It’s no secret that Valve doesn’t rush games out the door, but alas, the time has come to revisit the test chambers of old to try and recapture the Portal magic that had the entire videogame industry mesmerized. You’ve all probably heard that the cake is a lie and have been subsequently beaten over the head with other Portal references these last couple of years, to a somewhat nauseating effect. It takes a special game to still have people look back with fondness on a lifeless cube used to aid you in puzzle solving. So as you can assume, it’s going to be one tough act to follow. Did Valve deliver?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yyyeeeeessssss.
Simply put, it’s an amazing experience. All the things that made the original Portal so great and so memorable have been improved in Portal 2. Mechanic improvements and tweaks, such as being able to see your own portals through walls, really fix issues most people probably didn’t even realize needed fixing. It is this level of polish that really help set Valve’s games apart. The source engine (which is getting on in years) has been tweaked and updated with fantastic results. The PC version stands out visually, but the console versions are not far behind. The environments range from overgrown test chambers to gigantic underground spaces, all wonderfully lit and textured. It’s probably one of the most polished games I have ever played.
One of the things that helped Portal standout was it’s fantastic sense of humor. All I can tell you (without spoiling anything) is that this game retains that great humor and, I felt, even surpassed the previous games. From the hilarious signs posted throughout the world to the great dialog, it’s the total package. Speaking of the dialog…it’s brilliant. The introduction of Steve Merchant and J.K. Simmons to the cast are welcomed additions. Both had me laughing throughout the game. I pretty much played the whole campaign with a smile on my face. The tone of the game really made my time spent with it an enjoyably one. Even though I have completed the game, I find myself wanting to play through it again just to relive the experience and hear the jokes a second time. Valve stepped up and put in a story mode that’s interesting and ties the previous game in very nicely.
A couple of new mechanics have been introduced into the campaign, but they all feel pretty natural. Different color goo effects movement and portal placement, but it doesn’t overwhelm like I had originally feared. It feels properly paced and the difficulty rages from easy to tough without ever straying into the frustration zone. Anyone who uses a guide or walk-through for Portal 2 is cheating themselves out of the satisfaction of solving a well made puzzle, with the solution often right in front of their nose. Just remember…you have a gun capable of shooting portals. It’s seem like an unnecessary reminder..but I found myself wrapped up in complex puzzle calculations without remembering the basics. If anything, the game leans a little on the easy side. I only really found myself stuck a handful of times and even then it was only a matter of minutes before the solution became apparent.
It goes without saying that if you enjoyed Portal you will enjoy Portal 2, but some people aren’t sold on it as a full priced title. I’m not going to get into the debate of what constitutes a sixty dollar price tag. All I can say is that I enjoyed every minute of the campaign which last around 5-7 hours and from what I have played of the co-op campaign…well, I don’t feel any regret in plopping down the cash to experience Portal 2.
[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]