Well here we are again
It's always such a pleasure.
Portal 2 was released on Steam on Tuesday morning, a convenient 24 hours or so before my planned trip to the UK. So naturally I decided that I would have to complete the single-player game before heading on vacation.
The entire game was highly enjoyable, both the puzzle-solving elements and the storyline with its superb voice acting and impressive visuals.
So, to go briefly over each of those points:
- Much as in the original Portal, the puzzles to be solved with only your hand-held portal device, your wits, and the surrounding environment make up the bulk of the gameplay. Various new elements have been added, such as hard-light bridges and excursion funnels that can go through portals, along with propulsion and repulsion gels that allow you to run very fast and bounce very high respectively. These allow for all kinds of new and interesting puzzles to solve. The only possible complaint (and one that some others have made) is that in some points of the game the difficulty is not in how to solve the puzzle, but in working out where on earth you're actually trying to get to - the objective just isn't always clear. Sometimes you're not actually trying to solve any puzzle, but are just searching for the next suitable portal surface that you're expected to find. That said though, the game is still awesome fun to play.
- After defeating GLaDOS in the original Portal, you (playing the part of Chell, test subject for Aperture Science Laboratories) find yourself in a suspended animation sleeping chamber which you awake from many years in the future. The story of how you came to be there in the first place is briefly touched upon in the “Lab Rat” comic. Without wanting to spoil too much, the storyline of Portal 2 again has you pitted against the somewhat insane artificial intelligence GLaDOS, and also gives you some insight into the past of Aperture Laboratories as you explore abandoned test chambers from the 1940s onwards. The plot twists are largely predictable and yet still enjoyable, and the ending is very satisfying. The final portal you make… let's just say I wasn't expecting that to happen!
- Voice acting
- Ellen McLain reprises her role as GLaDOS superbly and is joined by Stephen Merchant as Wheatley (an AI core who helps you to escape from suspended animation), and J.K. Simmons as Cave Johnson, founder of Aperture Science Laboratories. Those expecting a follow-up to Jonathan Coulton and Ellen McLain's “Still Alive” should also not be disappointed.
- Although the graphics engine hasn't really changed hugely, a number of nice effects have been added (the excursion funnels, the gels and the combination of the two together are quite impressive); but that's not what makes Portal 2 look fantastic. The sheer size and scope of the Aperture Laboratories facilities as they are revealed to you is what really stands out. I mean this place is not just big, it is unbelievably enormous in scope. Also impressive is the dynamic aspect of the layout as at certain parts of the story the facility is changing all around you as you explore and more complex challenges are created for you.
All in all, this is a fantastic game and is highly recommended - though I haven't even tried the co-operative play mode yet; I look forward to trying that out when I get back home. The single player game is longer than Portal, but still reasonably short. Priced at £29.99, you might consider it to be a rather short experience for your money - though what there is is quite awesome.
Overall, definitely one of my favourite games of the past few years.