Portal 2 is obviously the sequel to Valve’s puzzle solving hit, Portal. The core mechanics of the previous title remain the same but the secrets of the infamous Aperture Science Labs. While the game takes place in the Half Life universe there is little mention of anything Half Life related barring Black Mesa references.
At first glance, I was paranoid about the game. The continuity and the gameplay mainly. Needless to say, I was only disappointed in one aspect, the continuity. However, the story goes like this. Chell, heroine of the previous title returns to aperture Science Labs for an unknown reason. The area is destroyed and walking through the ruins you are reminded of your fight with GlaDoS, the homicidal AI that killed everyone in Aperture Science. Not knowing why she is back in the labs she must escape again. An all too friendly robot named Wheatley comes to her rescue, but things take a turn for the worse. Now in out of the testing labs, Chell must traverse the unfinished testing labs. This is where the prototype inventions are being created and held.
I want to get the bad things out of the way. I was disappointed with how the game started. Upon the ending of Portal, Chell escapes from Aperture Science. In Portal 2 she ends up back in the labs. It doesn’t seem to be touched up on throughout the whole game. Other than that, the story is very well executed. I like the new direction and additions in the game. The new aspects of the gameplay interlock with the story is something polished. The way the story progresses is similar to Portal, but takes a drastic twist. This isn’t a bad thing, but in the back of your mind you see it coming.
Onto the gameplay. How the Portal series is played is what separates it from other games. Using the portal gun you must get out of the Aperture Science Labs. This is done through a series of testing rooms. However, the environment has changed from the first time around. Now Chell must navigate through a new set of testing labs. These look unfinished and run down. It is a change in pace from the white room testing grounds the player is so familiar with. There are new ways to solve puzzles and a lot more variables need to be taken into account.
The new additions include “Thermal Discouragement Beams”. In the original Portal there were “Energy Balls” used to open doorways. Now they have been replaced with these lasers. They are used to activate damn near anything. In some puzzles you must connect multiple lasers with the receivers. These prove to be quite a challenge and add something new to the puzzle solving. Excursion Funnels closely resemble tractor beams and these can make or break your puzzle solving strategy. Hard Light Bridges are bridges made of pure light and create walkways to places you would not be able to reach. These are all transmittable through portals.
Aerial Faith Plates are launchers used to send the player in a given direction. They closely resemble catapults. These are also used to send cubes and other items soaring through the air. Turrets make a comeback from the original Portal and they work the same way; you must knock them over or avoid their line of sight. The Weighted Storage Cube has been redesigned in terms of how it looks. There are two different “skins” one for each environment you are in. There is also the addition of the Redirection Cube. These are used to redirect the Thermal Discouragement Beams. The Edgeless Safety Cube and the Companion Cube return. Pneumatic Diversity Vents, shown to transport objects and transfer suction power through portals, but these do not appear in the final game because the technology was not ready in time.
Portal 2 also introduces paint-like gels that impart certain properties to a surface or object coated with them. Gels are dispensed from pipes and can be transported through portals. Orange Propulsion Gel boosts Chell’s speed as she crosses a surface, blue Repulsion Gel allows her to bounce from a surface, and white Conversion Gel allows many surfaces to accept portals. Some surfaces, such as grilles, cannot be coated with a gel. Water can block or wash away gels, returning the surface or object to its normal state.
New to Portal is the 2 Player Co-Op mode. The puzzles are harder and require not only quick thinking, but pinpoint accuracy. This really adds to the playability of the game. I always wondered what Portal would have been like if you had a friend to help you out. While Co-Op is not essential to the story it is still a great addition to the game.
The new additions to Portal are some I would not give away. This has to be one of the better sequels to a franchise I have played. Barring the strange plot hole this is a near perfect game. It has everything the original Portal had, with additions that expanded the gameplay. Portal 2 gets a healthy 9/10. Make sure to pick up your copy for either PC, Xbox 360 or the PS3. Happy Gaming.