Writing a review for Portal 2 is difficult. This game is jam-packed with memorable moments and expertly designed gameplay. I had such a great time with it, I just want to write a review that says "THIS GAME IS AWESOME, GO BUY IT NOW!". In fact, if I was a rich man, I would buy everyone in the world a copy. Unfortunately, I can't get on a megaphone and preach the good-word of Chell's latest adventure. So perhaps I should articulate the hows and whys of Portal 2's importance.
The original Portal was a monumental game. The three hour experience offered more memorable moments than the average game and challenged players in ways they haven’t been challenged before. Portal 2 expands on everything the original set out to do. The game’s universe is expanded and the general scope is larger due to the addition of multiple well-realized characters and numerous new gameplay mechanics.
This isn’t simply Portal 2: Longer and more Complicated. At no point do the puzzles feel unfair or frustrating. Every segment of the game can be solved utilizing environmental clues or common sense. This is where Valve’s genius design shines. Given a multitude of gameplay designs that involve 4th Dimension problem solving, something that isn’t very common in videogames, there is no text or spoken tutorial. Portal 2 teaches you how to manipulate the environment and introduces new mechanics without bluntly saying “Ok, this is how this works!”. Even with the more simple challenges, Portal 2 has a way of making you feel like the smartest person in the world with every success.
The puzzle solving is even stronger than the first Portal. Not only will you utilize the portals introduced in the first game, you’ll have to deal with various gels that allow you to gain more momentum, jump higher, and place portals on any surface. It may sound over whelming having too many variables. However, Valve’s expert design makes it so the puzzles are clever without being too much to handle. At no point did a puzzle feel impossible. That doesn’t mean my brain didn’t need a break once in awhile.
The gameplay is almost a sideshow considering how powerful the character performances are. Ellen McLain returns as the murderous GLaDOS, which takes a surprisingly sympathetic human tone this time around. New characters include a sphered android, Wheatley, voiced my Stephen Merchant. I cannot overstate how much Wheatley adds to the already high quality humor the Portal name is known for. Every statement he makes contains witty inflection and/or well-written dark humor. The game is almost worth going through to simply hear the dialog battles between Wheatley and GLaDOS. J.K. Simmons (Juno, Spider-Man) also plays a major role as Cave Johnson, the CEO of Aperture Science, a man that cares more about science than the well being of his employees.
Portal 2 has virtually no callbacks to the original game. It would’ve been easy to add wink and nods to cake jokes and “still alive”. However, everything in this sequel is original and sets up more inside jokes for fans. Throughout your traversing through Aperture, you’ll discover more of the corporation’s history. In many ways, Portal 2 rivals (if not outdoes) Bioshock with placing the player in an environment to discover a narrative indirectly.
Portal 2 also offers a co-op campaign that takes place after the events of the single-player. Like Left 4 Dead, Portal 2’s co-op mode requires teamwork and communication. Instead of blasting away hordes of undead, you and a friend (playing with strangers not recommended) will progress through various challenges similar to the main game. These puzzles deliver new and interesting twists never seen before and will test the patience and skills of those who have completed both Portal campaigns. Each player has a portal gun, thus you will have four portals to use. This co-op mode feels just as dense as the single-player in terms of gameplay and personality.
Portal 2 is satisfying in every way imaginable. It’s literally great in every way a videogame can be great. The gameplay is solid and is a breath of fresh air from the ubiquitous shooters on the market. You probably won’t find any other game that challenges your mind and makes you feel smart in the way Portal 2 does. Even if puzzles don’t sound enticing to you, the character and high-quality writing will entertain anyone who isn’t dead on the inside. The dark humor and character development are just as fun to witness, as the puzzles are to complete. Portal 2 is unforgettable, and is easily one of this year’s greatest games so far.
Written by: Steven Beynon