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Portal 2 Learn How To Think With Portals...Again

Reviewing: Valve Portal 2  |  Rating:
Michael Cornish By Michael Cornish on
Badge: Author | Level: 2 | Gaming Expertise:
Xbox Valve Gaming Puzzle Games

"Oh... It's you." Your old friend GLaDOS greets you after she unexpectedly corners you. She seems to remember you pretty well.

"It's been a long time. How have you been?" She seems surprisingly civil for an artificial intelligence that you previously destroyed.

"I've been really busy being dead. You know, after you murdered me." Oh. That sounds about right. She doesn't seem happy.

In Valve's second installment of the first-person puzzle game, Portal 2, GLaDOS returns with more of what you know and love from the first game: test chambers! Now packed with new technologies and puzzling goodness, the chambers are more fun (and challenging) to solve than before. GLaDOS is pulling out all the stops. You tried to kill her and now she wants revenge. She plans to keep you as her lab rat for the rest of your life. But you don't have that kind of time, do you?

Similar to your circumstances in Portal 1, you must find a way to escape. This time, however, you are not alone. The introduction of a robot companion, Wheatley, is a most welcome addition to the game. Gone is the feeling of hopeless loneliness as you wander through the prison-like test facility. Between his hilarious personality, and reassuring attitude, Wheatley gives you the push you need to continue through GLaDOS's seemingly endless tests. Once you and Wheatley finally make your great escape, the real adventure begins.

The storyline of Portal 2 is one of revelation and discovery with sudden bursts of excitement and one huge twist. Admittedly, players may see the twist coming, but that fact does not make the event any less game-changing. In fact, game changes are part of what make Portal 2 so dynamic and enjoyable. Never will players find themselves performing the same tasks over and over. There are always new elements being introduced that require players to change the way they think. From laser beams to speed-inducing gel, there is no shortage of layers to Portal 2.

With all this talk of "change" you may be wondering whether you will be able to keep up. Portal 2 is a puzzle game at its heart, after all. There will be times when you will find yourself scratching your head -- many times. Some test chambers can be very intimidating. Rest assured, Valve has done a great job of making each puzzle very solvable. All that is required is a bit of problem-solving and a lot of patience. The chambers can be difficult to figure out, but once the solution is found, executing it is comparably very simple. This is a most welcome change from the first game. Never again will you find yourself jerking your mouse (or controller) around trying to quickly place portals. Portal 2 is about your mind, not your reflexes.

Not to be forgotten is the addition of multiplayer to the Portal series. Grab a friend (and a mic if you're playing online) and prepare to cooperate and communicate. Although there is a genius built-in nonverbal communication system, you will find it much easier to solve the puzzles if you can easily talk to your co-op buddy. Playing as two Aperature Science robots, you find yourselves working your way through test chamber after test chamber -- not unlike singleplayer mode. GLaDOS is up to her old tricks again as she slowly tries to turn you and your counterpart against each other. Can you stick together and cooperatively solve your way to the end? You're going to have to.

Portal 2 is an absolutely hilarious game. The writing for every character, friend or foe, robot or human, is brilliant. If you don't find yourself tickled while playing through the story, you may want to see the Wizard of Oz about getting a sense of humor.

The only sincere criticism that I can give of Portal 2 is that it may seem a bit too difficult (and frustrating) at times. Of course, this can be perceived as error on my part. However, it is Valve's job to ensure that players have a relatively clear way of knowing what to do and how to do it. Though they generally do a great job of this, there are places where I found myself utterly stumped for a while, only to realize I completely missed a spot to place a portal. Depending on your perspective, this can either be a major or minor problem. Either way, it should not hinder your progress too greatly. As long as you stay patient and rational, you should be able to solve each puzzle.

Lastly, without spoiling anything, the ending is genius. Don't forget to stick around after the final cinematic for Jonathan Coulton's new musical work of art.