Welcome to Aperture Science, where the future is now. Or at least it was until you destroyed the megalomaniac AI that was running the place. This was a little over a hundred years ago and the place has not seen any real love. You start the game being brought out of stasis by Wheatly, the AI that is supposed to be in charge of all the humans. Too bad you are the only one left and the others are "bloody vegetables". So now you two are going to try and escape this place before the management comes down and knocks some heads.
That is how it starts out. Obviously things will not go as planned. You meet up with an old friend (this term is used loosely). She is very happy to see you (you monster) since you murdered her, Now she gets to continue testing you. You jump (read thrown) into the new testing chambers and now you need to escape all over again. Gameplay has not really changed from the first game at its core. You still have the portal gun that can eventually fire two different portals to get around the test chambers (and other areas) of Aperture. Your old friend the cube has returned to the test chambers al well to help you pass the tests. This is a very good thing as GLaDOS has successfully designed new chambers that are almost deadly to test your abilities with the portal gun.
There a few new elements that have been added, the first of which you will run into is the thermal discouragement beams. These are basically lasers that you have to redirect with special thermal discouragement beam redirection cubes (talk about long pretentious names). They also throw in bridges made of solid light that can be used to walk on, catch cubes, and block turrets line of sight (very important). Eventually you get to the repulsion gel, acceleration gel, and a portal surface gel. These all add a special something to the game and make the levels progressively more difficult and fun.
Speaking of levels we cannot review Portal 2 and not talk about the level design as it is brilliant. All the levels work the same way, if you can do something in one level you can be sure that it works on later levels. Also as you go forward in the levels they make sure you have been trained in each aspect of it before making things more difficult. Examples of this are seen in the escalated use of the repulsion gel. First it is preplaced for you, followed by it just coming out a pipe and you have to place it where you need it, followed by having to use it in conjunction with other gels. Sure there are parts of the game where my first thought was “How the hell am I supposed to pull this off?” But there was never a time where I felt I would have to look up online how to solve the puzzle. This is something that I feel was very important to my overall gaming experience and added satisfaction to when I solved a puzzle.
The most difficult puzzles (in my opinion) can be found in the game's new co-op mode. Here you play two robots that are a part of the cooperative testing initiative (since us humans are useless for that). The reason why I find the puzzles to be more difficult is due to the fact that the puzzles can require 4 portals open at once in order to successfully traverse the testing chambers. In order to facilitate having to tell someone what needs to done the people at Valve created the ping tool. It allows you to point at a spot with limited directions for what you need your fellow AI to do. This is useful even when both players have voice chat (almost a requirement still) as even in split screen it is easier to use it to direct where you want the other robots portal instead of just pointing at the screen (or uselessly say place it there over voice chat). It works great and the fact that co-op is a completely different story with entirely different test chambers makes it seem more worthwhile. Downside is you have to have another person to play as the robots do not have bot mode (that seems a bit redundant).
Now I know that people say comedy is based on person’s point of view, but the writing in Portal 2 is downright funny. They managed to keep the same charm from the first game in this return to form and it helps make the game what it is. It would not be the same if GLaDOS was not so condescending to you all the time. And Wheatly’s “vast intellect” makes portions of the game truly worth playing just to find out what the next thing they are going to say. Even the portions with Cave Johnson are great (that poor man). If you are interested in hearing more on the writing check out Erik Wolpaw’s talk at NYU on it.
OK, so the game is great. The gameplay is fantastic, the game design is brilliant and the script is both hilarious and motivating. But there is one thing that drives me nuts, the load screens. Get used to seeing them as every elevator and some doors bring up a load screen. There are times where you will go through a short (2 – 3 minutes) test chamber and hit another load screen. They do not take too long, maybe 30-60 seconds per each one, but there just seems to be a lot of them. But since that is my only gripe, I will give them a pass. Some may say the game is short clocking in around 8-10 hours single player and 6-8 additional hours with the co-op mode, but keep in mind this is much longer than the original game and they are releasing DLC for all 3 systems next month. It will be free for the 360, PS3, and PC. And for those that are looking to get a console version of it, yes the controllers work just as well as a mouse (in my humble opinion. Heck if you get it on the PS3 you can still play it on your PC. As Valve put it you are not getting two copies of one game, you are allowed to play one copy in two different places since you have to link your PSN account to steam.
Joysticks: 5 / 5