Ryan Dunn’s favorite: Portal 2

December 10, 2014


In the My Favorite Game series, get to know us better as staff writers share the game they love most and why.

I’m a high school teacher, and inevitably, my students learn about my obsession with video games. Without fail, the next question I’m asked is, “what is your favorite game?” I’ll admit, I struggled with this question for a long time. There are so many amazing games that I didn’t think it would be possible to narrow the list down to a singular title. In a lot of ways, this is true, but answering “it’s too hard to choose!” is definitely not satisfactory for high school students. Lately, my answer to this question has finally settled down and become fairly consistent.

My favorite game of all time is Portal 2.


High hopes for a sequel

Honorable Mention: Final Fantasy Tactics

My first foray into strategy-RPGs is still my all-time favorite. I love the cast of characters, I love the combat system and I love the story. I’m able to look past when the game gets too easy and basically becomes “Cid for the win” early in Chapter 4, because I enjoyed customizing my party so much. I knew little of the game when it came out, and I’ll admit I bought it because it had the words “Final Fantasy” in the title. It became the catalyst for my SRPG love, and is likely the sole reason I ever picked up titles like Fire Emblem and Disgaea.

I was fortunate enough to discover the original Portal early in the game’s lifecycle, before the entire world knew the cake was a lie. The sense of discovery I felt, both through learning how portals work and the slow reveal of GLaDOS’ true nature, was a rewarding, exciting feeling I’m not sure has ever been replicated in any other gaming experience. I loved every second of the first game, so my expectations for the sequel were understandably high. I kept thinking Valve had a huge task placed in front of it: take the small experimental title that caught on like wildfire and follow it up with a full experience, expanding on what made the original so great while also providing new ideas.

I still remember vividly the immense anticipation I felt the day I brought Portal 2 home and began to play. I remember thinking, without the element of surprise the original title enjoyed, Portal 2 might not be able to replicate what made its predecessor so special. My fears were put to rest almost immediately when the game’s “tutorial” taught me to jump in response to Wheatley’s request for me to say the word “apple” (so he could check me for a very minor case of severe brain damage). The tone was established immediately, the gameplay followed quickly after and from there I wasn’t able to stop.


Unquestionable comedic chops

Honorable Mention: Chrono Trigger

I have a hard time imagining anyone who grew up in my era of the ’90s who even had a passing interest in RPGs not adoring this game. This is still one of the only RPGs I constantly have a craving to play, even after beating it multiple times. This is easily the RPG I’ve beaten the most, and is definitely in the running for the more general title of game I’ve beaten the most. The time-traveling story is both awesome and ridiculous, but the art, sound and battle system is so much fun that I’ll happily ignore any plot holes the game may have. I would lose my mind if Square Enix someday announces a true sequel (because Chrono Cross, while interesting on its own, doesn’t count).

Games which truly have me laughing the entire way are super-rare, and in general I’ve always felt that comedy is incredibly difficult. Humor is just such a personal thing, and what makes one person laugh repulses someone else. For my own comedic taste, Portal 2 is still, to this day, the funniest game I have ever played. The writing and performances of the three lead characters, GLaDOS, Wheatley and Cave Johnson, are some of the best in video games, and what makes the humor even more special is each character’s unique take on what makes them funny. Portal 2 is also smartly able to use its medium to make certain jokes work that wouldn’t in any other.

My favorite example of this is when you begin chapter nine. GLaDOS realizes something has gone wrong, and warns you “this is the part where he kills you,” when suddenly Wheatley appears and announces “this is the part where I kill you,” as title text fades onto the screen: “Chapter 9 – The Part Where He Kills You.” If that’s not enough, at the same moment, an achievement pops on screen: “The Part Where He Kills You”. The rapid-fire of this had me laughing so hard I had to pause the game. Games don’t take advantage of their ability to do things other media can’t often enough, as many big, blockbuster games try too hard to be big, blockbuster movies.


Tuned to perfection

Portal 2 is a game that should be studied by upcoming game developers, if only for its pacing. The rate at which the game introduces new mechanics is brilliantly well-done, as it never lets an existing mechanic feel old, and I never felt like a gameplay concept wasn’t explored fully enough. Just as I began to feel like I was mastering one concept, a new idea was introduced, flipping the whole thing on its head. Between the portals, the transport tubes and the different gels, there is so much going on that solving the puzzles gets fairly complex. The game was never too hard, but it was challenging enough to make me feel smart when I found a clever solution.

Along with the mechanics, the atmosphere also changes. It divides pretty neatly into three acts, and each act felt like such a different setting from the others, I never got used to any one environment. I never lost the desire to just “look” at the space I was in. This is very out of character for me, as I usually start a game this way, but toward the end I tend to get very goal-focused. With Portal 2 I just wanted to savor the ride as long as I could. Now if only Valve could just get past its “threes” problem…

Check out the rest of the staff’s most-beloved titles in the My Favorite Game archive.