Late 2 The Game – Portal 2

posted by Andrew Cross

How do you expand upon a video game that was a three-hour gimme on a compilation with a very unique play style? First, turn it into an adventure game but still retain all the hallmarks that made the original such a beloved new classic. Then, go big. The original Portal was a happy bonus on The Orange Box, which now, having played Portal 2, truly does feel like a prototype. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t play the original now that its successor is out. Playing the original will make the story in Portal 2 even richer and will familiarize you in very a straightforward manner with the game’s style of physics puzzle solving. If you want a whole cake instead of a slice though, Portal 2 will surely satisfy.

The original Portal was the EP to Portal 2‘s LP. This game’s scope is massive. It’s an adventure more then a puzzler (around 8 hours in length), the environments are larger (three distinct areas spread across nine chapters), and the number of test chambers has tripled, while still retaining the ingenious craftsmanship I come to expect from Valve. Even the loading screens have doubled. The Aperture Science cards that greeted me every time I moved onto a new area are considerable and occasionally will break the flow of the game, but this seems like a necessary evil for how massive it is. Some of the chambers are several stories tall and filled with light bridges, energy beams, surface-altering gels, buttons, weighted cubes, catapults, and the adorable egg shaped gun turrets. The puzzles are challenging and will twist your brain into a pretzel. They have an almost manic quality to them, as you need to combine different devices and skills to create a solution to escaping. Portal 2 tested me, but I never got frustrated.

What’s really amazing to me is how Valve gave Portal the big budget sequel it deserved but kept the cast limited to three primary speaking roles and a lead protagonist who’s mute. It’s a testament to Valve that they could make a game that felt larger and still keep the amount of characters to a minimum. Portal 2 is the story of a battle over a kingdom of nothing, with you (as test-subject Chell) just wanting to get the hell out. Portal 2 still retains the darkly sarcastic and wit fueled humor that made the original so distinctive. The game is genuinely funny and has plenty of laugh-out-loud sequences that are brought to life by the note-perfect cast. J.K. Simmons as Aperture Science CEO Cave Johnson is hilarious while at the same time distressing. The excellent Stephen Merchant stands out as the Wheatley, Britain’s dumbest robotic eyeball. Ellen McLain returns as the omnipotent A.I. GLaDOS. Valve’s writers have given her a broader range of emotion and put her character through quite a journey, but she still retains her evil insanity everyone loves. The actors sell the story of Portal 2 so wholly; it’s tough to put the game down. I guarantee a bounty of voice acting awards for the cast by the end of the year.

When the original Portal ended, I wanted more. The sequel couldn’t go anywhere but up. Portal 2 goes up and right through the creative ceiling. It’s a joy to play and currently stands as my favorite title of 2011 so far.

Developed by: Valve
For: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Friday, May 6th, 2011 at 8:00 am