I’ve been looking forward to Portal 2 ever since it became a surprise hit as part of The Orange Box Half-Life compilation. Since then I’ve read the hype and even interviewed Chet Faliszek from Valve who co-wrote the game. Finally I get my hands on it and I’m very pleased with the outcome.
Still playing as Chell, you are woken up by a little robot called Wheatley who accidentally wakes up GLaDOS and the testing begins all over again. The first thing you’ll notice is Stephen Merchant’s voiceover. It’s laugh out loud funny and this theme continues with all the disembodied voices you hear throughout the game. It’s genuinely one of the funniest games I’ve ever played. There’s also more variety in gameplay as well. Not only are there new things to play with but also in terms of structure, there are moments when you enter test chambers and solve puzzles and also other parts where you explore, escape and visit as-yet unexplored areas of Aperture Laboratories. There are also plenty of plot twists which I won’t divulge here.
So what new ways are there to be tested? Of course the Portal gun is back as well as the companion cube – you can also change the path of lasers to activate doors and switches and even destroy robot turrets. Aerial Faith Plates catapult you into the air resulting in some fun aerobatics and later in the game there are three gels you can play with. There’s orange propulsion gel which gives you a burst of speed, blue gel which coats surfaces so you can bounce on them and white gel which lets you fire Portals onto previously un-portalable surfaces – if that’s a word!
The addition of these extra elements really bend your brain at times but I’m happy to report not once did I have to cheat and ask advice or look it up on the internet. There’s great satisfaction when you’re just about to give up and then something clicks and you manage to solve a puzzle and so it’s safe to say the difficulty is set just right.
Pacing is another matter though. The game starts off at a cracking pace but it does slow down a bit too much towards the middle with little or no dialogue at times to keep the interest up. The 360 version also suffers from loading screens between most test chambers which I’d like to have seen pre-load invisibly. If they can do it in Dead Space 2 I’m sure it can be done in Portal 2 as well!
Once you’ve finished single player you can play with a friend online or split-screen in coop mode. Playing as robots Atlus and P-body you have to work together to get to the exits and move forward. Simple gestures and the ability to ‘ping’ where you want your playmate to fire portals help communication but I do recommend playing with someone who also has a headset. It’s fun but very frustrating when you know you have the right solution but unfortunately your friend wrongly thinks they do too and stubbornly won’t comply.
If you liked the original Portal you’ll absolutely love this sequel so it gets an almost perfect 9 out of 10.
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