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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Puzzle

 

Publisher

Valve Software

 

Developer

Valve Software

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

April 19, 2011

 

 

- Some really incredible puzzles
- Single-player a co-op options
- Co-op that actually has some ties to the overall story
- Great storytelling and humor
- New tools to work with

- Developer commentary

 

 

- GLaDOS is a little too talkative

 

 

Review: Portal (PC)

Review: Left 4 Dead 2 (PC)

Classic Review: Lemmings (PC)

 

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Portal 2

Score: 10 / 10

 

portal 2         portal 2

 

*If you haven’t played Portal 2 yet, this your only warning that there are spoilers ahead!

No one tells a story the way Valve does.

Rather than take a cinematic “here’s the story, stupid” route that is the industry standard, Valve tells stories by dropping the player into an environment that provides 90% of the story. In the case of Portal 2, it’s the Aperture Science labs. In the first game there were hints of how big the facility might be and offered some

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minor historical information that tied the game to the Half-Life universe. Portal 2 opens the book on Aperture Science and exposes it’s inner workings. For players that pay attention there are all sorts of incredibly small but significant story details to find, like the protagonist’s name on a science fair project that was held during “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day” or the apparent return of Rat Man.

There are almost

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constant ramblings and funny one-liners from the clearly insane computer GLaDOS, a well-meaning orb named Wheatley, and the founder of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson whose recordings introduce the earliest test chambers buried deep beneath the now-tarnished futuristic test chambers devised by GLaDOS. It’s in the old chambers that Valve’s way of telling a story are highlighted. Cave goes from gung-ho idealist, working with astronauts and the “best of the best” to hiring homeless people to run through the tests in very short order. He gets increasingly frustrated with the results obtained through chasing Science but it’s no wonder that happens because Aperture presents these early test subjects with gels with very specific properties. Blue gel is essentially flubber with “bounce” properties, orange gel acts like an momentum accelerator, and white gel allows surfaces immune to the portal gun to suddenly be made viable entry and exit points. Getting all of these to operate in concert with one another along with strategically placed entry/exit portals to navigate the environment creates some real head-scratching situations.

 

portal 2          portal 2

 

It’s often the case that players will walk into a massive space and not immediately see the solution. There’s a lot of nosing around and estimating what will and won’t work. Sometimes it’s as easy as creating a portal on a floor hundreds of feet below then opening an exit portal on an angled wall to gain the horizontal momentum to hit a patch of blue gel (that took some tricky timing to drop in that exact spot) to reach the exit elevator. (For those not “thinking with portals,” the downward momentum acquired on the way down translates to forward momentum the moment you enter/exit the portal. There’s a lot of this in Portal 2, constantly flinging of oneself around the environment.) The puzzles get progressively more complex as the Aperture Science history ladder is climbed and more tools are introduced like Aerial Faith Plates (catapults) and Redirection Cubes to bend lasers around corners.

 

portal 2          portal 2

 

The puzzle aspects of Portal 2 are extremely well thought out, particularly the two-player co-op (which should be played with a friend rather than anonymous players) which further fills out the story details.

The reward of “finding” the story by listening to the voices of GLaDOS, Cave, and Wheatley and finding information in the environment makes for a very satisfying experience. Pile on the “Oh, yes!” moments of solving some really great puzzles, and there’s every reason to start thinking about Game of the Year accolades. It’s that good.

- Aaron Simmer

(April 28, 2011)

 

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