A marvel that bends the mind.
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Review game Portal 2, A marvel that bends the mind.
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There was a surprise element to the first portal. Its first-person, physics-based puzzle gameplay was distinct from others. The deadly robotic antagonist GLaDOS was fresh, colourful, and sinister in the most endearing way. Songs about surviving mutilation and jokes about cakes remained hilarious. It was brief, to the point, and crucial. It’s difficult to make a sequel that feels like Portal: The Longer Version without hitting all the same notes. It looks like it’s no big deal for Valve.
Portal 2 hardly ever lets up, from the opening moments spent in the corroding Aperture Science facility to the very last second before the credits start to roll. The story is deeper, the world is larger, and the character development is more unexpected. Alongside a variety of incredibly funny characters, the facility’s operator, GLaDOS, is moulded into unexpected forms by his mania. Though its pacing suffers as it occasionally strikes a more serious tone, an abundance of cruel jokes and cheerfully sincere death threats prevent it from losing its sarcastic charm. The history of the Aperture Science facility is filled in, and character origins are discussed. Anticipate laughter while not being glued to your screen, attempting to solve a puzzle with a pained, wrinkly face.
After the events of the previous game, Chell is once again pulled back into Aperture. Soon after, Chell encounters Wheatley, a spherical robot who guides her through the early stages and is voiced by Stephen Merchant (The Ricky Gervais Show, Extras). It’s hard to overstate how much the game benefits from Merchant’s obvious enthusiasm for the role. Wheatley’s writing is consistently clever, and it perfectly matches the action on screen. Wheatley speaks every word with witty inflection. Especially during Wheatley and GLaDOS’s verbal sparring matches, it’s easy to become as preoccupied with missing dialogue lines as you are with solving the puzzles.
The level of detail throughout is simply astounding.
The level of detail throughout is simply astounding. At first, the facility was in a state of disrepair. The facility whirs into action along with GLaDOS, transforming into an extension of her body and personality. Mechanised wall plates and crane arms spin and shift as soon as you walk into a room, as if you’ve just walked in on them without their trousers on. The environments in Portal 2 grow larger as the game goes on, moving from cramped test chambers to vast subterranean chasms. The way that metal girders and structural supports collide and fracture, breaking apart in a chaotic yet organic manner, constantly serves to both amuse the viewer and deepen our understanding of the game’s characters. Valve still makes extensive use of Source, originally developed for Half-Life 2 in 2004, despite the fact that the graphics of a game like Portal will never be its main selling point.
Despite the increased focus on plot and character development in Portal 2, players will still spend a significant amount of time solving spatial reasoning puzzles in test chambers. The portal gun is back, and Valve has added a tonne of new gameplay accessories. The gun fires two interconnected portals that maintain momentum and let you and objects pass through. You’ll use your portals to reroute energy beams, coat surfaces with globular gel that causes you to bounce or run quickly, cross gaping pits with light bridges, and manipulate cylindrical tractor beams in order to move from one test chamber to the next and through the bowels of Aperture. To find a solution, you will frequently need to think quickly and react swiftly because you may have to move portals while flying through the air or before timers expire. Although it’s not a first-person shooter per se, there are moments when it feels like one when you use your portal gun to zoom in on far-off targets and quickly aim and fire precisely.
Finding a solution will frequently call for both rapid thinking and responsive action.
The solutions to the puzzles are always logical, regardless of how complex they become. Occasionally, you’ll “get it” instantly and be able to modify lasers using lens blocks to activate platforms in order to access switches. Sometimes you’ll be at a loss for what to do and will seemingly exhaust every possibility before, at some point, an obvious solution dawns on you, and you’ll curse yourself for being such a fool. Valve does a great job of providing you with all the hints you need without just slapping some instructions on the screen to tell you how to proceed. I never attributed getting stuck to unreasonable or bad design; instead, it was simply my inability to solve the puzzle, even when multiple mechanics were combined in puzzles involving jump pads, tractor beams, light bridges, and gels.
Even though the single-player story in Portal 2 is excellent, the cooperative mode truly shines. The co-op mode continues the story of Aperture Science and begins immediately after the single-player game ends, granting you and your partner control over two robots. Even though there are fewer characters than in the single-player mode, there are still plenty of witty remarks, absurd humour, and sharp writing to keep you entertained in between puzzle sections and inspire you to reach your goal. Better yet, adding a second player drastically changes the way you must think, rather than just recycling the single-player puzzle designs.
Success in Portal 2 depends on effective communication.
Every robotic cooperative character has a portal gun, which is why there are two guns and four portals. By increasing the degree of difficulty and coordination needed, the valve fully utilises the increased capacity for dimensional holes. If you’ve ever played Left 4 Dead, it should be clear to you that Valve understands the need for designing a game that not only promotes but also demands cooperation among players. Success in Portal 2 depends on effective communication.
There’s no diffusion of responsibility here, so getting through can be frustrating, especially if you’re playing with someone you don’t know. You can’t wait for someone else to complete the task by hiding in a corner. It is easy to see how each individual has contributed, and Valve has created a number of tools to facilitate as much communication as possible.
Partners can be guided to specific areas of the environment or where a portal should be placed using context-sensitive markers. They can also be used to start a countdown clock that will synchronise when buttons or switches are pressed. The indicators might seem unnecessary at first, but their usefulness becomes evident when you’re rerouting edgeless safety cubes as they fly through open air over bottomless pits or setting up four portal chains of light bridges to block turret fire. Playing Portal 2 with someone else will rarely leave you alone, unless you’re listening to GLaDOS use charming sarcasm to minimise your intelligence.
The second act of Portal 2’s single-player mode is really the only weak point, as the plot slows down and becomes overly preoccupied with the past. However, Portal 2’s mid-game slumps are comparatively far more imaginative and boldly original than those of many other linear first-person games, where the stories amount to little more than shrink wrap and exalt a blood-is-progress philosophy. The follow-up game from Valve is the anti-Call of Duty. From start to finish, Portal 2 is a first-person action game that will make you think while still having fun.
The briefness of the first portal worked to its advantage. The game combined a succinct narrative with unique first-person puzzle elements that required players to use their imagination when pressing the trigger. The original Portal appears to have been a prototype in Portal 2. Some of the best voice acting found in video games combined with masterful writing brings to life a larger cast of characters in the original Portal. One of the greatest cooperative gaming experiences available is waiting for you after you’ve completed the game’s single-player mode. Its puzzles are difficult without being unreasonably difficult. Without skimping on details, Valve manages to pique your interest in everything from the main characters to the cubes that solve puzzles. Portal 2 is a unique, life-changing experience from the start of the single-player narrative to the end of the cooperative mode.