Valve’s second installment to its critically acclaimed Portal, part of the Orange Box package, is now out, a stand alone franchise. Portal 2’s generating a whole lotta buzz all around, and we thought we’d do a summarized review of the game, just to brief on whether its worth or not. Well, obviously, its worth it, but, is it as memorable as its predecessor? Read on to find out.
Portal 2 takes Portal’s successful formula and enhances it in every way. The puzzles are remarkably well-balanced – challenging, but never frustrating and endlessly entertaining. While the test chambers and exploration are a joy to play through, solving the fluid puzzles are the most rewarding. Portal 2’s gameplay isn’t the revolution Portal’s was, but it is about as fun a game can get.
We like stories, and stories are incorporated into all mediums of entertainment. A puzzle game with test chambers, however, seems like the last place to one would find a strong narrative. Somehow, Valve has fashioned an engrossing story in what is strictly a puzzle game. While the plot itself rides on clichés, it keeps you interested, despite the lack of human characters. There’s some clever foreshadowing used throughout, which effectively builds a sense of anticipation. The dialogue writing is memorable and humorous throughout. Portal 2’s singleplayer is short, but remarkably well paced, and exactly the right length for a game of its kind.
Who would have thought we would be playing a Source Engine game in 2011? Yet, it just works fine for a game like Portal 2. The textures pop out as low res, and the lighting and shadows seem very primitive today, but overall, there’s nothing that detracts from (nor adds to) Portal 2’s gameplay. Outside the test chambers, we see some of the most expansive environments we have seen the Source Engine render.
Portal 2’s test chambers closely mimic Portal. In fact, some test chambers are reprised from the first game. They are remarkably well designed – everything seems to be at the right place. Subtle clues guide the gamer through these chambers, and despite the crafty puzzles and disorienting nature of the portals, you will be hard pressed to be lost.
Beyond the test chambers, the larger environments are pure Valve. In what would seem like simple “climbs up stairs”, obstructions force you to go through considerably detours. Once you do reach the “top”, you can look at the “bottom” you entered from – and that view is just so satisfying!
Minimalism is the key to Portal 2’s sound and music. Much of the sound effects are functional (often a part of the puzzles), rather than atmospheric. The music itself is electronic oriented and only features during some of the faster paced action sequences. The ending credits, however, just can’t live up to “Still Alive”!
Voice acting is impeccable, aided by well written dialogue. Stephen Merchant steals the show as Wheatley, Ellen McLain returns as GlaDOS, while JK Simmons voices the CEO of Aperture.
Portal 2 is the kind of game that is difficult to criticize – it has precise ambitions which it achieves admirably. But at the same time, it does not aim too high – it doesn’t take enough risks. Regardless, Portal 2 is a must-play for all gamers, fans of all genres, or even non-gamers!