No-one could have foreseen the worldwide phenomenon that the first Portal game became in 2007. Imagined almost as an ironic footnote to the Half-Life universe, Portal revolutionised the brain-teaser puzzle by pitting an unwilling ‘test subject’ against a psychotic female computer named GLaDOS, with murder in mind.
Although GLaDOS was blown up at the end of that game, you can’t keep a good robo-bitch down, especially when you have legions of fans demanding more of her scathing sarcasm and witty one-liners as she plots the next impossible (and hopefully lethal) task. The genius of Portal was that it managed to keep millions of people completely enthralled while featuring a (human) heroine who never speaks, and never fires a weapon.
New props and hilarious new characters
The sequel contains a number of surprises – so, naturally, we won’t reveal them here. However, as some considerable amount of ‘real’ time has elapsed since the first game, the Aperture Science test laboratories have fallen into a considerable amount of disrepair, which instantly provides a fresh collection of challenges for the new puzzles.
There are a group of new cubes with different functions (including offensive as well as defensive capabilities), a range of enhancing gels and a hilarious new robo-friend called Wheatley, voiced by the wonderfully bumbling Stephen Merchant. After a relatively gentle introduction to ease both newbies and Portal fans back into the action, the tests become incrementally more complex and demanding, with increasingly larger rooms.
Revolutionary new co-op challenges
More thought has gone into objects that have many roles (such as light bridges that double as weapon barriers), even though you’re still principally working with just the portal gun to skirt round obstacles and re-direct beams, and so on. Although average playing time is around ten hours, some tests will have you scratching your head for half an hour, yet refusing to leave the screen because it’s so maddeningly addictive.
But what has really ratcheted up the entertainment value of Portal 2 is the new co-op campaign, which enables you and a friend to play as two slapstick droids – P-body and Atlas – being used by GLaDOS to solve a completely new range of experiments with two portal guns in place of one. While there are some techniques provided to help you (split-screen to see the other’s perspective, silently marking on your pal’s screen where to place a portal or using a countdown clock), the main emphasis is on close communication to get through it in one piece.
Will there be cake? And will the song over the end credits be better than Still Alive? You’ll just have to wait and see, you monster.
But I’m making a note here: huge success…
- Solving wickedly devious puzzles with two portal guns in co-op.
- Difficult to replay once all the solutions and surprises are out.
Every designer's nightmare - making the sequel better than the original - has become a glorious triumph with the introduction of more characters, more gizmos, more humour and a fiendishly clever co-op mode that will leave you begging for Portal 3 and cake.