Portal 2 breaks the trend of dissapointing game sequels

Portal 2 breaks the trend of dissapointing game sequels

The original Portal had the element of surprise to it. It’s physics based, first person shooter game play mechanic was interesting and fresh. GLaDOS, the murderous antagonist robot, was stimulating and evil in the most dynamic way. Cake jokes and songs about surviving dismemberment were thrown around in a way to creep the player, yet still make them happy and excited to continue. It was short, concise, and essential for any gamer, so creating a sequel seemed like an impossible task. However, for Valve, it was apparently a piece of cake.

From the moment of waking up in the abandoned, forsaken Aperture Science facility to the ending credits, Portal 2 rarely falters. The world was increased, the story was thickened, and the character development was even more surprising. The insanity of GLaDOS, the facility’s caretaker, is developed in unexpected forms with a variety of funny personalities. The blanks left from the first game surrounding the facility are filled in, and characters are given more back story.  While the story’s pace sometimes suffers from a suddenly serious tone, an ample amount of cruel jokes and happy threats prevent it from losing its charm. So while you’re not staring at your screen, wincing from trying to figure out a puzzle, expect to be laughing.

Portal 2’s main charm is it’s fantastic single-player story mode. Many of the puzzles in the game’s latter of the eight to 10 hours (maybe less, depending on how clever you are) of its mind boggling “test chambers” had me convinced that at one point or the other, the sadistic developers decided to leave a puzzle unsolvable or that maybe there was a bug in the programming that left the exit just out of reach. So after the tenth or hundredth attempt, I would grimace in defeat. I would give up.

Then, through sudden revelation, divine inspiration, or complete accident, it would come to me: use the orange propulsion gel to speed up my momentum and jump off a ledge, then launch a portal (in mid-air, mind you) on the blue propulsion gel to catapult me to a slightly dangling ledge in the middle of no where, grab the reflection cube and redirect the laser to take out the turrets and activate the switch. I would think to myself, “It’s so simple! Why didn’t I think about it before!” So while half of Portal 2’s brilliance makes me want to kick myself for not thinking enough, the other half brings a smile to my face when I finally do, again and again.

The third half of Portal 2’s brilliance is its story. (Yes, third half. If Valve can disregard the laws of physics in its game, I can disregard the laws of math in my review.) It’s chambers are filled to the brim with well-written and acted characters that just overflow with personality, despite none of them actually being people. While some plot twists are a bit cliché, witnessing the characters react through the death, resurrection, revenge, and reversal of luck, would make a normally dull and lifeless world feel full of life.

It does all this and more while recycling very few of Portal’s greatest comedy hits—there’s nary a nod to dishonest cake, and the beloved Weighted Companion Cube makes only a cameo appearance. And the finale? Not challenging in the least, but nevertheless a spectacular and extremely clever finish to the story, with extra points for those who’ve paid close attention to Mr. Johnson.

So after all this, it’s been perfectly established that the game play and story of Portal 2 is what made it such a joy to play. That’s before you even consider the game’s multi-player mode, starring the most lovable robot duo since C3PO and R2D2. Playable in local split screen, you can play with a friend, or over the Internet with a friend or a complete stranger. Portal 2’s co-op is pure genius, encouraging communication and actual proper coordination. Playing without a headset isn’t really an option, despite being able to project parkers and start countdowns.

Portal 2 is a theoretically impossible sequel. It’s got the main concept of the original and greatly improved on it. These types of games force the player to focus and think about their next move, like a game of chess (except with a portal gun… and without the board and pieces… so in other words, nothing like chess). It’s refreshing to play games that challenge a person’s intellect and problem-solving skills. There are multiple ways to complete most maps, some longer, while others shorter. However, the amount of satisfaction gained from succeeding is all worth the while. Plus, with its added multiplayer, you gain a lot of replay ability.

The biggest disappointment is realizing that, once you’re done, Valve Time will mean we’ll be without the warm bosom of GLaDOS for, presumably, years.  Regardless, games like this don’t come around very often, and if you miss out on this one you’ll be skipping one of the finest examples of the medium the industry has to offer: Portal 2 is compelling, exciting, wildly capricious and, most importantly, laugh out loud funny.  And who knows, maybe there’ll be a surprise waiting for you – at the end.

 

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