Portal managed to strike a balance between unique mechanics and polished execution. It did so flawlessly, but Portal 2 faces its own set of challenges. Forced to walk the tightrope of maintaining what made the previous game great while changing it enough to avoid the “1.5” branding, Portal 2 is no doubt a difficult sequel to develop. Luckily, Valve steps up to the plate and delivers one of the most charming games I’ve played since Portal’s initial release in 2007.
While recapturing the novelty that Portal’s unique puzzles created would be impossible, the myriad new mechanics and items to interact with make Portal 2 come as close as possible. While Portal often made you focus on simply traversing its levels, Portal 2 forces you to think more about moving and manipulating other objects. The new environments are not only more diverse, but also much larger in scale than they were in Portal. This is certainly not just more of the same, but the puzzles are as challenging as ever and just as satisfying to complete.
The new Aperture Science
Valve truly outdid themselves with the dialog in Portal 2. While GLaDOS makes a gloriously sarcastic and passive aggressive return, Wheatley steals the show and is easily one of the most likeable characters of any video game. His moronic and gullible personality never failed to make me chuckle thanks to Portal 2’s top notch writing and voice acting.
Co-op makes a welcome addition to Portal 2. In this mode, two players take control of a duo of robots and complete a unique set of levels. Each player controls an independent pair of portals, but communication and cooperation are key.
While all the mechanics and objects to interact with are the same, the co-op mode forces you to use them very differently. For example, we all remember placing a portal on the ceiling and then another directly below it in Portal. It was a fun little infinite loop that served as a great way to waste time when a puzzle had you stumped. The co-op campaign actually puts this neat trick to use. While one player gains momentum by infinitely flying through his pair of portals, the other player can then interrupt this loop and use his partner’s momentum to launch him through the air to an otherwise inaccessible area.
Atlas and P-Body team up for the co-op campaign
If there’s any argument for why calling Portal 2 just more Portal doesn’t do the game justice, the co-op mode is it. Valve’s classic technique of building on what you’ve learned to present new challenges is executed perfectly in the co-op campaign and while the added layer of complexity might intimidate at first, every puzzle is a natural evolution of what you’ve seen before. What better way to realize this than with a friend?
Unfortunately, Portal 2 has some problems. Unlike the load times in previous Valve games, which freeze the game for several seconds, the load times in Portal 2 have a loading page. I found it incredibly distracting when the screen frequently blacked out to a loading screen, effectively removing the first person perspective, something Valve is usually dedicated to never doing.
Furthermore, Portal 2 doesn’t last very long. Depending on how quickly you solve the puzzles, the single player mode takes somewhere between five to eight hours to complete, and the co-op mode is a little shorter. Like any puzzle game, Portal 2 doesn’t offer very much replay value, but I highly recommend playing through the developer commentary.
Despite these very minor flaws, Portal 2 proves itself as a worthy successor to one of the best games of this generation. The puzzles feel new, the environments are bigger and more diverse, the dialog will frequently make you laugh, and co-op adds an entirely new level of complexity. I can’t recommend it enough.
- New puzzles are as challenging and as fun as you’d expect
- Bigger and more diverse environments
- Hilarious dialog and excellent voice acting
- There’s actually a story
- Co – op is fantastic
- Load screens are frequent and distracting
- Not much replay value
Enshrine It (5/5)
Confused about our score? See our Ratings Guide.