If, like me, you’ve spent great lengths of time over the past few weeks playing and replaying Portal 2, you’ve no doubt recognised the level of detail that the game has been blessed with; from the narrative to the visuals, the game is abundant with charming quirks and amusing nuances, and if there’s one thing the previous two ARGs have revealed about Portal 2 fans it’s that they excel at analysing the minutiae of the world of Aperture.
Portal 2 is a game awash with interesting secrets just waiting for the inquisitive fan to discover, and discover we have. I’ve compiled what I hope to be an entertaining collection of some of the less obvious easter eggs and references in the game that I and other Portal fans have had the pleasure of uncovering over the past few weeks. As you have no doubt worked out, there are major spoilers in this blog, as well as references to a lot of the easter eggs in the game. If you wish to finish the game yourself and haven’t done so yet or want to track down all of the games secrets for yourself then consider the following blog a restricted zone.
The Origin of the Mutant Potato
As Ryan might say I’m starting with a show-stopper. This was one of the most mind-blowing easter eggs I’ve actually witnessed in any game. You probably remember the mutant potato growing into the ceiling which appears in the potato battery line-up from the Aperture Science ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’. You may even have noticed that in the game’s end sequence you can see two turrets caught in the vines of the potato, while speeding up the lift to freedom. What you may not have noticed is the name on the presentation behind the potato.
In the bottom-right corner of the back piece of card, the words “By Chell” can clearly be seen. What’s more the writing on the presentation also claims that Chell cultivated the monstrous potato-battery-gone-wrong using a chemical from her father’s workplace, suggesting that Chell is the daughter of an Aperture Science employee. Even more disturbingly we know next to nothing of Chell’s backstory, but we do know that GLaDOS locked down the facility and killed the employees on the Aperture Science ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’. It may actually be the case that Chell has spent her entire life from that day until adulthood trapped in the facility with GLaDOS, and all this is suggested by one little potato diorama.
In the few brief moments after Wheatley assumes control of the facility from GLaDOS, but before he attempts to crush you and your former antagonist into the ground, Wheatley proudly flaunts his intelligence by speaking out a full sentence in Spanish. This is not only seems to be a call-back to GLaDOS’ inadvertent Spanish in test chamber 1 of the original Portal, but a rather amusing joke within itself. When translated it turns out that Wheatley’s actually saying "You are using this translation software incorrectly, please consult the manual."
In one of his many downright insane pre-recorded messages Cave Johnson responds to the query of why so many of Aperture Sciences’ experiments are dangerous, asking “Why not?” and claiming “Why don’t you marry safe science if you love it so much?” You may remember that in the original Portal GLaDOS, trying to ward you away from her disused morality core, said “Why don’t you marry that thing if you love it so much?” An interesting parallel considering that to GLaDOS her morality core represented safe science.
The Impossible Space
In the developer commentary for the game Valve developer Eric Tams mentions at one point that to ensure that they could change around the level design quickly during testing, they would use the same technology that drives the Portals to link different rooms together in the game world, creating a number of rooms in the game that were different sizes on the inside than they appeared on the outside. This technique is not unheard of in games development, however when the designs were finalised, all of the levels were linked together properly, without any portal technology, save for one area. In the commentary Tams challenges us to find it.
This impossible space is actually test chamber 75, in chapter 9, which Wheatley drops you into and surrounds you with turrets in, forgetting that hours earlier he helped you sabotage the turret manufacturing line. The entrance you make to this room is not through a simple hole in the ceiling, but rather a makeshift portal that teleports you across the map. I’d mention some of the other map secrets found on the way to discovering the impossible space, but I don’t want to ruin the magic.
GLaDOS’ Fast Speech
You’ll probably remember GLaDOS’ dialogue from chapter 2, test chamber 8, where she tells you that the following test chamber requires some instruction to complete, only to recite the “instructions” far too quickly for any human to interpret. Slowing this speech down, GLaDOS can actually be heard to clearly say “and methodically knocking people's hats off-- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can”. This is, strangely enough, actually a quote from the book Moby Dick.
Some of you may remember Rick the Adventure Sphere from the game’s final battle; an enthusiastic artificial intelligence, a bit like a cross between a truck driver and Indiana Jones, but how much of Rick’s rambling did you listen too before attaching him to Wheatley? As revealed by Erik Wolpaw at the NYU Game Center, listening to Rick’s speech for long enough will add a small, additional line of dialogue to the game’s end when you finally beat Wheatley.
Vitrified Test Chambers
Down in old Aperture you may have very well come across the vitrified test chambers, sealed vaults behind which now abandoned test chambers once lived, where Cave tried everything from turning test participants blood to gasoline, to teleporting them across space at the risk of them losing their skin. The slightly less obvious detail is that interacting with the three test chamber doors nearest to the ‘Ship Overboard’ easter egg causes a curious message (image by Rocketbean) to appear in the command console on the PC version of the game: “DLCMANAGER: RequestDlcUpdate has no new content.” This suggests that some time in the future, Portal 2 DLC will be released which actually allows access to these vitrified test chambers. An exciting prospect indeed.
Where is Aperture?
A small easter egg and a not entirely hidden one, but just in case you haven’t found it, the newspaper in one of the lobbies in old Aperture actually reveals that the Aperture Science complex is almost certainly located in Upper Michigan, USA.
End of Part One
I hope you’re enjoying yourself so far but as to not flood you with more portal than is desirable (as if there is such a thing) I’ll be holding out on the other parts of this blog until a later date. Thank you for reading, good luck, and have turret.