The first Portal game was, to put it mildly, a surprise. Released not even as a game in its own right but as part of a bundle package in 2007, it quickly became a huge hit and was widely considered the most original game of the year with the only real complaint being its short running time.
Now, makers Valve Corportation have rectified this by making Portal 2, a full-length first person platform game. And it is brilliant. The premise remains simple: use a ‘portal gun’ to create portals on certain walls, ceilings and floors then use these to navigate the level in increasingly complex ways. These include through transporting objects and using your character’s momentum as they run through portals. Yet new skills have been added in to up the ante from the first game, including gels to make you extra fast, able to jump, put portals anywhere etc.
In these ways, the creators have taken the extra time (and money) that they’ve had to build on and improve the first game. The writing is brilliant, the pace is quick and the tone as funny as the first. All of the characters are complex, interesting and endearing – all the more impressive considering they’re AI robots.
This is helped by the wonderful voice acting work of such well-known names as Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmons, and the return of characters from the first game including the Companion Cube and GLaDOS (now angry, bitter and out for revenge). As such, the game is definitely more rewarding if you played the first but the creators have gone out of their way to ensure it still works as a self-contained piece.
Not only is the game almost twice as long, the world created in the first Portal feels bigger in every way. The environments are rich and engaging, the story more complex and characters develop in interesting and unexpected ways. The attention to detail is simply astonishing.
As well as the highly enjoyable story mode, the new co-op function allows for an extended game play and offers new challenges and puzzles. Working as a pair requires you to approach the game in an entirely different way, and that they can only be completed through (occasionally quite complex) teamwork adds a whole other dimension. Like the game itself, the puzzles are certainly a challenge but the learning curve is surmountable, providing a real sense of accomplishment when you complete a particularly tricky section.
Imaginative and engrossing, Portal 2 is every bit the sequel fans want, and a definite must play for all gaming fans.