Usually, we are expected to approach sequels with trepidation as well as excitement – for while continuing a great storyline or using the same great mechanics is all well and good, all too often the spark of originality or great atmosphere that made an original brilliant can be lost in an effort to achieve a ‘bigger and better’ game.
Thankfully, Valve have not just a knack for sequels, but a total mastery, and in creating the sequel for the 2007 Game of the Year, Portal, they have also created an instant classic, and a perfect paradigm of genre-hopping superb game design and writing.
Mysteriously waking up once more in the bowels of the malicious Aperture Science Corporation’s facility, the player must use the experimental portal gun, their wits, and a handful of new tools and toys to pass the many tests that GLaDOS tirelessly sets up, all the while experiencing a subtle yet fascinating plot that explores the origins of the facility and the evil robot mistress herself.
The Source engine on which the game runs (now seven years old) shows no sign of age whatsoever, with textures and lighting looking beautiful and staying consistently on a high, smooth framerate. The physics of the game are also brilliantly playful, allowing players to bounce, slide and float depending on the surface, and Valve have truly made this as much an adventure as a puzzle game.
The single player component will last roughly ten hours, sitting in a sublime sweet spot between challenging and playable. No puzzle will have you stuck, staring confusedly for hours, but each is tricky enough to give you a satisfying rush on completion.
Once the player has completed the story (and had their mind blown by the ending), there is an all-new co-op element which can be played splitscreen or online. Playing as two robot test subjects, players have use of up to four portals, changing up the gameplay dynamic hugely.
Valve have been sure to iron out any irritations with small features that make a huge difference, such as being able to mark where they would like their partner to form a portal, or start a countdown timer to synchronize moves. This is co-op play like you have never seen it before, and it is an absolute blast.[nggallery id=41]
Every game genre has its movers and shakers, and Portal 2 will certainly be the revolution of puzzle games. Even with its portal-forming mechanics aside, its witty and sarcastic dialogue, its atmosphere and its pacing are simply head and shoulders above all competition.
This is easily the greatest title of 2011 so far, and may just stay that way all year.
Published by: Valve Software
Developed by: Valve Software
Number of Players: Up to 2
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
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