Portal 2

April 25, 2011

Very few games have been as beloved by gamers everywhere as the original Portal; it was only a matter of time before a full-fledged sequel was released. Many people were afraid it might stretch the experience too thin, or that it might even ruin what made the original so great in the first place. The actual result is a clever game that is leagues above the original, and could be an early contender for Game of the Year.

Portal 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first game. You find yourself back in the Aperture Science labs, rescued by a small robot named Wheatley who is attempting to get both of you out of there. It isn’t long before you find yourself performing another series of portal-based tests. Despite the simplicity of the first game’s plot, the sequel expands upon the story in great detail. To talk about it anymore would be ruining it for everyone else, but the combination of amazing (and hilarious) writing with clever storytelling twists make this a story you’ll be sad to see end.

Ellen McLain returns as the voice of A.I. nemesis GLaDOS, who is as snarky and sarcastic as ever. New to the cast are Stephen Merchant, who plays the quick-witted but often misguided Wheatley, and J.K. Simmons, as Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson. All of the performances are outstanding and really allow the writing to shine; there is never a dull moment to be had.

As you may have expected, Portal 2 is all about the puzzles, and it delivers on all fronts. Just like the first game, you are slowly reintroduced to the portal gun through tests that start out simple but get more difficult as you progress. And just when you’ve mastered one type of puzzle, a new element is slowly introduced to make things even more challenging. The puzzles are excellently-designed, as are the many levels you traverse, and the difficulty is balanced perfectly. You are never once lost or confused, and the game eases you into each new scenario rather well.

The new elements that are thrown into the mix include aerial faith plates that bounce you from one point to another and gels that will, for example, make you jump higher or run faster. The addition of co-op adds a lot to the experience. It’s an entirely different story with some unique twists that connect it well to the single player content. You can play it both online and locally, but don’t expect to get very far without some kind of way to communicate with your friend. 

To talk about the game anymore would simply ruin the experience for those who haven’t played yet, but I think you get the idea. Despite the lack of challenges that were so prominent in the first game, Portal 2 packs a lot of content for the price. It’s everything the first game was and more, with very inspired level design, some ingenious puzzles, and some of the best writing you’ll ever see in a video game. It might just be Valve’s best game yet. 

Pros: Brilliant level design, pacing and writing; co-op adds a lot to the experience

Cons: Lack of challenges might disappoint some

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.