. Very few of the puzzles held me up for any great length of time, ensuring steady progress and very little frustration. Indeed there was something very satisfying about the simple process of solving the puzzles laid out before you. I guess it makes you feel clever. Something that videogames rarely do.
The game takes you on a terrific journey. Between batches of test chambers you get to explore more of the vast aperture complex. Along the way there are some stunning sights that will live long in the memory. Despite its age, the Source engine does a great job in rendering the visuals. It is not uncommon for the test chambers to rebuild themselves in front of your eyes in spectacular fashion. The environments have a great consistency to them, making them feel very real. There can be few things as thrilling in the world of videogames as dropping yourself off a several hundred foot drop and using the momentum to propel yourself across a vast chasm.
The game works beautifully in 3D as well.
I was lucky enough to try out the co-operative element to the game. This was a sublime experience. You and a partner play as robots. One orange and one Blue. The robots are beautifully animated and have great character. A range of communications and actions are available to interact with your partner. When you signal to your partner a crystal clear window appears in the bottom right corner of their screen to show them what you are doing. The same process can be used to show them what you can see. This proves essential on some tasks. The achievements on offer within the co-op game encourage you to experiment with comedy, adding to the riot of fun on offer. Obviously the replay value to this is quite limited. You also really need to play it with someone who has not played through the co-op sections already. It is much more fun solving the problems together. It burns quickly but brightly.
The music in the game deserves a mention too. It is very atmospheric and helps drive the action along perfectly. The music that plays over the title screen is particularly good.
I took advantage of Valve’s generous offer of making the PC version of the game available with the PS3 version. Although the PSN interruption meant that I had to wait for the opportunity to download it, which was a little frustrating.
All in all this was a fantastic sequel. It remembered everything that made the original great, expanding and developing on it, bolstering the content up to that expected of a full price title. For me, a strong early contender for ‘game of the year’ once again.