I love to be surprised by games that everyone loves and I just didn’t get. Portal was one of those games that I just didn’t get. It seemed like some first-person puzzle game that was going to be hard to push to the gaming public. It also didn’t help that it was part of the Orange Box with Half Life 2 and Team Fortress. However, it got a lot of good reviews, and besides being short and having some clunky mechanics, somehow won Game of the Year Award from a couple of publications. Personally, in 2007, Super Mario Galaxy was Game of the Year for me, but we need to move on. After working on and milking every PC and Xbox360 gamer out of their hard earned cash with Left 4 Dead 1 and 2, I heard they were going to make a Sequel for Portal that came out this year. At first I still wasn’t impressed and just pushed it aside for other games that were coming out. I then decided to see what Valve had to show by watching all the trailers and footage they had of the game, and then I got a little interested. Portal was a game you had to play to get what people were talking about, and I bet this game was going to be like that too. I had it on my Gamefly list and got it about a week after it was released, and here I am today to talk to you about Portal 2 for PS3, 360, PC, and Steam. I was very surprised at how good this game was, and I could see why this series has received so much respect. It’s different, unique, and no one can match it. Let’s dive right into Portal 2.
The story starts off many years later as our main female hero Chell is thawed out of frozen hibernation in a pretty cheap-looking hotel room. She then meets a new Personality Sphere named Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant. He tries to lead her safely out of the facility. Chell soon finds a portal gun and starts to use it like you would in the last game to make portals, to get out of rooms. Sadly, however, you eventually end up in the same room as the recently brought-back-to-life super computer Glados, who is still very ticked at you for killing her. The rest of the game is really all about going through the Aperture Science Center again, going through tests, and then ending up in an underground area of the science center with the voice of the CEO of Aperture Science, Cave, voiced by J.K Simmons. There is also a co-op multiplayer section of the game where you and your friend play as two robots named Atlas and P-body, a modified personality orb and a modified turret. You are sent through challenges made for two people by Glados that actually mixes with the single player campaign at certain points. Overall, the story is pretty well thought out with some really good moments that Valve is known for, since they are the makers of Half Life 2, one of the most acclaimed games of the past decade. It is an entertaining story, and it is worth your time.
The gameplay in Portal 2 is very much like the last game, but with a few tweaks. The stuff that stays the same is the portal gun where you can shoot two portals to get from point A to point B. A lot of puzzles must be solved by making portals in specific areas. Sometimes, you will need to accelerate yourself by falling through the portals at high speed to launch yourself across the room to another area. The portal mechanics mostly work the same as the last game. The new gimmicks come in the form of three different gels. The first gel is orange and it can increase the speed of your running. The second gel is blue and can make your character bounce higher. The final gel is in the form of white gel, which helps you make more areas to make portals. These gels are sometimes required in multi-tasking puzzles within the game, like having to use one gel and then spray another gel on top of it. These puzzles look hard, but they aren’t, and I’ll explain my hatred for that later. Portal’s main appeal though comes in the multiplayer mode, where you play as 2 personality cores and solve challenge puzzles that require good timing and pulling levers. You can play online or offline, and for online modes, if you don’t have headphones, you have specific signs, like in the Splosion Man series, to do certain actions with your partner.
The graphics for the game look slick since, well, you’re in a science center half of the time, but there are some blemishes since some areas don’t look as polished and some areas look way too similar. The graphics have the same issue like Transformers War for Cybertron has, everything looks too similar, and it gets boring after awhile. The voice acting on the other hand is great, with some phenomenal voice work by Stephen Merchant as the new personality core, Wheatly, and J.K. Simmons voicing the crazed owner of the Aperture Science Center, Cave Johnson. Of course the main draw of the Portal series is Glados, voiced by, I guess, Valve-owned voice actor, Ellen McLain, who has done a lot of work for Valve games. The music is pretty good, a lot of techno beats composed by Mike Morasky, who is famous for doing the music for a lot of Valve games, like the Left 4 Dead series, Team Fortress 2, and, um, Portal. The two original songs for Portal 2 are “Want You Gone” composed and played by Jonathon Coulton, who did the Still Alive song from the original Portal, and “Exile Verify” by a band called The Nationals. The humor is also pretty funny with some good interaction between the characters.
However, there are some flaws that I just get peeved at when I think about this game. First off is, of course, the graphics. I mentioned already that the look gets repetitious after awhile. The second gripe I have is the difficulty. I feel cheated when I find out how simple the puzzles can actually be at times. I mean if you’re going to make a challenging puzzle, then don’t hide it behind an overly tedious outer coating with an inner coating revealing itself as an overly simple puzzle. There are also some little things like the jumping controls and the voice acting being a little annoying at times.
Overall, Portal 2 is a good experience to try out on the PC, PS3, or 360. It’s dropped in price by now, and I would recommend it if you like the first game. For other people however, I recommend just renting it. It isn’t a game for everyone, but if you want to try something different, I say go ahead. Now, it’s time to move on, time to move back in time, and no, I’m not talking about reviewing the Back to the Future games, but I am talking about going back to the time of the 40’s, where jazz ruled the streets of L.A. with sex, murder, conspiracies, and a game published by Rockstar. Get ready for L.A. Noire.
This game gets an 8 out of 10