Portal 2

Portal 2
Portal 2 Cover
Platforms Windows, OSX, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Genre Must-play puzzle sequel
MtAMinutes to Action 6
Keep Playing? Yes
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It has been a pretty good year of gaming for me in 2011, with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective and Radiant Historia sending out the original Nintendo DS in proper fashion, but even more exciting is one of the biggest games of the year, Portal 2.

It’s fun to look back at where the Portal “series” began: as a humble bonus in The Orange Box which featured big names like Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2. Portal was essentially created by a couple of DigiPen grads and Valve molded that into one of the biggest gaming surprises... ever. It was my 2007 Game of the Year and I wasn’t the only one to hand it such an award.

Portal 2 was released last month, but instead of riding the coattails of something like Half-Life 2: Episode 3, it comes out as a full, stand-alone game. It probably doesn’t need to be said that it is receiving beyond excellent reviews, but before we venture too deep down the portal hole, let’s visit its first hour.

Minute by Minute

00 - I select Play Single Player and the first hour of Portal 2 begins. A loading screen showing what’s left of GLaDOS lying in midst of a lot of plant growth. Suddenly, a voice starts talking and I head into the first person view. It says I’ve been in stasis for 50 days. Decently long time.

01 - I’m in a small bedroom, can’t seem to leave it. I’m told I’m going to undergo a physical to keep my body in shape.

02 - “This is art.” Hahaha, okay, I have a feeling I might be writing down a lot of quotes. The game is teaching me the basic controls of first person shooters. I’m told to go back to bed...

03 - “Good morning, you have been in suspension for 999999...” Not so good! Another voice chimes in. Chapter 1 - The Courtesy Call.

04 - A little round robot comes into the room on rails (who I find out... sometime is called Wheatley, I will call him that from now on instead of little round robot). It appears we’re in the more distant future.

05 - There’s an indentation of my body in the mattress! Okay, Wheatley says he’s going to get us out of here, let’s go!

06 - All right! The entire room has been picked up by some sort of crane and we’re careening around the giant... test subject warehouse we’re in. Aww... there goes my art.

Portal 2 Aperture Science Hotel Room

08 - Bunch of Aperture Science signs all around, looks like our heroine didn’t get very far. If we’re still playing as Chell, that is.

09 - And I’m free from the room! The opening sequence was entirely on rails but I could still run around the room and look at everything that was going on outside. Pretty great introduction. Oh, well look at that. We’re at the exact same location as the start of Portal. Just a bit more... growth around. No plants last time.

11 - Looking at myself through the Portals... and it definitely looks like Chell. First puzzle, same as Portal: cube on button.

12 - Going down my first elevator and the game shows an Aperture Science loading screen. Were there loading screens last time? I don’t remember.

13 - While it’s still the same location as Portal, Portal 2 looks a heckuva lot better due to all the plants growing and general destruction to the facility. There is a lot more detail this time around.

14 - The writing is still absolutely hilarious though.

Portal 2 Rubble Walls

15 - Yeah! Got the blue portal gun! Woohoo! Wheatley is also back and making funny conversation. There appears to be various pieces of art drawn on the facility walls showing me, Chell. Like she’s some  sort of goddess.

17 - Man, I’ve got to get my brain back into Portal thinking mode, was just shortly stumped on a pretty easy puzzle.

18 - The puzzle narrator just played me some smooth jazz to sooth my mind, Portal 2 is definitely trying some different avenues for laughter.

20 - “Because this message is pre-recorded, please disregard any undeserved compliments.”

21 - The all says puzzle 5 of 19, game has got to be longer than that. Of course it is.

23 - This game could just be called Fun with Physics, have no narration or story, and still be awesome. Portal 2 makes me feel smart.

Portal 2 Wheatley Behind Test Chamber

24 - “If the laws of physics no longer apply in the future, God help you.” Woohoo, my first flying through the air puzzle! Not a lot of new tactics utilized so far.

27 - Puzzles are getting a bit more complicated now, this time I flung myself through a portal while holding a cube. In Portal I seem to remember having trouble losing the cubes while going through the portals, but this time I had no problem. Chell must have a stronger grip in the future.

28 - Wheatley is back! He respects my ability to solve puzzles with such massive brain damage. Appreciate it, man!

30 - Wheatley wants to join me on the ground and tentatively drops down. I’m carrying him with the portal gun like it was the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. He opens up a secret panel and we’re behind the scenes now.

31 - There’s one of those depressed turrets from Portal, poor little guy, stuck in a tube forever.

32 - The robot informs me we’ll have to travel through GLaDOS’s chamber to escape. Not so good. There she is, looking pretty pathetically dead on the ground.

Portal 2 Turret

34 - We’re in the main breaker room, which is really just a vertical tunnel with a thousand switches on the walls. Escape pod switch...

35 - Haha! The floor is moving up the vertical shaft and flipping every single switch up. This probably isn’t good.

36 - “Oh, it’s you. It’s been a long time.” The bitch is back.

38 - GLaDOS, that is. She destroys my little robot friend and then tosses me down a long shaft right into the incinerator room. I lost the portal gun, too! Ah, never mind, there’s the dual portal gun! GLaDOS wants to play... and test.

40 - Chapter 2 - The Cold Boot.

41 - She ups the ante a bit with her new tests, basically letting lasers pass through the portal now to reach the... laser collector to make things move. She’s literally creating these tests right in front of my eyes. I think she’s been planning this for a while.

Portal 2 Glados

43 - Oh! Wheatley pokes his head out of the wall, he’s, ahem, Still Alive! But then he hides as quick as he came. Probably doesn’t want to be seen by the misses.

44 - Portal 2’s first new item, it’s a laser redirection cube. Just put it in the path of the laser and point to where you want to deadly beam of light to travel.

45 - “Well done, here come the test results: you are a horrible person. We weren’t even testing for that.”

46 - Puzzle 3 of 22. It’s so cool seeing the puzzles come to life before my eyes, gives the old, sterile testing facility a breath of new life.

49 - Things are getting a bit more dangerous now with acid, lasers, and falling cubes. I haven’t died yet though.

50 - Awesome! Launch pads (ah, they’re called Aerial Faith Plates) for me to fly around. A cube drops from the ceiling and bounces on its own launch pad, I need to fly through the air to catch it.

Portal 2 Aerial Faith Plate

52 - Oh! Acid death! After a moment of loading I’m starting the test over again, not too much time lost, but the jokes are less effective the second time around.

55 - The Weighted Companion Cube! NOOO! GLaDOS destroyed it!

56 - She makes another and then destroys it again, looks like the third one is sticking around this time. Hey, there’s Wheatley sticking his head out again.

57 - Not really sure where to go next... Oh, blocking the laser with the Companion Cube makes a platform come down, had my back turned to it earlier.

59 - GLaDOS tells me that this test’s item incinerator thinger is broken, “don’t take anything with you.” Okay, you have GOT to be able to bring the Weighted Companion Cube along with you now.

60 - Got the cube through! Now what can I do with it? Oh no! She disintegrated it when I got to the elevator! “I think that one was about to say, I love you.” That’s the end of the first hour of Portal 2.

Portal 2 Wheatley Tube

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 6

What I loved: Pretty much everything. Voice acting and writing is the best in the business, pacing is excellent, controls are dead simple, solving puzzles makes you feel like a genius, graphics are great, Weighted Companion Cube is back, Chell is back, portal gun is back, GLaDOS is back, Aperture Science is back, Aerial Faith Plates are awesome, opening sequence was epic, Wheatley is voiced by Stephen Merchant, and the mere idea that Portal 2 exists and is installed on my computer rocks.

What I didn’t like: There seems to be a ton of loading in the PC version I played. I had actually played a bit of the Xbox 360 version earlier and was surprised there was a loading screen between almost every test, and was assuming the PC version would be a little lighter on all that. Unfortunately, four gigs of RAM is apparently not enough to store more than one puzzle at a time, too bad.

Would I Keep Playing? Uh, yeah! The sequel to my 2007 Game of the Year has started off most excellent. Absolutely can not wait to keep going.