Game Review – Portal 2 – Valve (Mac OS X, PC, PS3, Xbox360)

Portal 2 cover

Hard to believe that it’s been 4 years since Portal first snuck its way into the gaming consciousness, this little clever 4 hour game on The Orange Box. Spawning both a meme and endless sewing projects, the physics based puzzler tends (on the whole) to unite all kinds of gamers as an excellent example of how a game should be developed.

The question was, could Valve develop the concept further and justify releasing a full price game focussed on this one, very simple concept.

Hell. Yes.

The scenario is simple enough. In the single-player game you are once again Chell, the woman who bested GLaDOS in the first game. Awoken from suspended animation by a small bot, Wheatley, you discover that Chell has been in suspended animation for several hundred years. The Aperture Science Centre has fallen into ruin and disrepair. Wheatley tries to guide you to safety, but in the process, GLaDOS reanimates herself and testing starts once again.

So far so simple. What Portal 2 does however is far more complex. Along with some fantastic physics based puzzles we know have a proper storyline and character development. Both GLaDOs and Wheatley are fully fleshed out and as the story progresses you also get a feel for the history of Aperture Science as a company, thanks to the recorded words of founder Cave Johnson.

The puzzles this time around are more complex, not only do you have to navigate portals and avoid turrets, you also have Aerial Faith plates to throw you up in the air, along with propulsion and repulsion gel. While some of the gameplay is decidedly fiendish, it never defies basic logic. A recent interview with Hidetaka Miyazaki, creator of the hideously hard Demon Souls, included him listing the things a game should do including:

– not punish a player due to skill levels
– be logical
– have more than one solution to a problem
– allow the player to learn from failure to enable sucess
– any inability to do something is not a result of poor game design

Portal 2 has all of this in spades. Futhermore it’s structured in such a way that you do learn as you play. Although the difficulty increases throughout the game, solutions are always logical and usually refer back to a previous level. It doesn’t feel repetitious instead I almost felt I was getting smarter! Furthermore, it doesn’t punish inexperienced gamers. Even Junior Miss Moviegrrl has been playing and loving it. The physics stays constant while the scenarios change.

Once you’ve bested the single player game, there’s a whole other co-op game, where you play as one of two test robots, Atlas and P-body, one a turret gun, the other a modified personality core. Both have portal guns and have to work together to work their way through the test chambers. This can also be played online which means utilising all the various signals that the 2 robots can perform to work in tandem. Again logic dictates sucess, although so far I’ve only played it co-op with Mr Moviegrrl, where we can actually talk to each other. (“Go there, no, there, oh you’re dead. Ok, start again”…

It’s not just the fact that the game is so hugely playable (and addictive) that makes it such a sucess. The vocal work is also superb. Once again GLaDOS is a passive-aggressive harridan of an AI, voiced with aplomb by Ellen McLain.

“Well done. Here come the test results: ‘You are a horrible person.’ That’s what it says. We weren’t even testing for that.”

Balancing out GLaDOS’ bitchy comments is the personality core, Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant. Wheatley is a stupid as GLaDOS is smart and there’s a lot of fun to be had in the dialogue between the two. Thanks to the story progression neither of these performances are one-note as both AIs experience triumph and failure.

This is a remarkable game. Genuinely fun to play (and re-play), engaging and addictive. I can guarantee this will be high on my list of Top Games for 2011. Buy it today we’ve got a long weekend….


~ by moviegrrlreviews on April 29, 2011.

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