It’s finally here, “Portal 2” is with us. When “Portal” released back in late 2007 as part of “The Orange Box” compilation we were impressed. As our reviewer at the time stated “If you want to play something that’s a little different from the norm, you should definitely check out Portal”. Check it out many of us did and we fell in love with its innovative game mechanic and some of the best faceless characters (antagonist and protagonist alike) to invade our gaming.
It’s now 2011 and “Portal 2” has hit shelves, I of course grabbed my Portal gun, headed to the game store, picked up the game, fired an orange portal into the wall to tie to the blue portal hole I had left in my office. I stepped through and the magic commenced.
“Portal 2” picks up a century after the events of the first game (which I will brush over on the off chance you did not play it!). Our hero Chell is brought to by Wheatley, a personality sphere (a ball shaped robot) voiced by Stephen Merchant to great comedic affect. Fear not “Portal” fans, GLaDOS is also back, setting up a multitude of tests for you. For those who have not played the previous game, here’s a brief rundown on just what those tests involve. “Portal 2” is – like its predecessor – a puzzle game. As female protagonist Chell, you must solve tests, the end objective of which is to get safely to the exit of a room / rooms. Chell uses a ‘portal gun’ as her main means of escape, the device fires portals (doors essentially) into flat surfaces, one orange and one blue. Stepping into one or the other sees Chell exit through the other. This innovative form of gameplay essentially bends the reality of a given room, with Chell able to fall from ceilings, appear in distant areas or utilize the portals to reach the all important exit.
The portal mechanic goes from fun and simple to the truly insane, with the introduction of gels, white that can be splashed on non portal surfaces to make them portal ready, orange to make surface super slippery and therefore fast and blue to make the surface bouncy. Though nothing is insurmountable, there were a couple of spots I found went from challenging to frustrating. This by no means ruined the experience however.
Along with its hugely clever gameplay mechanic, what makes “Portal 2” brilliant is the characterisations. Though the game features essentially faceless characters, they are some of the most memorable, witty, charming characters in videogames.
Female Gamer Angle
Chell is the female protagonist in the game. She doesn’t speak and given the game is first person, you will rarely see her, only mere glimpses of her / you as you skip through portals. Despite her non vocal nature, she’s a great character and it was cool of Valve not to take the usual route and give us a male protagonist. The antagonist in “Portal 2” is also female, if GLaDOS, a Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System can be said to have a gender. GLaDOS is superb, she is the Alexis Carrington of the game world, she’s bitchy, self absorbed and truly unforgettable. I’ll leave it at that given I don’t want to spoil any of the story in game, which is brilliant and ties Chell and GLaDOS together even further than the previous “Portal”.
The voice acting in “Portal 2” needs to get a shout out, it is just superb. Ellen McLain as GLaDOS is just wonderful as the sarcastic bitch and charismatic antagonist. Stephen Merchant aka Ricky Gervais best mate plays Wheatley, an AI in the game who lends himself heavily to the story… and we’ll say no more about that. Finally there is J.K.Simmons who voices Aperture Laboratories CEO Cave Johnson, he is truly wonderful in the role as he imparts his wisdom and wit upon the player through soundbites in various levels, again though, you truly must discover it for yourself.
Overall “Portal 2” is a wonderful game. Refined from the already innovative “Portal”, “Portal 2” offers the player puzzles aplenty, wonderfully developed characters, great level design and some of the most comical in-game dialogue you’re likely to hear. The addition of the gels. those incredible physics based conundrums and a story that imparts a lot of history to the player means “Portal 2” is a must buy for players of the previous game. For those who never purchased “The Orange Box”, naughty naughty! Go get it, then you can purchase “Portal 2” and enjoy it in its entirety… oh one last thing, when you finish it, stay for the credits.
“Portal 2” features multi-player elements. This review covers the single-player aspects.