Sunday, August 14, 2011

Portal 2: When Life Gives You Potatoes...Do Science!

Having just played through Portal, it seemed only logical to move straight on and play Portal 2, and I have to say I was not disappointed.  In fact, I was delighted.  From the perspective of someone coming into this properly only after the hype and wonder of the original Portal has died down, Portal 2 blows it away in every respect.  It looks better, plays better, is longer, more challenging, and has more content.  On top of all of that, it even has a better plot.

Portal 2’s single player campaign is a gem of a story.  You find yourself within the facility once again, and it’s falling apart.  Guided by a robot that has been designed to look after you while you were in stasis, you try to make your way out of the crumbling facility with the aid of the robot, your wits, and of course, the portal gun.  The game changes styles repeatedly, switching between making your way through the elaborately designed testing chambers and scrambling through the back scaffolding of the facility itself.  Not to spoil things for everyone, but it has some pretty spectacular twists.  I’ve enjoyed every part of the plot, and all the characters along the way, ad their dynamics are gripping.  This is a puzzle game where you are genuinely invested emotionally in the plot, and that’s a rarity.

The puzzles themselves are more difficult, as I said.  A whole host of new elements have been added to them to make them more complex, more dangerous, and more varied.  Hence, the game is much larger, even just with one player.  Repulsion gel, propulsion gel, lasers and light bridges all serve to help you get from one side of the test to the other, whether the floor is there or not.  And half of the challenge is getting from one test chamber to the next.  While in Portal I practically ran through the game, hardly getting stopped at all by the problems presented, in Portal 2 I got frequently stuck, and had to spend large portions of time thinking my way through the situation and exploring every inch of the area to make sure I hadn’t missed something important.

The game has been improved graphically – not by a huge amount – but enough to make it fresh again.  Also improved is the dark humour.  Where the original Portal was hilarious with a side order of creepy, this game is hysterical with a much heavier dose of sinister.  Probably the most spectacular character for this is Cave Johnson, mixing dark humour with terrifying foreshadowing, whilst at the same time providing a host of the best lines in the game.

Unfortunately, I was not able to complete the game before I lost the opportunity to play it.  I believe I reached just over two thirds of the way through.  For those in the know, I was just learning how to play around with the white gel.
Really would like to play through the co-op mode.  That sounds COMPLICATED!

Portal 2 is one of the best games I have seen in a very long time, without question.  I am trying very hard not to spoil anything here simply because I think it should be played by everyone.  It gives a true challenge to any player, with none of the problems that might detract from a puzzle game like poor camera work or sloppy controls.  The plot is phenomenal, and it is played out with a flair for storytelling seldom seen anywhere.  Conceptually, it takes Portal and improves it in every way.

If you’re sitting there not sure what to do with your time and that bit of money you’ve got hanging around: Portal 2 is where it should go.  Or to charity.  That would be good to.

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