Back when Steam was finally released on the Mac, many users (myself included) got their first taste of the original physics-based puzzle game: Portal. It was unique in so many ways and earned rave reviews from even the most critical of judges thanks to it’s relaxing, yet challenging tests; humerous, yet at time frustratingly difficult characters; and altogether brilliant storyline, gameplay and visuals.
However, one criticism of the original though, was its length. It really was a game that could be completed in just a couple of hours, and that grinds with many people who were left wanting more of such a potentially classic title.
Enter, Portal 2. The sequel. The successor to one of the most popular puzzle games of all time, and the burden of that mantle heaps huge pressure on the developers, Valve Software (makers of Half Life and Left 4 Dead as well as other famous titles) to come up with something worthy.
It would have been too easy for Valve to come up with something altogether too similar. An extended edition, almost, and suffice to say that should they have done so, it would have been a bitter pill to swallow for budding gamers who have waited nearly 4 years for the release of the follow up.
The nature of the gameplay, with a series of tasks requiring completion by navigating the maze-like rooms using a pair of portals. For those unfamiliar, this is achieved by firing a blue portal as an entrance, and an orange portal as an exit, or vice versa, allowing the player to move between otherwise unreachable places by simply walking through. Of course, there was always more to it than that, and features such as laser-guided defense turrets, and various buttons and levers requiring operation in one manner or another, added more complexity to the levels as the game progressed.
Rather than changing the core methods in the game, thus creating an entirely different type of puzzle, which could so easily have been the result of Portal 2, Valve decided to tastefully add more of these obstacles, and solutions, such as ‘light’ bridges, which can be extended through portals, and strange beams of a similar manner which can levitate both player and object. It all gets a little complicated to put down in words, it’d become a lot clearer for the reader if you were to play the game or at least watch a few demos of gameplay, before embarking on understanding the depths of the game.
To cut a long story short, the game is good. The additions are tasteful and generally add to the experience, meaning that whilst Portal 2 is inherently similar to Portal 1, the challenges and additions are varied enough to make it a very different game to play, and the enhancements made visually as well as in the storyline, certainly lead Portal 2 to being a greatly superior game to its predecessor, which will always live on as a classic.
There would be no point me putting even the outline of the story down in words, it’s better experienced through playing the game. Needless to say it continues in the vain of Portal 1 in the absurdity, offensiveness, sarcasm and almost entirely fictitious scientific theory emerging from GLaDOS, the commentator for most of the games challenges.
Portal 2, whilst being a puzzle game at its core, takes elements from Valves other titles visually, such as Half Life especially, which gives it the feel of an all-action FPS whilst playing, though you never actually come into contact with anything other than the aforementioned laser turrets that you must destroy. It’s just unique. That really is the best adjective possible to describe Portal. No amount of superlatives could truly portray how good the game is, it’s just beautifully distinct in all aspects, and you’ll never play another game like it. Until perhaps Portal 3.
Portal 2 is thankfully a lot longer than the original, being split up into 9 chapters, each a different part of the story and each in it’s own different world almost. There is a time where you will feel that the game is coming to a head, only to stumble across a whole lot more testing (the core aspect of the gameplay), though much of the action takes place out of the testing chambers, unlike the original, which gives it another dimension on top of what the original ever was. Though having said that, the controls, the solutions are generally the same, it’s just the visuals and the landscape which changes.
Portal 2 also adds a couple of new characters into the fray. Originally it was just yourself and GLaDOS, but Cave Johnson and Wheatley add more sarcastic humour throughout the game, with the latter voiced by Stephen Merchant and the former JK Simmons.
I really can’t say anymore about Portal 2 for fear of getting too excited. So, without further ado, I’m off to play the game myself. And I strongly suggest that you follow suit. Just for your information, Portal 2 is available to purchase for £29.99 via Steam for Mac, but it’s also available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC for varying costs. Go on, treat yourself. It’s the best game I’ve played all year.