- Publisher: EA, Valve
- Developer: Valve
- ESRB Rating: “E10" for Everyone 10+
- Genre: First-Person-Puzzle
- Pros: Great humor; awesome puzzles; co-op mode; Stephen Merchant as Wheatley
- Cons: Has to load a lot
Portal 2 takes place after the events of the first game. The evil computer GLaDOS is offline and the Aperture Science research facility is falling into disrepair. Your character - a human test subject - is awakened sometime after the first game by a friendly A.I. robot named Wheatley who is going to try to help you escape the facility. Almost immediately you pick up an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, and you're on your way. Due to an unfortunate series of events, you wake GLaDOS up and have to kill her again, but an even more devious A.I. takes over that poses an even bigger problem.
The game is a fun mix of sterile test chambers like the first game, but also a lot of more practical "real world" rooms where you have to use the portal gun to solve puzzles on a much larger scale. Many of these rooms take place in an older section of the Aperture facility where you get to listen to taped comments from Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson as he ran tests decades ago. It is a great, interesting trip back to the past that shows you how Aperture Science turned into the company it is today.
The best part of the game overall is how funny it is. GLaDOS and Wheatley and Cave Johnson all have absolutely hilarious dialogue. There are also lots of hidden jokes and Easter eggs to find, and it is hard not to have a huge smile the entire time you play.
There is also a completely separate co-op mode that you can play on Xbox Live or locally in splitscreen. It takes place after the single-player, but isn't story-important other than instead of human characters you play as robots designed for testing. In co-op, both players have their own portal guns and you have to work together to solve increasingly complex puzzles. The co-op offers up another 4 hours or so of gameplay, and is well done. Coordination with your partner is vitally important, and you absolutely cannot solve the puzzles doing everything yourself. Playing with friends is recommended over playing with random Xbox Live people, though. I would say the puzzles are a bit tougher in co-op, but the humor is really scaled down, so it is sort of a mixed bag. Worth playing through once, at least.
When you put it all together, you get a solid, replayable single-player campaign with a developer commentary worth playing through an additional time and a good co-op mode. Doing everything once takes at least 10+ hours, but this is a game you'll want to replay.
Portal 2 introduces special gels that spill out of pipes that either let you jump higher, move at fast speeds, or paint any surface with material that you can place portals on (you can't put portals where ever you want most of the time, see). There are also light bridges that let you cross chasms or even act as shields from gun turrets. Some puzzles also require you to manipulate lasers using lenses. All of these new toys used in conjunction with the portals make for some really great puzzles.
You feel really smart and satisfied when you figure stuff out. Nothing was so difficult we needed help to find a solution in co-op or single-player, but there are definitely some puzzles you'll have to look around for 5-10 minutes before you figure out the solution. A nice thing about these puzzles is that there isn't always just one way to do them. There might be a "right" way, but you can do them "wrong" and progress as well, which is awesome.
Graphically, Portal 2 is a really sharp and clean looking game, but is also kind of simple with rather plain textures. The lighting is very nice, though. Overall, it looks good, but won't blow you away or anything. One thing we aren't too fond of is the frequent load times, but at least the loading screen changes a bit as you progress through the game.
The sound is perhaps the best part of the whole package. The dialogue is incredibly well written and is expertly delivered by everyone involved. It is really funny. Stephen Merchant as Wheatley and J.K. Simmons as Cave Johnson really stand out. Also, like the first game, Portal 2 ends up with a funny song written by Jonathan Coulton during the end credits.
Portal 2 is just a great sequel all around. It takes everything that people loved about Portal 1 and makes it bigger and better. Most significantly, the gameplay and puzzles are better and the humor is a lot more prevalent and funnier overall. It also packs a pretty decent value with a replayable single-player campaign and solid co-op mode. It has to be noted that the satisfaction of puzzle solving is greatly diminished on subsequent playthroughs, but the humor is still worth playing for and you can get a different satisfaction from the puzzles by trying to do them more quickly and accurately than you did the first time. All in all, Portal 2 is an incredibly well put together game with plenty of content. We highly recommend it for a purchase.