I finally made some time to play Portal 2 after it sitting in my “to play” queue for what feels like forever. And wow was it worth it! Immediately after installation I set about the promo vids included in the game, which cracked me and my partner up. I should explain – she’s a total non-gamer and usually has no interest in computers beyond work, but I found her sitting behind me watching as I play, pointing out things I might have missed. Or listening to the dialogue and giggling. Even when I got stuck at key points, I’d call her over and she’d be able to help me out.
Anyway, to the game, which like all Valve productions is available on Steam. After the original Portal my hopes were high, and I was not disappointed. The game stays true to the theme, and there is a much stronger drive toward a decent plot this time. Without divulging into too much detail to give away the plot, here’s the basic outline of the singleplayer campaign: You start off as your old self again, having somehow been recaptured and kept in stasis for an unknown length of time. Something goes wrong in the world in general and your manservant robot helps you escape your cubicle… back into the now abandoned test chambers. Everything is in a state of disrepair and you fight your way through new obstacles caused by the devastation above ground. Your manservant promises to help you get out of the test facility… but first you need to get past your old friend GLaDoS. I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover, but be assured that the adventure is much longer than what you’d expect, and much more complex than in the original.
The graphics are top-notch, as could be expected by a Valve release, and the music wonderfully changes tone to indicate successes, keeping the atmosphere very much alive. The characters are also much more fleshed out, and there are many more than in the original. The humour portrayed in Portal 1 is also continued and improved upon, giving endless mirth through the dark wit, eccentricities or just plain madness of the cast – ranging from your robot saviour to the previous masters of the test facility to a potato… Yup, a potato. Play the game and find out. As always, your companion cube makes a comeback, but is not as deeply tied to you as in the first game.
The game opens up the story of the test facility, giving you insight into the dark past of the Aperture corporation and as always, giving reference to Black Mesa in delightfully humourous ways. The puzzles are as challenging as always, and the solutions are not always immediately apparent until you sit back and take in the entire scenario. Some of the solutions are so simple once you know what to do that you can’t believe you’ve been sitting for twenty minutes without a clue. If there is one complaint, it’s that occasionally there will be a puzzle so obscure, with no hint as to where to go next, that the game may slow down – leaving you feeling dejected. But once you finally figure it out, the flow keeps you enthralled. The addition of new tools at your disposal opens up a variety of new ways to solve puzzles too.
After my first 3 days of playing I have to say I’m very pleased with what Valve has brought to the table, the singleplayer version anyway. I’m yet to dive into the Co-op missions, which I will review once I’ve finish those darned last stages. Their philosophy of releasing the game when it’s ready, as with Blizzard, makes for a polished and superior play. Now if only they would hurry up with the next episode of Halflife already!
Final score: 5/5 MisGuilded stars – a brilliant game that everyone should play.