Parent Talk: Portal 2 is a puzzle game filled with dark humor, and may be too difficult for children. The dark tone and sarcastic humor also borders on disturbing at times. The E10+ rating is deceptive.
Review Basis: Completed the game on Normal, Watched it played to completion three more times. Played several co-op missions. Acquired 38% of achievements.
Note: The PlayStation 3 version includes another copy of the game for Steam, playable on your PC or Mac. This offer is easy to redeem, especially if you already own a Steam account.
An amazing story. Portal 2 is an experience unlike any other. While most FPS games try to make the player feel unstoppable, Valve tailored Portal to be dark, unique, and instead invoke a sense of isolation and vulnerability. Never has a developer perfected the idea of making the player feel like a “rat trapped in a maze.” In Portal, you’re the subject of scientific experimentation by Aperture Laboratories, and the narrative is integrated perfectly into the design and gameplay. Exploring each room and trying to come up with a solution is fun, but the plot and characters are what make the game memorable. Portal 2 effectively builds upon the quirky and lovable original.
The maniacal GLaDOS, one of the best villains of all time, makes the obligatory return. Her monotone sarcasm and biting humor put her in stark contrast with other villains. This time though, Wheatley steals the show. He’s a hilarious foil to GLaDOS and so much of a lovable idiot that you can ALMOST overlook his homicidal lunacy. Few games are as easily quotable as Portal 2.
+ Solid puzzles. People tend to discuss Portal because of its story or dialog, but they shouldn’t forget about Valve’s excellent puzzles. They start simple, but new elements are gradually introduced to up the difficulty. A few puzzles are much longer than others, but the experience is balanced and engaging.
+ Perfect pacing. Portal 2 never loses momentum. While gamers have the tendency to dismiss anything that doesn’t span dozens of hours, it’s important to recognize time spent that’s actually well-utilized. RPGs, for example, are known to employ filler. Valve made sure to design every puzzle room as an accomplishment. They know no one likes to wait a long time for something to happen—we want the satisfaction of progressing the scenario, and Portal 2 delivers.
+ Visuals. Portal wasn’t known for its graphics, and Portal 2 won’t be either. However, the art direction and style are fantastic. Portal 2 succeeds at setting a mood and crafting a great experience. The distinctions between the different versions are minimal. The Xbox 360 version boasts the best shadows, while the PlayStation 3 and PC versions are slightly sharper.
+ Co-op play. How can you go wrong with co-op? The two-player puzzles are as mind-bending and fun as the single-player experience. They aid in the game’s balancing of difficulty and fun.
+ Free DLC! Regardless of your platform of choice, Valve is releasing a DLC pack free of charge, which adds additional test chambers and challenges for single player and co-op. Sure this content could have been included on the disc, but it’s nice that Valve is giving gamers a freebie.
+ Fantastic voice work and sound. Stephen Merchant delivers a killer performance as lovable moron Wheatley—incredible.
– Low replay. Length is not the issue. Ten to twelve hours may sound short, but that’s 10 to 12 hours of dedicated, well-paced, excellent gameplay. The downside is the lack of incentive to relive the scenario after seeing the credits. Thankfully there are challenges and co-op to master.
The puzzles are challenging and fun; the pacing is spot-on, and the narrative easily warrants the price of admission. While some might nag the [relatively] short campaign and scoff, remember that quality always trumps quantity. Portal 2 is a fantastic game.