Stop and smell the science
The original Portal was a short but sweet surprise hit, and one could only wonder if a full blown retail sequel was a realistic option for a game that seemed to be a tech demo as much as anything else. Valve for one didn’t find it to be a problem, as Portal 2 is every bit as fantastic as the original, and well worth the price of admission for anyone but the stingiest gamer.
Stripped down to its core, Portal 2, like the original, is a puzzle game through and through. You once again wield your trusty Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device to navigate a wide variety of environments, and the idea of placing two portals, where entering one sees you exiting the other, remains as robust as ever. That’s literally all your character is capable of doing, and I’ve always thought that the best game designs take a simple idea such as this and get as much mileage out of it as possible. Portal 2 certainly adheres to this philosophy, and is all the better for it. Understanding how to control the portal gun is highly intuitive, and the game does a wonderful job at constantly introducing new environmental obstacles that challenge you to come up with creative ways to use said portal gun. Whether it’s bridges of light, jet streams that carry objects through the air, or a variety of gels that give walls and floors unique properties, it feels as though the game has something new to show you every step of the way. This pacing and variety is something that made the original so satisfying, and the sequel does it just as well.
The other thing that made Portal’s puzzles so fun was the logical thought process it required from the player, and Portal 2 replicates this perfectly. It’s such a refreshing alternative to the reflex intensive action games that flood shelves, and goes to great lengths to make the Portal franchise a singular experience worth having. In addition to its uniqueness, Portal 2 is also downright hilarious throughout. The puzzles are constantly accompanied by some stellar writing and voice acting, all of it geared towards making you laugh as much as possible. GLaDOS returns, along with some equally fantastic new characters, and their witty banter is able to conjure up some of the most genuinely funny moments I’ve encountered in a game in a long time. Last but not least, Portal 2 offers an equally awesome cooperative campaign in addition to the single player story. Like the best co-op experiences out there, it really forces you to work with your partner, which makes solving these intricate challenges extra rewarding. Cooperative games are rarely given this much attention, and all told it was my favorite part of the entire package.
In all honesty, the only legitimate complaint I can think to level against Portal 2 is how it inexplicably needs to load every few minutes. That's definitely unfortunate, but that that’s the worst thing I can say about it speaks volumes for how much fun I had with Portal 2. It’s got great puzzles, two equally satisfying campaigns, and is one of the most genuinely funny games I’ve played in a long, long time. All of this makes Portal 2 one of the best, most memorable games in recent memory, and one I can easily recommend without reservation.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.