By Kristofer Hammer
When it comes to comedy, it is pretty difficult, and therefore ingenious, for popular shows such as Parks and Recreation or South Park to be as funny as they are. The writing, as well as the subtle nuances an actor adds to his or her performance for the audience, is what makes the show work.
Similarly, recreating this in a video game is immensely difficult, especially when players have some level of control over what happens in the situation (such as the camera angle or level progression used to skip dialogue).
This, along with the looming danger of having to restart sequences due to failure, makes the repetition of jokes happen frequently enough that they get watered down much faster than a few re-runs on television.
The fact that Valve was able to make Portal 2, their first person shooter puzzle game, funny is impressive beyond belief, especially considering the high expectations of Portal fans.
Those of you who have not played Portal should not be discouraged from playing the sequel. While it is possible to play through the campaign having never touched the original game, like any sequel, you will get a lot more out of the experience if you familiarize yourself with the first game.
However, Portal is a fantastic game in its own right, and playing it before attempting Portal 2 should not be considered a chore by any means. The concept of portals as puzzles will be easier to comprehend once completing the original Portal.
Portal 2 is a first person shooter puzzle game, but what exactly does that mean? For the non-sci-fi nerds out there, a portal is merely a medium with an entrance and an exit. It can be thought of as a controlled teleportation of sorts.
The beauty of Portal 2 is that it can take this simple concept and twist it in such a way that makes for real stimulating and challenging puzzles.
Unlike the original, there are many new editions to the puzzles, such as laser redirection cubes, light bridges, and physical manipulating gel, all of which can and will be used in multiple puzzles later in the campaign.
Don’t be afraid if you aren’t particularly good at puzzles—one of the most beautiful aspects of this game and the gameplay is that Valve implemented each addition and their conceptual use in such a manner that you become naturally trained to see how these puzzles are complete (after a few attempts, of course). This makes the reward for solving a puzzle huge, because you get a sense of fulfillment from your own abilities to perform under difficult and challenging circumstances.
The original Portal is arguably a one trick pony whose potential was not fully realized; however, in the sequel, with all its additions combined with three wonderfully voice-casted characters who aid you throughout the campaign, I found myself going back to play the campaign just to hear the jokes and revisit the different test chambers.
The music is more or less non-existent during lab sequences, probably to allow for concentration, but the constant chatter of either GlaDos (the “antagonist”) or Wheatley (your “ally”) provide for silly commentary that makes the individual puzzles less of a chore and more of an experience.
Portal 2 also attempts to answer questions about the history of Aperture, the company in which puzzles are completed, which fleshes out more of the environment and gives the player a better sense of where they are and why the place exists.
A co-op option exists, providing a side story for players to explore.
While Portal 2 is more mechanics driven, the puzzles are too good to pass up, really showing the creativity behind the development team with their performance in two portal bearing puzzles.
Portal 2 earns its retail price tag in every way and should be played by anyone who is a fan of humor, first person games, and puzzles.
The creativity implemented in taking a simple concept and turning it into hours of end —less fun is well worth the price.