John – Contemplating Amidst Entryways, the Second

So it’s been awhile since you guys have heard from me. Yeah… sorry about that. Let’s see if we can make this a regular occurrence again. Anyway, I picked up a particular game a few weeks ago, namely Portal 2. I’ll do my best to tread lightly around spoilers, as I’m not certain if everyone who wants to play this game has yet.

The game begins with you, Chell, being awoken from what is presumed to be some sort of cold sleep/stasis facility by a curious little robot named Wheatley. From its design, it’s readily apparent that you are still within the confines of the Aperture Labs. Wheatley breaks you out of confinement and the adventure begins. Time hasn’t been too kind to the portions of the lab that you destroyed, with tons of overgrowth and structures littered about the old testchambers. The REAL fun begins when you and Wheatley (well.. mostly Wheatley) unwittingly awaken an old friend and trouble starts brewing.

The first parts of the game are mostly a retread. You’ll probably find yourself saying “..well, I did this in the first game already, just not in a devastated testchamber.” However, I believe these areas were included more for new players to get a hang of the mechanics of the portal gun and possible obstacles. When you start getting to the new stuff, you’ll see that there’s all manner of new tools at Aperture’s disposal.

Some of the puzzles this time around border on dastardly, I might go as far as to say fiendishly clever. There’s quite a number of head-scratchers to be had as you make your way through the game, but the feeling you get after solving them is oh-so-gratifying. Ranging from spring boards that send you sailing through the air, to laser beams, and even gels that affect your movement, the combination in which these obstacles are presented is intelligent and cunning.

The length of the game is quite astounding. I was afraid, for being a full-retail release, that it might come up short given the structure of the first game, but I was pleasantly surprised. The single player mode even leads into the co-op campaign, which has a story, characters, and mind-boggling puzzles of its own.

The co-op campaign consists of about 35 testchambers where you and a friend assume the roles of the robots ATLAS and P-Body. Many of these tests rely very heavily on timing, much more so than in the single-player mode. My friend and I found ourselves cursing the talent of Valve’s level designers, but also applauding the ingenuity of their complexity.

I really think the only complaint I have with the game is how the targeting reticule on the portal gun was changed. It now lights up to show which color portals are currently active, rather than lighting up when you cursor over a portal-able, for lack of a better word, surface. Partway through the game, this started to not really bother me as much since certain walls and floors usually had cues on where it would be best to place portals.

In conclusion, Portal 2 is all-around a fantastic game and well worth playing. It has splendidly-designed puzzles, a great soundtrack, an oddly compelling plot, the tongue-in-cheek humor from the first game, and the new co-op mode to keep you coming back for more.  If you liked the first game, you’ll love this one.

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