Portal 2

Portal 2, the followup to Valve's critically acclaimed 2007 game Portal offers much to be praised. Valve managed to do something right that so many developers manage to do wrong. They didn't fix what wasn't broken. The physics are fairly identical to the first game. If you are one of the unlucky ones who has never played Portal before, the physics are comparable to any standard FPS but without a concern for falling as you have bionic legs working in your favor. The concept of the game is simple. You have a portal gun. It shoots portals. In order to navigate complex chambers you must strategically shoot your in and out portals and follow them through to the end of each test. It's easier said than done. Trust me.

The story starts off pretty much where the first leaves off although a significant number of years in suspended animation leaves the testing arena dilapidated adding to an overall dreary feeling. Your guide as you learn the basics of Portal navigation is Wheatley who may or may not help you wake GlaDOS back up and she may or may not force you to start testing again. You will be given the opportunity to run a few test rooms again before you bust out into the back rooms and catacombs where you can use the dual portal gun to aid in your escape from an ambivalently vengeful GlaDOS.

There are a few twists and turns in the story that will lead you into some historical test chambers exposing new tricks and tools to feed your appetite for entertaining Portal Solutions.

The ebb and flow of the story is fantastic keeping the sets and overall vibe of the game fresh and interesting. I'll never look at a potato again without thinking of its technological implications and its overuse in childrens' science fair projects.

Now there's some bad news. The feeling of accomplishment you had when you beat Portal 1. You won't get it this time. Portal 2 is just plain easier. While the addition of bridges, funnels, goo that does this and goo that does that make for more complex strategies in the test chambers, the solutions are incredibly more linear and therefore more obvious. In Portal 1, there were multiple solutions and multiple places to put portals. You could easily put portals in the wrong place. In Portal 2, if you see somewhere to put a portal, that's where the portal goes. A veteran of the first game will feel a sense of accomplishment in only a handful of scenarios. I am sure that Valve did this to make Portal more appealing to the masses but it's probably to the dismay of the cult following that made it a hit in the first place.

So if you are a generally stupid person and you want to see what Portal is all about, play the games out of order and you will probably get more out of it.

Fortunately the coop play adds a level of complication to the puzzles that make up for the loss of difficulty in the single player campaign. It's not enough that you know the solution to a puzzle. Both players need to understand the solution and communicate their ideas and intentions about said solutions. We had a hard enough time communicating those concepts and we were sitting next to each other. I imagine that online play will be way harder and probably way funnier.

So ultimately, I enjoyed the game. It was longer than the first and had a rich story. Fun physics, good graphics and humorous soundbites from sarcastic computers will get you to the end of the game without getting bored.

I'd probably give it an extra half a star if it had met the demands of the hype of a highly anticipated and multiplee delayed game but it did fall a bit short of that. Still, its worth the 60 bucks if you are a fan of the series. If you have no idea what you are in for, the best I can say is if you might enjoy a hybrid between Tetris and Call of Duty...have at it son.