Date Posted: May 20, 2011
Print Edition: May 13, 2011
Don’t miss this mind-blowing adventure
Prepare to be dazzled like never before; Portal 2, released on April 18, is the most charismatic puzzler in existence. It is a fitting sequel to the 2007 cult-favourite that had fans quoting lines of dialogue for years afterward, like “the cake is [not] a lie” and “now you’re thinking with portals.” For a game so dearly treasured, it speaks highly of Portal 2’s quality that it can live up to the incredibly high expectations set by its predecessor.
The Portal series, created by Valve Corporation, stars protagonist Chell as she navigates the testing chambers within a facility called the Aperture Science Enrichment Center. A robust computer system assists the player over the loudspeaker, alerting the player to new challenges and commenting on her performance. Both games are based around the use of a futuristic tool called a “portal gun” that can be used to shoot two different warp spheres onto almost any flat platform. The player can then leap into one of these “portals” to be instantly transported out of the second portal with the same velocity they entered. It is both exhilarating and extremely disorienting. This portal gun is used as the primary method of solving each puzzle in the game. The first-person perspective can add to the disorienting sensation, especially for gamers who are used to playing games with a third-person view of their character, but it is worth taking the time to become familiar with the controls, as the game provides one of the most rewarding play experiences available.
Portal 2 begins as Chell is reawakened in the Aperture Science laboratory hundreds of years after the events in the first game. At this time, players are aware of how twisted this “Enrichment Center” really is, but they also become aware that it is run down and falling apart, giving each chamber a very different feel from the Windex clean feel from the first game.
It’s a much larger story than the first, with additional characters besides the computing system in the first game, known as GLaDOS. Wheatley, a comedic robot with a British accent (voiced by Stephen Merchant), helps to orient and guide you through the game. The cute turrets return as well, and in their child-like voices still say things like “Are you still there?” when they can’t find you. They try to kill the main player, but you’ll still feel bad when you destroy one.
The larger size of the game is helped by the inclusion of new types of puzzles, with new futuristic devices that must be used in addition to the portal gun. Two of these new tools are Repulsion gel, which makes things bounce, and Propulsion Gel, which makes things slide quickly. Incredibly, even with all of these additions and the increasingly complex nature of some of the puzzles, the game never gets out of reach. The key is that gamers have time to sit and think about what to do to maneuver their way to the exit door of each test chamber, as well as the fact that there is no punishment for failure. The game auto-saves often so you never have to redo something difficult.
A cooperative mode is also available that can be played split screen or online. It’s one of the best parts of the game, featuring puzzles that require two-players, and four portals to complete. PlayStation 3 owners can play co-op with PC gamers as well, the first time cross-platform gaming has been accomplished on PS3. While Portal is an unmatchable classic, Portal 2 is everything you could want in a sequel and more. Do not miss it.