Let’s talk sequels for a moment.Â Sequels are a tricky balancing act.Â In the big, bad business world, no one would be crazy enough to fund a sequel if the original didn’t generate enough interest and profit to see a projected return on investment.Â Conversely, titles that warrant aforesaid funding often have rabid fanbases that are adamantly opposed to seeing many changes to their beloved soon-to-be franchise.Â This stifling combination all-too-often results in a product that lacks originality, innovation, and creativity while it lingers in the stench of distant, untainted memories of a game once held dear in the hearts of gamers.
Portal 2 breaks this mold, fires two portals on slanted walls, kicks the mold into an Aerial Faith Plate, and laughs maniacally as it drowns in the mystery death goo.
If you couldn’t tell from my intro, Portal 2 is good.Â Damn good.Â It takes the groundwork laid by it’s three-hour predecessor, and finds a way to expand on it in every direction.Â Not only do all aspects of Portal 2‘s game design work seamlessly in conjunction, but they actually succeed in co-existing in such perfect harmony that they strengthen one another.Â The result is a trip through the bowels of Aperture Science that’s never short of curiosity-piquing, mind-boggling, and heart-racing.
On our first journey, we were given a taste of Aperture Science.Â We knew there was plenty that we weren’t exposed to, and that taste left a craving in our mouths.Â Portal 2 satiates this craving by taking us through the different eras of the fabled experimental science facility, with a beautifully crafted story detailing the founding, rise to success and subsequent fall from grace of Aperture Science. When the player’s eventually introduced to the terse Cave Johnson (proprietor of novel ideas such as the Counter-Heimlich Maneuver and the Take-A-Wish Foundation), Portal/Half Life historians will grin from ear-to-ear at the opportunity to soak in the roots of the backstory, all while almost certainly enjoying Johnson’s definite off-beat yet spot-on humor.Â With incredibly memorable characters such as GLaDOS, Wheatley (a chipper British-accented now-independent personality core of GLaDOS’), and Johnson, with such consistently flawlessly orchestrated dialogue, Portal 2 is able to achieve some of the strongest writing in recent memory while never having to directly and blatantly spell anything out to the player.
Of course, the crux of a puzzle game is (duh!) the puzzles, and all the writing in the world couldn’t save it if it couldn’t challenge the player.Â Fortunately, Portal 2 features some of the most intricate and intellectually-arousing trials ever seen in a game by this reviewer.Â The first half of the game features puzzles much like Portal – that is to say, chambers that require portal-to-portal travel to safely traverse to the end.Â However, it’s the second half of the game that allows Portal 2 to really shine.Â When introduced to the Propulsion, Repulsion, and Conversion Gels, Excursion Funnels, and Hard Light Bridges the gameplay transforms from portal-fresh mechanics command the player to think three steps ahead of themselves to complete the task at hand.Â Most importantly, it’s these mechanics that breathe new life into the game and prevent it from becoming stale after the traditional Portal puzzles have run their course.
Contributing alongside the stellar single-player campaign is the much-awaited cooperative mode.Â Co-op features two robots named Atlas and P-body as they help GLaDOS with some science, as well as the occasional side errand.Â Personally, I’ve always found impressive the precision it requires on the developers’ part to create Portal chambers, as the slightest misstep would result in the complete breaking of the puzzle.Â I find itÂ exponentially impressive that they were able to design fully-functional puzzles for four portals to be slung around.Â And oh, boy will you ever sling them.
Rarely seen nowadays is the game where co-op isn’t defined by two players simply playing alongside one another.Â In Portal 2, players depend on one another.Â Portal 2‘s co-op is methodically chaotic for the poorly functioning teams, and borderline art for teams in full synchronization.Â Across the 35 courses, many of them will have you and your buddy on the verge of tapping out in submission, until the proverbial light bulb pops and you’re merrily on your way to the next Enrichment Center course.
Aside from the too-frequent loading screens, Portal 2 is near-perfect.Â It’s a picturesque example of what a sequel can and should be – an installment that evolves and expands upon the original, while simultaneously staying true to its roots.Â That’s what’s so special about Portal 2; it transcends expectations and leaves the player with fulfilling memories of both the gameplay and the dialogue.Â In essence, it carves out a distinctive hole in our hearts; one just big enough to store a Weighted Companion Cube.