By: Kristen Levine
Among game developers, Valve is a name next to godliness. From the nearlysacred “Half-Life” series to the engrossing “Left4Dead” franchise, the developer has a knack for creating gaming gold. This magic touch has produced a winning sequel to 2007’s “Portal,” bringing threads of narrative and biting humor into a single glorious, brain-breaking puzzle game.
The original game featured nineteen levels of engaging puzzles, solvable by using the environment with a handheld portal device, which gleefully destroyed the natural understanding of physics by opening dimensional gates for the player to travel through. There is nothing quite so staggering as falling perpetually between floor and ceiling, and watching yourself from above and below as though you’ve been cloned. The advanced – if not implausible – science and physics engine aside, the puzzles were challenging, fun and refreshingly unique. “Portal 2” follows gracefully in its predecessor’s footsteps, and makes marked improvements. The level environments are more interactive, and the addition of performance enhancing materials such as Repulsion Gel – which sends you flying through the air as though you’ve jumped on a trampoline – to Thermal Discouragement Beams – red hot lasers that incinerate anything they touch – give the puzzles an incredible new facet of difficulty and intricacy.
“Portal 2” has a very basic story; escape the evil robot overlord, GLaDOS , who is making your life a living hell by putting you through endless experiment runs with the portal gun and test levels. The story takes a surprising and blackly comedic turn midway through, and unlikely partnerships through the test levels gives more background into the lore and history of the game’s canon.
Gameplay is tight and refined. Valve’s standard for finished products is an almost obsessive perfection, and when wielding the portal gun or slipping down a booby-trapped ramp on speed-enhancing Propulsion Gel, there is nary a glitch to be found. There is a liveliness to even the most mechanical being, human nuances of body language of tone making characters and speech fully believable.
The only true complaint to be found with “Portal 2” is its relative shortness. Like the original, a devoted player can blaze through the single-player campaign in seven to eight hours. The addition of the co-op play is a welcome one, allowing players to control ATLAS or P-Body, two little robots charged with running GLaDOS’s gauntlet of testing grounds after the main storyline’s completion.
“Portal 2” is almost flawless. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction. For any other game company, that would be high praise indeed – but with Valve, it’s simply business as usual. Any fan of puzzle games, FPS, or a good black comedy is more than likely to enjoy this game.
Portal 2 was released April 19th, rated E (ten and up) for fantasy violence and mild language. It was released for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 at $59.99.
*Photo Credt: Jack Amick