Portal 2

This Next Review Is Impossible

Portal 2 is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's a masterpiece in storytelling, a masterpiece in writing and voice acting. A masterpiece in gameplay and level design. Buy this game. Then, read our take on why it's so good.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 21, 2011
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I was something of a late comer to the original Portal. Thanks to Valve's continually amazing ability to craft engines that seem to run on damn near any PC hardware, it's not like I was incapable of running the game on what I feel is (still) the best platform for the series, the PC, but it arrived at a time when I was absolutely slammed with work and avoided The Orange Box because I apparently have some kind of aversion to great deals -- even ones that might run in less-than-Valve-worthy ways on the PS3.

When I finally did come across a Steam sale that would give me the PC version of the game for free (minus that additional Orange Box awesomeness, sadly), I finally got the chance to see what the hubbub was about. And, of course, it was awesome. Time had not dulled the experience one iota, and those rather brief, the game had a kind of persistent state of being lodged somewhere deep inside my skull every time I took a break to do something like eat or pee or whatever other annoying nuisances my body decided to inflict on me while I was experiencing puzzley bliss.

Ask nearly anyone who played Portal and they'll likely tell you the same thing in varying ways: the game was utterly amazing, with its only downside being that once it was over (something that would take anywhere from a couple to a few hours depending on how well you were able to grok the concepts and think -- literally -- with portals), well, it was over. Portal 2, regrettably, still suffers from this same crippling weakness, but thankfully the experience is lengthened by upwards of five times depending, again, on how quickly you can wrap your head around the lessons the game delivers.

For those that haven't played Valve's little game, it's probably best to try to explain things a little before proceeding. Originally created as a student project by matriculators at DigiPen called Narbacular Drop, Portal's goal is simple: create two linked portals on any acceptable surface (usually a whitish material like concrete) and you can hop between them seamlessly and instantly no matter the distance. Moreover, the conservation of momentum law of physics still applies, so if you were to, say, fall from a great height into one portal, you'd shoot out the other at the same velocity you were traveling, but at whatever angle the portal is pointing. This can lead to absolutely massive jumps and some seriously tricky puzzles.

Portal 2 also incorporates the mechanics from another student project: Tag: The Power of Paint, which allowed players to use a paintball gun to coat surfaces in substances that were slippery or bouncy. Portal 2's implementation is a little simpler (there's no goo gun, just redirection by way of portals), but it actually adds and exponential level of complexity without everything being overwhelming. Each of the materials, offering slippery, bouncy and portal-anywhere paint, are introduced over time in such a way that first the basics of portal placement are gleaned and then each of the materials are slowly rolled out before everything is combined near the end where all those lessons over the course of the game are merged into a few brilliant mega-puzzles.
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