Portal 2

by bhayden
17. July 2013 22:53

It’s not lost on me that I’m reviewing old games.  There are two things to know.  One, I don’t often buy games new.  Two, there was a time where all I played was World of Warcraft, even though I still bought other games during this time.  Over the years I’ve accumulated quite a collection of games waiting to be played.  This has been further compounded by the most insidious of all things, the Steam Sale.  Summer sales, winter sales, weekly sales, daily sales oh my!  Which one of those I got Portal 2 in I don’t know and I’m sure it doesn’t matter.

The first Portal was one of those rare games that brought something new and fresh to the table.  While it wasn’t a long game it was excellent in its delivery and it’s gentle curve to nudge you deeper and deeper into its puzzle solving.  Throw in the wry wit of your AI overload and the game delivered on multiple, subtle levels. 

It’s incredibly difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice and that’s what Valve attempted.  It was a valiant attempt.  There’s enough homage to the first game to make you feel comfortable, and enough differences to keep the .  The introduction of Wheatley was inspired, as was the casting of Stephen Merchant as his voice.  I’d go so far as to say that Wheatley makes Portal 2 along with J.K. Simmons as Cave Johnson.

That’s not to say that the best parts of the game are the voice acting but Portal is what it is.  While the introduction of the gels helps to add new dimensions to the game’s puzzles the patterns to solve them are already set from the first one.  There are no great brain benders here.

What Valve gave us was a polished experience.  That polish is part blessing, part curse.  On one hand I want a game that’s tight and focused, on the other they lost some of the charm.  It’s at this point that I think we have to recognize that there are some experiences that can only be replicated once.  Portal was such a game.  While playing Portal 2 I was waiting for the "Cake is a lie” moment and I never found it.  Maybe I didn’t look hard enough but after exploring several nooks and crannies and discovering nothing I stopped looking and that’s why they failed to capture lightning again.

Ultimately this is a good game.  It’s not the experience that the first one was.  Instead it’s a slight evolution, another insight into the mysterious world of Aperture.  Perhaps that’s enough; certainly it should be.  One of the strengths of Portal was the mystery and Portal 2 manages to shed some light while still leaving some left to your imagination.  The other strengths?  Portal 2 has some the rest must be out in spaaaaaaaaaaaaace.