Portal 2 Review

For anyone who plays games, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of finishing a highly anticipated game with pure satisfaction. Portal 2 is that kind of game. I’m lucky enough to have it be my first Gamer Theory review.

Portal 2 is the sequel to Valve’s critically acclaimed Portal, which was included in 2007’s The Orange Box. For the unfamiliar, Portal was a bold experiment which called for players to create “portals” on the sides of walls and objects. Taking control of the silent protagonist, Chell, these portals allow the player to go through one portal entrance and reappear through the exit in a series of mind-boggling puzzles that rely on things such as moving boxes, pressing buttons, and using momentum to fly through portals to get to out of reach places. It was a game like no other. It was a short game, but oh-so-sweet. It was bold in concept, simple in gameplay, and very innovative and ambitious. In 2011, Valve’s little gaming experiment grows up as a fully loaded game, and one of the best experiences of the year.

The game is divided into two campaigns: a traditional single player experience and a cooperative campaign. The single player game is set decades after the events of the first game. It starts off strong with an interesting, mysterious setting and a witty new character named Wheatley to complement the return of everyone’s favorite villainess, GLaDOS, the computerized mainframe that controls Aperture Science. The character development is simply superb, and the writing exquisite. You’re not going to want to part with these characters after the game is over. The single player levels will start off familiar to veterans of the first game, but as you progress, the masterminds at Valve continually throw curve balls as you’re introduced to new game-changing elements. From light-beam bridges you must send through portals to mysterious gels that make you bounce or glide very fast, they really pushed their creativity. This package is beautifully presented through superb art, charming characters, and an engaging story. The puzzles can be extremely difficult, but never overly frustrating (although I would be lying if I said I never once shut the game off for a breather from this mentally taxing title).

What I call "light-beam bridges"

The co-op mode puts you and one other friend in control of Atlas and P-body, two silly robots you’re probably going to take quite the liking-to. The co-op game is arguably more creative than the single player game. The developers continued to flex their cerebral cortexes with their seemingly bottomless pool of ideas to make one of the most unique cooperative experiences to be found anywhere. The devious puzzles will definitely have you and your partner scratching your heads, but that’s okay, because while you’re trying to wrap your head around a new test chamber, you can occupy yourselves with the gestures you gain as you progress through the co-op mode that help express yourself to your partner. This is helpful for those lacking a microphone. Additionally, you can buy more gestures and hats via DLC (a hit or miss with fans).

Atlas (right) and P-body (left)

One final thing I want to mention is Valve’s platform agnostic approach they created for this game. PlayStation 3 owners can link their Steam account to their PlayStation Network account and have full access to their Steam friends list right from the PS3. Additionally, this means PS3 owners can play co-op with PC and Mac gamers. Now here’s the best part: included with every PS3 copy of the game is free access to the PC/Mac version of the game and cross-platform synchronization. Good deal, no? Xbox 360 players, unfortunately, are segregated in this arrangement, and can only play online with other Xbox Live users, so it wasn’t the perfect blessing.

And there you have it. Portal 2. I’m a fan, and hope you will be, too. Make sure you put this at the top of your lists, newcomers and veterans alike (although newcomers really, really should go play the first one beforehand).

5 out of 5 stars

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