Reviewed: Portal 2 (2011)

Game Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Portal-2_US_ESRB-fin_PS3I’m what I like to call a casual gamer. I have not played a large selection of games nor do I claim to be an authority on the subject. I’m just some guy who bought a PS3 back in the day when I needed a Blu-Ray player. I don’t need to play a bunch of disappointing titles just to find that hidden gem as I have friends who do this for me. When I’m looking for something new, someone else can tell me what’s good.

Now, one game I didn’t ask for was Portal 2, the sequel to the Valve Corporation game that brought us companion cubes and “The cake is a lie”. I didn’t ask for it but it did come highly recommended.

So, roughly two years later, I guess it was 2013, I got around to playing this thing.

Portal 2 picks up some time after the first instalment (like me, you don’t need to play it first but if you hate spoilers, I suggest you do) resuming the character of Chell. In the first game, Chell was a human test-subject trapped by an insane AI named GLaDOS inside the Aperture Science facility. GLaDOS put Chell through a number of ridiculous life-threatening tests with plans to keep her there until her demise because, over the years, it came to resent her for being human.

The gameplay for Portal 2 is FPS-style, but instead of killing everything in sight, you use your problem-solving skills on level after level of puzzles. You get to carry around a big-ass gun but it’s non-lethal. The portal gun enables you to create doors on solid surfaces that create entry and exit points for you to travel through in a space-bending mind-fuck kind of way. The execution of this idea is brilliantly simple despite the complexity of what is actually happening.

1722041-20501_1200x675crop0Now, if you’re not a fan of puzzle games generally, I suggest you give this one a go just to experience the characters, dialogue and story that have been developed to enhance what might otherwise be a fairly dull game.

With voice acting by Stephen Merchant (the awkward bespectacled guy that occasionally hangs out with Ricky Gervais) and J.K. Simmons (who is to Spider-Man’s J. Jonah Jameson, what Mark Hammill is to Batman’s The Joker), no matter how challenging the puzzles, you’ll want to solve them to push the story forward to learn more about the characters and hear these fantastic performances.

Having played this and then going back to the original to see where it all started, I can confidently say that this is a great sequel. It takes all the elements of a damned fine first effort and brings them back for a second helping of cake with additional frosting and little crunchy bits that, although you don’t quite know what they are, make the cake better and you eat them anyway without further hesitation.

This is how a game should be; a near-perfect symbiosis of story and concepts developed around solid game mechanics to create a unique player experience. There’s also a co-op mode, which I’ve not had the pleasure of playing, that adds even more to this package. It doesn’t hurt that it looks pretty great too.

There’s enough thinky brain stuff mixed with some pretty silly humour, so if you’re a fan of games that combine these elements in equal doses, certainly check this one out.

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