Portal 2, or Breaking Physics 102


Well! First review so let’s go with something we all know and love.

As we look back on the original Portal, I’m sure a whole bunch of people who played it felt that a sequel, should it appear, would be epic and awesome. Or that’s what I thought, at least.

However, now that Portal 2 has hit the shelves (or should that be ‘sitting lazily’?), does it cut the mustard?

In the original Portal, the premise was simple; you’re a simple person, brought out of stasis by an AI who seems somewhat unstable in order to test a weapon that broke most of the laws of physics. Portal’s gameplay and ideas followed the story perfectly; at first, just as GLaDOS expects, you’re testing the laws of the game, getting a feeling of what you can and can’t do, until- shocker- the mad AI attempts to kill you. After this, you’re on your own. No guidance from GLaDOS, just you and your brain. The stuff you learnt from the first half of the game is put to use in the second, leading up to an enjoyable, puzzling gameplay.

Image

Neat robots with personality- do Valve know me or what?
Image © Valve, Inc

And now we go onto Portal 2. You start the game in scenery that is familiar yet changed; without GLaDOS to keep the weedwhackers going, the Enrichment center has been overgrown in the while that you’ve been frozen. Nature has overtaken machine, with creepers over the walls, collapsed walls and signs of life. Valve have very much provided players with a stark contrast to their earlier experience in Portal; where the Enrichment Center used to be sterile and clean under GLaDOS’s rule, now that she’s gone the place is teeming with life, dirt everywhere and a general post-apocalyptic feel. Personally, I felt this was a welcome change; while we do get guidance in the form of Wheatley, we are still reminded that there is no more order to the place anymore, harkening back to Portal’s second half. Chell is sent through the ruined facility in order to escape, with Wheatley in tow. Wheatley’s character is brilliant in Portal 2; from the beginning, he’s irreverent and hilarious with his expressions and quips. Stephen Merchant’s voice is brilliant in this role, really bringing the character to life in conjunction with surprisingly expressive emotions on the model- not bad, considering Wheatley is essentially a football with a blue tint flashlight on the end.

Portal 2’s gameplay is simple. You have one weapon, powered by black holes (unfortunately not quite as exciting as it sounds) that creates colour coded doors wherever you shoot them. The game features numerous puzzles and environmental challenges that are pretty much physically impossible without your portal device. Being much more expansive than the original, Portal 2 uses portal physics in a much more expansive and varied manner. There are also mechanisms that assist Chell in the gratuitous breaking of physical rules; not limited just to cubes, we now have an assortment of gels that can be moved with portals, again demonstrating the Source’s physics engine. In addition, we have the Aerial Faith Plate, for accelerating things to breakneck speed (usually yourself) as well as the Thermal Discouragement Beam- self explanatory really. With all these devices mashed together, it could be argued that Valve have overcomplicated some of the puzzles, but in general they mesh together very well.

So what can be said about Portal 2 in conclusion? It’s a very, very good game. From personal experience, I had a blast- a puzzling game that requires thinking outside the weighted storage cube. I only had a twinge of discomfort; while Portal felt like a game with a story on the side, Portal 2 in comparison feels like a rich, chunky portion of story with gameplay in the interim. However, this point is purely my view; at certain points the game manages to integrate the two aspects to deliver an excellent display. Indeed, this describes the game on a whole; an enjoyable breeze, with action and irreverence delivered in equal parts (and a gratifying lack of cake).

Just don’t touch the lemons. They tend to repeat on a person.

SCORE: 10/10

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