Reviewed: Portal 2 (2011)

Game Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

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I’m a casual gamer. I haven’t 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 wasn’t looking 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.

Now, 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.

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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.

Reviewed: Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Zombie Ninja Pro-Am (2007)

Game Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

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I was pretty excited to learn that this game existed. I was also pretty sure that this exclusive-to-PS2 game would never find its way to Australian stores and would therefore never get to play it. So, when I picked it up for a mere $5 at a store called the Reject Shop, I was over the moon. It’s not unusual to get stuff this cheap at a Reject Shop, the place is pretty much a great big bargain bin. This particular fact might might lead you to think that maybe this game is one of two things, unpopular or rubbish. Well, let me tell you.

Overview:

As an Adult Swim game based on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force TV show, it’s no surprise that its premise makes very little sense. Frylock, a sentient box of French Fries, has gained membership to the local public(?) golf course. Upon learning this, a talking milkshake named Master Shake takes up golf. As he plays, various characters such as their neighbour Carl, space-dwellers the Mooninites, and the Frat aliens turn up to give the team a hard time.

Gameplay:

The game features twelve levels (nine holes and three racing levels). Each hole plays out like a standard golf game with the familiar controls.

Unlike most golf games, this one has you hacking and slashing your way across the course between shots and each hole culminates in a boss battle at the green.

During fighting mode, you can alternate between Frylock, who can shoot, and Master Shake, whose skill is close combat. Along the way you’ll find interesting power-ups for the different weapons Master Shake can use, which you may recognise from the show, and are lots of fun.

The racing levels have you driving across the terrain of a previous hole and don’t feel all that different from any standard kart game. The racing, however, is limited to one-on-one and honestly, not that challenging. To keep you engaged, the tracks are littered with pick-ups that allow you to unlock some cool extras.

Look:

All things considered, this game looks pretty good. This might be one of those rare cases where, as a game based on an existing property, it looks better than the original source material. That may not be too much of a stretch though, considering what they have to work with.

As a fan of the show, most of the locations and supporting characters will be familiar to you, and they’re all lovingly recreated in full PS2-quality 3D.

Sound:

The core cast are all present to deliver wonderful new dialogue, and it’s this element that really makes the sound stand out.

The soundtrack features original songs from “favourites” such as Andrew W.K., 9lb Hammer, and Brass Castle (don’t worry, I have no idea who they are either). To begin with, these tracks aren’t so bad, but I can pretty much guarantee that you will want to throw your console through your TV after hearing the same song on loop for the thousandth time with each level.

Unfortunately, like many games of this calibre, what may be a humorous quip on the first time around becomes not so much a mild irritation after you’ve heard it for the thousandth time, but a source of murderous rage (which, on the plus side, comes in handy when relentlessly hacking through clone after clone of the same enemy).

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Overall:

For what it is and what it’s worth (or at least, what I paid for it), this game does what a property-based game should do. It takes the much-loved elements from the original show and expands upon them in a new platform. As an extension of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force world, it’s a fun and new experience.

I have to say, however, that once all the extras have been unlocked, there’s not too much in the way of longevity for this game. But for $5, who’s arguing?

Score:

7/10 (not reflective of comparison to other games)