Review: Valve Dishes Out Perfect Sequel With ‘Portal 2’

Portal 2 is the sequel to 2007’s Portal, initially released as part of the Orange Box compilation and later as an Xbox Live download entitled “Portal: Still Alive.”  Portal, while brief to play through (2 hours or so), was a smash hit and the highlight of the Orange Box. Yes, I thought Half-Life 2 was boring. Touch me and I’ll sue.

When Portal 2 was announced, I was skeptical whether Valve could stretch a two-hour game into a full game.  I am happy to say that my skepticism was misplaced.  Portal 2 is excellent and one of the best games of the year thus far.

Portal 2 continues the story of Chell, who is “still alive” in the Aperture Science facility after destroying the hilariously homicidal AI, GLaDOS.  At the beginning, Chell wakes up in what appears to be a hotel room.  After a brief gameplay tutorial, Chell goes back to sleep. When Chell reawakens, we are introduced to Wheatley, another AI who helps Chell escape the “hotel room,” which is really a hibernation chamber deep in the Aperture Science facility. Shortly thereafter, Wheatley inadvertently resurrects GLaDOS and Chell is forced to resume “testing” her way through the Aperture Science testchambers with her trusty portal gun.

The portal gun is capable of opening two portals, one orange and one blue.  When Chell enters one portal, she comes out through the other.  Other objects can pass through the portal as well, which often comes in handy.

The majority of the game is spent navigating through the testchambers, which are rooms of varying sizes from which Chell must escape.  Some testchambers require you to activate a switch to unlock the exit, others merely require that you reach the exit. As you progress, the testchambers become more complicated (and fun) to solve.  There are a number of new elements, such as light bridges, repulsion gel, and propulsion gel.  When used in conjunction with the portal gun, navigating testchambers is more fun than ever.  As with any puzzle game, the shine wears off a little once you know how to solve each testchamber.  Nonetheless, they are still fun to play through repeatedly.

Portal 2 is funny, and the actors voicing Wheatley, GLaDOS, and Johnson do a phenomenal job.  If you enjoy dry humor and sarcasm, Portal 2 has it in spades.  I didn’t think it was possible for GLaDOS to be even more hilarious, but she is. I was also impressed with the detail given to Wheatley and GLaDOS.  They manage to convey and invoke a range of emotions despite being little more than robotic eyes.

Portal 2 is a perfect sequel in that it improves upon its predecessor in every way.  The simple, familiar mechanics remain intact; however, the introduction of new characters, development of familiar characters, and gameplay additions enhance the experience. If you enjoyed Portal, you will love Portal 2.

Check out the official site for the game at www.thinkwithportals.com!

Score: 9 out of 10 Little Goombas

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