A follow-up to the 2007 surprise smash hit, “Portal,” the game from Valve puts you back in the test chambers at Aperture Laboratories many years after the ending of the first game. You play again as Chell, a female test subject, who has been in stasis for many centuries, and are once again trying to escape from the lab.
You are aided early on by a helpful robot ball named Wheatley, who wants to get out as well. However, you eventually run into GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the homicidal computer from “Portal” who you destroyed, but is now seeking revenge – in the name of science.
The game play is a series of platform-based puzzles that require the use of the portal gun to traverse. The gun fires two types of portals that form an opening to get to hard to reach places easily.
Not every surface can be used as a portal, so proper selection of targets is key to advancing in the game.
The Weighted Storage Cube and Companion Cube, a small box with hearts on the side, are back to help with weighted triggers. There are also Redirection Cubes that contain lenses to deflect laser beams, or Thermal Discouragement Beams as they are called.
The puzzles require logical thinking and are smartly done. If you didn’t play the first game, “Portal 2” does start with some basic puzzles to help you understand how the physics, mechanics and portals work. But the difficulty ramps up quickly after a few test rooms.
There are some new elements to help work out the puzzles. Aerial Faith Plates launch you and other objects around the room and often help in adding momentum, which is sometimes critical to get to hard to reach places without a portal.
Liquid gels are also available later in the game that provide different properties. A blue gel helps Chell bounce while an orange gel boosts her speed as she moves along the floor. A white gel covers walls or floors that normally can’t be used as a portal and allows for one to be created.
There are puzzles that will require the use of one, two or all three gels to complete. And much like Chell, these gels can be flung through portals to reach places they normally wouldn’t.
All of these additions to the puzzle solving make for a very intelligent game. It is often best when entering a new room to stop, take a look around, and analyze the scene. Be sure to look in all directions because the way out may force to you to go in a different direction that the obvious one.
The story is fantastic, and the writing and dialog remain one of the cornerstones to this series.
GLaDOS’s voice is dripping with sarcasm and malice even though her tone is soothing and calm. Wheately is silly, frantic, and almost childlike in his guidance.
The humor remains dark and dangerous, as it was in “Portal.” GLaDOS often lies about concern or danger, then admits her lie and seems to revel in the deception.
Without giving away any story spoilers, the game is pretty much divided into three parts and introduces the CEO and founder of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson. Johnson was heard in promotional videos for the game and has a sarcastic, shoot-from-the-hip attitude that just adds to the great dialog found throughout “Portal 2.”
The single player version takes about 6 to 8 hours to play depending on how fast you can solve the mind-bending puzzles. But the action doesn’t stop there.
“Portal 2” offers a co-op version for two players, each operating a robot with a portal gun. GLaDOS puts Blue and Orange, the two bots, through test rooms much like Chell had to experience.
It is truly a co-operative game and cannot be done with just one person. The rooms are designed for interaction between the two robots to get to the exit of each chamber.
The puzzles are more complex since they do require cooperation, but the devices and mechanics remain the same. And the dangers are more pronounced since they are just robots (i.e. – falling to your death means shattering into pieces).
Orange and Blue can communicate by using indicators to show what needs to be moved or where a portal should go. They can also gesture to one another for a wave, a hug, or even a high-five after a job well done.
A random partner can be found online, but it is infinitely more enjoyable to play with someone in the same room or with a friend. These puzzles can take some time to solve if you’ve never seen them before and a friend might be more willing to cut you some slack if you are analyzing your options.
There is no drop-in or drop-out during co-op play. If one player leaves the game, the session is disconnected. Another reason to play with someone you know.
GLaDOS keeps up with the sarcasm, but doesn’t show any empathy for the robots. Her dialog remains funny and brutal at the same time.
Xbox 360 players can play each other across the Xbox LIVE network. Steam, the online gaming platform, is supported on the PlayStation 3 as well as PC and Mac computers so players on the different platforms can play co-op with one another. It is the first title that Steam supports on a gaming console, but likely not the last.
The co-op adventure lasts about as long as single player adventure, but the interaction between Orange and Blue make it worth playing repeatedly with friends.
“Portal 2” was scheduled to be released Tuesday morning, but a Steam promotion gave gamers the chance to get the game released early by purchasing a package of independently produced games. The release threshold was reached around midnight Monday night for it to be downloaded from Steam.
Overall, “Portal 2” is a sublime game from start to finish with humor, wit, intelligence and drama that continue from the debut title. The action remains fresh and original, and the dialog spurs spontaneous laughter even in the deadliest situations.
And in case you were wondering, there is no cake.
“Portal 2” is available now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Mac. The game is rated E10+ due to fantasy violence and mild language. This review was done playing the single player version on Xbox 360 and the co-op version on PS3 and PC (through Steam).