There's only one word to describe Portal 2 from Valve Software: clever. It's clever in it's design. It's clever in its dialogue, and it's a clever sequel to a hit game that garnered various Game of the Year honors when it was released in 2007.
Before we get started, a little background is in order. The world of Portal essentially is a test facility for an entity, company, or organization called Aperture Science. What they are testing is humans. What they are testing for is anyone's guess. The "scientists" are machines -- robots, super computers, and the like -- and you get the feeling they aren't enamored with natural life forms.
In the original Portal you play a character named Chell being tested by an AI called GLaDOS, or Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System. At the end, you destroy the facility and presumably GLaDOS. Not so.
In Portal 2 you awaken some time later and GLaDOS has rebuilt, albeit crudely, the testing facility. And now she is out for some long anticipated revenge.
In the first game it's clear she is curious yet uncompassionate toward humans at best. In Portal 2 she is downright nasty toward them, and you in particular. She's blown a fuse and comes off as a little crazy. From the very beginning you team up with another little robot named Wheatley in an attempt to escape.
Score: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
No. Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
This large eyeball will follow you around and give you tips and hints about how to defeat GLaDOS. He also will dish out some comic relief in grand fashion.
The dialogue coming from the robots and artificially intelligent machines often is hilarious and rarely dull and repetitive. In fact it's one of the most fun aspects of the game.
Wheatley makes cracks about GLaDOS and occasionally forgets you are human. GLaDOS' disembodied voice is cracking wise constantly about how she would like to witness your eventual demise, after she puts you through some rigorous testing, of course.
She constantly bombards you with insults delivered in a politely maniacal way. At one point she says "The test results state that you are a horrible person. That's what it says right here, and we weren't even testing for that." The writing, dialogue, and voice-overs are extremely well done and keep the game fresh and fun.
The unusual design of the puzzle structure primarily is the same as the original. For the unfamiliar, the game plays as follows: Imagine you are in a room and in order to get to the exit door on the other side of the room, you must cross a chasm or a large hole in the floor. Then you must find a way up to a high ledge in order to access the door. Now, imagine that you have a device that allows you to make your own doorway to the other side of the room. So you pop a portal on the wall across the room, then pop one on the wall right beside you. When you walk out of the portal beside you, you enter the same room on the other side, thus avoiding the chasm. See what I mean, clever.
Then you have to find a way to the ledge and the exit and on to more rooms with similar problems. Throughout the game you will have to utilize lens blocks that will change the direction of a laser beam or heavy blocks that will hold down large buttons. You might have to pop a portal on the wall at the end of the laser beam so that the beam exits on the other side, triggering a set of stairs that allows you to reach a lofty spot or to extend a light bridge to the other side, allowing you to reach the ledge. There might even be more than one way to solve the puzzle. You just have to get to the end. How you do it depends on how creative you can be.
You also can use the "portal gun" on ceilings or floors. And this is where Portal gets fun. Let's say you are on a ledge, and you pop one portal on the wall and one on the floor below. When you drop off the ledge and through the portal in the floor, your momentum will fling you through the other portal on the wall and across the room like a dart. Of course you won't stick to the wall so much as slam into it and slide down. But, incredibly, you are unharmed by the jolt.
This brings up an interesting fact. If you stand in the doorway of one portal you can see yourself in the other. You can look down in the floor and see yourself on the other wall. The whole game is a little M.C. Esher-ish. He would have loved it.
Graphically the game is well done. The designers did a fantastic job of taking the Aperture facility from the first game and making it look like it was destroyed and then hastily rebuilt. In fact GLaDOS has used some of the destruction in her redesign of the puzzles. The whole game feels like a new game and not a sequel at all. That is a difficult feat to accomplish.
The game is played in a first-person perspective, which gives it the feel of a first-person-shooter. You almost expect to be met with a barrage of enemy combatants around every corner. But you never exit into the street and across a torn wasteland toward new adventures. It's not to be. It might feel like an FPS, but make no mistake, this is a puzzle game -- and one of the most clever I've ever seen.