Still thinking with portals
The sequel to the highly acclaimed 2007 Orange Box physics puzzler, Portal, Portal 2, released April 18th, 2011, offers a continuation of the original. Yup, that’s basically the game. Yes there are a lot more features and “modes” than offered in the original, but I’ll get to that later. Portal 2 is more of the fun portal hopping puzzle platforming that everyone loved in the original. That being said, if you thought the original was good, then the second will not disappoint. If you, on the other hand, never played the first, then I would like to know what rock you were living under for the past 4 years, what with the game’s relative cheapness and free giveaways. Anyway, I digress.
One big addition in the sequel is that of a story. As simple as it is, the story in Portal 2 is far better than some that I’ve seen in more than a few high budget games of recent release. Yes, there is still plenty of that dark humor that everyone loved in the original, but you also get more of the history of Aperture and everything else involved for a far more lasting and enjoyable experience. I can’t say much more than that in order to avoid spoilers for those who have yet to finish the game, but the ending is absolutely worth the hours you put into the game. Seriously though, Cave Johnson is one of the best parts of this game.
Speaking of time, Portal 2 is about three times as long as the original Portal. So, if you thought 2 hours for Portal was worth it then 3x$20 = $60 should also seem appropriate. The problem is, where Portal was “The perfect length” for a game of its type, Portal 2 seems to drag on forever in certain places and, dare I say it, may be too long. I’m not saying that it gets boring and unplayable, just that the game can be repetitive after solving similar puzzles repeatedly, and with only 3 new mechanics to add to your portal shooting repertoire. Though, once you get past those few dull humps the game quickly picks back up and refuses to let you stop playing.
Graphics-wise, Portal 2 looks much much much better than the original ever did, which is to be expected with Valve updating their Source engine for 4 years. The environments are exquisite and highly varied, but not too busy like some other games.
Really, the only thing I can hold against Portal 2 are the loading screens. Late game they become less intrusive, but early game the screens manage to jar me out of the experience and remind me that I’m playing a video game. I thought loading screens were relics of the past to be forgotten. In the original Valve didn’t have any, why put them in the second? I can understand why certain parts didn’t have screens but I could have gone without being interrupted every minute to be shown a loading screen. Like I said, though, as the challenges become harder this isn’t as much of a problem or a problem at all once you are forced to spend time on puzzles, but early game it is very distracting.
Single player aside, Portal 2 also includes robot controlled co-op mode, where two players cooperate to complete challenging portal based puzzles, at least in theory anyway. If you ever played The New Super Mario Bros then you will know exactly why this style of play can be the most fun and infuriating thing ever created. If you ever die in co-op it’s probably because your teammate shot a portal under your feet leading into a deathtrap of some kind. Now, while this kind of behavior between friends is fun and the novelty wears off quickly in that case, Portal 2 co-op allows you to venture into the internet to enlist help. This is a bad idea. Do you know who is on the internet? Because I do. It’s the kind of people who tend to live under bridges and eat goats. You probably won’t run into these kinds of people, but when you do…remember that I warned you.
Overall, I’d give Portal 29 homicidal robots out of 10 homicidal robots because one of them is broken and the other 9 are homicidal robots and going to kill me if I speak badly about OH NO! NOT THE CLAMPS!