I’ll keep this short but sweet, and spoiler free.
First impressions after completing Portal 2, what a fun and well thought out game! As a girl who generally struggles with puzzle games and gets frustrated, normally resulting in a game being removed from view, I was pleasantly surprised to see how capable I was of doing these! The puzzles in the chambers are very challenging still, but in a satisfyingly strategic way and there are often little hints of sorts on how to go about doing the puzzles if you look.
For those not perhaps familiar with the first installment, Portal 1 – go play it! It’s short – so there’s no excuse! But as a quick reminder: it is a first person linear puzzle based game with an interesting story wherein an evil AI, GLaDOS, wishes for you to simply not exist anymore, and throws many portal-based tests your way.
The sequel follows on nicely, whilst still bringing in many new elements that are exciting and refreshingly welcome. This game did not feel repetitive at all – it constantly felt as if the levels and chambers were nicely mixing it up, with new objects or combining methods.
People are complaining it is too short, it does not feel that way at all – and at roughly 9 hours worth of gameplay on single player, I cannot see what more they would want. Playing endless puzzles would infact become tiresome and repetitive, to the point where you want to give up – and of course Valve, nor GLaDOS wants that.
Plot & Story
The plot and story is fantastically done with sharp wit and humor due to great actors and sarcasm filling the air. Each character has their own quirks or personality trait which is really intriguing and engaging. GLaDOS, of course, is manic as ever, and draws you into the game as her evil plans and chatter envelops you into the world once again.
Similar to the first game, you are put through many tests, this time with more involvement and story unfolding through GLaDOS. It is a very clever game, in that you remain silent throughout and you gain the story of yourself and your environment, etc, simply through GLaDOS’ dialogue, and discoveries along the way during your testing.
There’s something about a charismatic AI, that just makes you want to continuously play, even though they’re out to kill you. The dialogue in the game continues to unfold the story as you go and you actively think about it even whilst away from your computer/console in anticipation for the next part!
Certain aspects of the game feel highly polished – the writing being the most fantastic script I think I have experienced in a game, and the animation is wonderful on the characters and robots. The plot has the ability to engage you and make you like or dislike certain characters very well and in an apt manner.
Puzzles & Gameplay
The puzzles are quite linear, however there are a lot of new concepts or objects added into the functionality, instead of simply putting a box on a switch, or shooting a portal to the top – it requires a lot more thinking and you can often tell if you’ve done something slightly wrong as there will be a small indication (aside from the obvious when you fall and die). The new features and items are great fun and get mixed up enough to keep you wanting more and more – and makes you wonder how they came up with the ideas!
Another feature I quite liked has been the decision to this time always show where your portal is on the level, so as you turn around to explore and puzzle solve, you don’t get lost. The completion of each puzzle is hugely satisfying and it is hard to just “have a quick go on a few chambers” as it is easy to get so immersed you completely forget the world around you. Side note: remember to eat and drink, Aperture Laboratories recommend it.
The graphics and aesthetic looks seem improved quite a bit, your model character has taken on a sharper look, more defined, and slightly more worn! On my PC, I was able to run it at the highest graphical settings with complete smoothness and the environments and chambers seem to look sharper as well as very nice effects throughout on animation. The animations in this are really impressive, and if you listen to the developer commentary afterwards, you’ll discover what hard work went into that. The movement on AI, robots, and so on, is really slick and simple things such as the way a robots arm may move is just a sign that care has been put in this game. The components of the game, as well as physics and other textual elements are really quite impressive and well done.
There are a few hidden features of the game; rooms, and so on. So it’s worth exploring! You do also get to see your old friend, the Weighted Companion Cube, once again.
In the co-op levels, you play as one of two robots – who have been the main advertisers for this game! They are charming and humorous, and feel like true companions. For me, this is where the animation was outstanding. It’s so slick that you don’t even think about or notice how great it is – the attention to detail concerning the robotic movements of limbs and piston style running etc is fantastic. As you progress through the co-op chambers, you unlock emotes to use, some of them are co-op moves, such as taunting or high fives, and others are single ones. There’s bonus achievements involved for many, so keep an eye out. As a side note, you can also download items to customize your robots, such as skins, hats, and emotes – the store is quite empty still so it seems they will continue to add DLC. These are bought through micro-transactions via Steam. I couldn’t help but get some myself, as can be seen on the left.
The co-op play deserves its own appraise, as it’s certainly a well thought out and fantastic piece of work. It is evident that Valve put as much time and effort into developing that, as the single campaign. It is a very self-contained game and feels truly… co-operative. I know that’s its point, but it really gets to the heart of it and everything involves you and your partner (either split screen on console, or over network/internet) thinking things through together and planning out. To help this, Valve added in some great features such as being able to point at objects around the world to direct your partner. Co-op also has a rather amusing set of its own achievements.
Overall an immensely fun and engaging game – especially if you’re a fan of the first. The ending is brilliant and feels like it condenses pretty much everything that has happened into the whole game into a short period – very well crafted, Valve! They’ve done a good job to fit in and encapsulate the entire atmosphere, humor, characters, bizarre plot and fun boss into one small time span – with, of course, the obligatory musical number to end it (as with the first Portal) – well written lyrics that actually make you desire to sit through the end credits, sung by the Ellen McLain (GLaDOS), who brings the personality to AI. There’s also a particularly funny segment that will have you laughing plus wondering what is going on and why, at the same time (and if you’re anything like me, finding it quite oddly charming). Talented Valve.
Of course there are a few scratches on the paintwork, namely the loading screens between each chamber. A hassle to sit through and on par with Mass Effect’s dreadful elevators. Convenient, as you are, infact, in an elevator. The other gripe is that some of the textures are not perfect up close, such as on walls. A disappointment but ultimately not a dent on the greatness of the game, and other graphical features make up for it.
Frankly, if you’re reading this and not playing Portal 2 by now, why? Go. It will enrich your day, and GLaDOS even has a surprise for you.