Review by Dark Raven X

Reviewed: 04/20/11

This franchise is still alive

Only a few hours after release, Portal 2 seems fairly polarizing. It's definitely a love or hate game, but it's a fair bet that if you liked the first, you'll feel right at home with this one.

It's visually stunning, one of the most beautiful games around right now; there is something to catch your eye in every corner of every test chamber. Everything is composed of small metal planks which shift and reform the rooms as you move through them; creating a sense that everything in the game is very much alive. It's much more engaging than the first; where everything was very static.

The puzzles are all original, save one copied from the first, solely to contrast the difference at Aperture science from the first game. The game introduces some new, interesting mechanics in the form of gels - substances that affect the physics, though these only come into play about halfway through. There are a few other surprises, one frequent trick the game pulls is to introduce a new mechanic, then forget all about it for a few hours, reintroducing it with no hints later on - forcing the player to hold onto every solution they use. After a certain point, the obvious answer of "use the new toy" doesn't work anymore.

On the whole, the game is slightly more challenging than the first, usually down to having to manipulate the gels (which can get quite tricky; you can only maneuver them through portal placement, they're impossible to pick up and place) or some precision platforming.

There's a cool soundtrack, the electronic beats we've come to associate with Portal. In a cool little twist, you'll frequently hear a subtle drumbeat immediately on entering a test chamber, with more elements added to it the more pieces of the puzzle you solve. And yes, there is a song too. It's good.

The narrative takes a much more active role than the first game, too. Originally, the story was 'there if you wanted it'. This time around, it's a very story driven game - and it does not disappoint. The characters are all very engaging, despite being completely unorthodox and having no physical connection to the player at all. You know it's good when you start to become emotionally invested in a sphere. There are some genuinely stunning twists in the plot too which all builds into a fantastic final boss fight, and an incredible final scene which only works so well because the three lead characters are so well written.

One big complaint is length; it's about three times the length of the first game, sitting between 6 to 8 hours for first attempts. However, there is an entire co op campaign with all new puzzles, and at a similar length to keep you happy for a further few hours. After that though... Portal 2 may not stand up to replays as well as the first; there is no challenge mode, and there are large sections which while atmospheric and thoroughly enjoyable the first time, may become a chore the third or fourth time through.

If you can get past the short play time, this is a fantastic game on every level. The sheer attention to detail that has gone into it is nothing short of staggering. It's a well built, well thought out, A+ game.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Portal 2 (US, 04/19/11)

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