Review: Portal 2

Welcome to Aperture Science, you Monster
You are trapped in an Aperture Science laboratory with nothing but a portal gun in your hand. You have evil robots setting up tests to try and kill you, all "for science" (in reality, she resents you for killing her last game, and wants you dead). What do you do, big shot. What do you do? The spoiler-free answer? Solve the shit out of that place!

Portal 2 is a puzzle-solving game. It's true. So what that means is, you solve puzzles. You have a portal gun, which can create 2 portals (an entrance point and exit point basically) and you use that and your environment to solve one Test Chamber after another, obviously increasing in complexity as you progress.

Plot & Writing
The plot of the game is simple, and outlined pretty fully above, though the games several delightful twists (though few) are removed to maintain a spoiler-free review.

What makes Portal 2 interesting is when you are playing the actual game, there is no story happening. It takes place between the gameplay, essentially as you are walking from one puzzle to another. Resentful robots (*cough* GlaDOS *cough*) mock you as you progress and on occasion she'll whip out a "surprise", keeping things interesting.

Because the game is so heavily puzzle-based, it's pretty easy to overlook the actual writing, which is actually one of the best parts. The small story is both funny, and engaging, despite its "background" nature. At least for the first chunk of the game. The dialogue is amusing, and, again, keeps you motivated to keep moving through the puzzles if you are not as keen on puzzle-solving as those of us who use our brains. Little joke there...little joke. Anyways, yes. Good writing. Plot: simple yet good. Dialog: witty and fun.

You can;t really rate this game on graphics, since drastically improved graphics would change nothing about the experience this game has to offer. Even significantly worse would not really matter, perhaps except for the enjoyment of some cut scenes. Moral: Graphics are almost an N/A here, but we'll go with 4 cause people like ratings. I guess I am not TOTALLY correct here, as the graphics add ambiance to puzzles, especially later in the game, and they are quite good. But again, we're not talking about "graphics of the year" because they aren;t as important as they would be in many other games.

Sound & Music
The end-credits song Still Alive from the original Portal was introduced to me via free Rock Band DLC a few years back. The song and the story in it grew on me, and my nerdy friends filled in a lot of the gaps to the story of Portal, and that is what lead me to my interest in Portal 2. Moral of this babble? Music can make a difference. And Jonathan Coulton returns to do an equally-delightful original tune for the end of Portal 2 as well, and that alone would bounce this rating up to about a 3.5 or 4. But the rest of the sound design in Portal 2 is just as thoroughly crafted, and makes for a positive Test Chamber imprisonment experience.

I am about half-way through the new co-op mode, and they are a great piece of the gameplay landscape in Portal 2 as well. You have 2 people, with 2 portal guns (totally 4 portals Shock) so things can get pretty interesting and complex. The hardest parts still await me, I am sure, but as long as you have solid communication with your partner (local or online - with a mic, for god sakes use a mic!) then you should be able to get things worked out. Eventually. Muahahahahahaa. And so on. Good co-op. That's the moral of this section.

For me, two things made my Portal 2 experience great: the passive-aggressive homicidal robot, and that split-second epiphany feeling you get when you actually figure out a puzzle. It's like a drug. So it kinda saddens me to say that after you've beaten the game, no more epiphanies. In that way, there is no replayability to the gameplay itself what so ever. Unless you have (or plan on inflicting yourself with) a brain injury, you will probably remember how you solved it the first time, and its just not the same dammit.

All of that being said, though, the small story laced throughout it was, for me, apparently good enough that I want to play the game again. I know the puzzles will be lacking the kick they had the first time, but I really liked the journey dammit. One day, and that day may never come, i will replay the main story of Portal 2 and post a comment letting you know how second playthrough holds up. Until then, check back here daily, waiting patiently for me. Smile

Comments 2
Phil T's picture

I lol'd at the replayability part

George Prax's picture

Great review. Shaping up to be the best game of 2011 so far I think.