Portal 2: GLaD to be BackWritten by Toledo Free Press Writers | | email@example.com
The sequel to 2008′s Game of the Year is just as smart and charming as it’s predecessor.
I really wasn’t going to pre-order Portal 2.
The first game was too perfect. The story of a girl and her “gun”, a homicidal artificial intelligence, and baked goods, Portal took the geek zeitgeist by storm in 2007-08, simply because nobody was expecting it. It was supposed to be the undercard of Valve’s Orange Box compilation, packaged alongside Game-of-the-Millenium Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2. But the unique gameplay and comedy, as silly as it was sinister, propelled Portal to a few awards of it’s own. Even the song at the end, written by the hilarious Jonathan Coulton, was perfect. There’s no way Valve could ever duplicate it all.
If you’re unaware of the original, I’d point you to Jeff McGinnis’s article in last week’s Star. If you don’t have that handy (WHAT?), here’s a quick primer: You’re trapped in the vacant Aperture Science Enrichment Center. Your only tool is a gun that will paint a hole on a wall or ceiling. You place one hole on one side of the room, place the other hole on the other side, and walk through the first hole to emerge through the second. You make your way though chambers that were specifically built to test aptitude with the portal gun with your only “companion”, the electronic voice of GLaDOS. She instructs you on the tricks of using the portals, and doles out generic compliments when you complete them, promising cake at the end. However, the closer you get to learning the true story behind Aperture Science, the more antagonistic GLaDOS becomes, until she’s downright mocking you face-to-robotic-face. Not to spoil it, but you destroy GLaDOS and nearly escape. And, as you no doubt heard from your favorite nerd, the cake was a lie.
Portal hooked me instantly. Anything that can make you think and laugh at the same time automatically gets high marks from me, and it consistently delivered on both fronts.
That brings us to last week’s release of Portal 2. How do you follow up the perfect game? You have to make some changes, or it’ll be derided as being the Same Old Stuff. Change too much, and it’s not even the same franchise. Keep in mind, Portal sold for $20 when they eventually separated it from the Orange Box to sell standalone. This was a full game, and came with a full price ($50 for PC/Mac, $60 for the 360/PS3). Not only did they have to make new stuff, they had to make it last longer. Could the minds at Valve pull it off? My brain told me no, but mere hours before the game was officially released, my heart took over and I pre-ordered. Saved $5 bucks, and received a copy of the original to gift to somebody (You’re welcome, Ryan).
Portal 2 returns you to the laboratories of Aperture. It’s some years into the future: the facility is in disrepair, and vegetation overgrows the once-pristine walls of the Enrichment Center. A different artificial intelligence, this one named Wheatly (and brilliantly voiced by Stephen Marchant), leads you through the vacant hallways in an effort to escape. Of course, you reunite with GLaDOS, who is not to happy about the “blowing-her-up” bit from the first game. Her barbs this time hit a little lower and dig a little deeper. The test chambers have a few new toys in them: lasers, light bridges, and gels that can make you jump higher or run faster. As you’d expect, the portals are the key to using these new pieces to the puzzle.
With the longer playtime, the writers at Valve really get to dig into the meat of what was going on at Aperture Laboratories, and it becomes the foundation for this game’s humor. Long gone are the running gags about cake; instead you are treated to the history of a corporation so incompetent, they developed a portable device that punches holes in time and space, and they somehow went bankrupt. On that backdrop, any gag makes sense, and they made good use of it.
If you blew through the single-player campaign in two nights (I did), don’t fret: there’s a whole separate series of tests in a brand-new co-op mode. You and a friend play a pair of robots armed with portal guns, with puzzles built specifically with multiplayer in mind. And while you may be the unofficial children of GLaDOS, don’t think you’re exempt from her verbal abuse.
I will say that Portal 2 does suffer a little because of it’s length. The second act tends to drag a little, with a couple of puzzles that aren’t very intuitive. Sometimes, I felt like I had the right solution, but wasn’t getting the right result. Other times, the key to the puzzle was hidden a little too well. Keep YouTube handy; if you get stuck, there are plenty of walkthroughs online already.
That being said, If Portal was an A+, it’s sequel is a solid A. By the time I hit the third act, I had lost track of the times I had to stop playing because I was laughing so hard. The test chambers got harder, but I no longer saw the rooms. I saw lasers, buttons, doors… and I saw how my little quantum-physics disruptor could tie it all together. I was thinking with portals again. And it was just as amazing the second time around.
Guest review by Matt Culbreath