PORTAL 2 Thursday 15 December, 2011

PORTAL2_WEB

It’s been a long time….How have you been?

I’m pretty sure that puzzle games never really put themselves in the skin of a third person shooter before the multi award winning game, Portal, from the makers of Half Life. Essentially giving you a gun that makes a hole in the wall you can walk into and one in another wall you can walk out of, then puts you in a series of rooms and and asks you to get out of them. Thats pretty much it….which is GENIUS. So for what seems such a simple premise how do you make a sequel thats three times as long, without it getting repetitive? Just ask uncle Valve…because thats exactly what they did.

Set more than a few years after the first game you wake in what looks like a grotty hotel room with palm trees for wall paper. You are then rudely awoken by a knock at the door which, upon opening, introduces one of our main characters “Wheatley” – Voiced superbly by Stephen Merchant. He is a data core used on the central main frame of the Aperture Science Laboratory…except he’s gone a little rogue and is breaking you can both escape the crypt that the lab has become over hundreds of years. And so starts your escape story! You have to re-tread old ground from the first game although now it looks a little worst for ware having been left open to centuries of neglect. In the first game you took down the homicidal A.I called GlaDos who had killed everyone in Aperture Science with a deadly neurotoxin. In Portal 2 you end up switching her back on (cue homer Simpson-like “Doh”, and everyone giving you one of those “thats so 1995” looks). She swiftly does away with your new partner and puts you right back to doing what you do best; testing (thats what she calls doing the puzzle rooms). Anymore than that would spoil the story too much- surface to say it’s witty, clever and an interesting ride!

The voice acting and story telling abilities in this game are truly staggering! You’re not going to get any of your “blokes from the office clearly voiced these characters” feelings like you do ALL the way through the Fable games. Nope, proper actors doing proper characters. The addition of J.K Simmons as Aperture CEO Cave Johnson halfway through is inspired, and hilarious. Ever watched an episode of Miranda? Yeah, well Portal 2 is as funny as that show isn’t.

Valve are of the school of experiencing the story- not being led through it via cut scenes (you listening Final Fantasy? See where you’re going wrong yet?!). They carefully set the scene in the game so that you are able to uncover more of the story the more you look for things. I loves me a game with a bit of discovery! The banter between Wheatley and GlaDos is funnier than the entire output of the BBC in the last three years put together. Seriously, it’s actually doing Barclays a dis-service now because whenever I hear Stephen voice over it I immediately assume “Stupid, Wheatley doesn’t know about banks!”.

Just when you think you’ve had all your pie with the main story line Valve hand you the key to another pie shop, and a trowel to get stuck in. The main “quest” is quite large as puzzle games go, and there’s an equally sized co-op multiplayer component to lay your hand to when you’re done with it. You and a buddy take the roles of Atlas and P-Body, two robots built by Aperture specifically for testing. You are led by the soothing voice of the psychotic GlaDos though Apertures many test chambers. Now these aren’t just re-hashed versions of the single player chambers- oh no, they are all new. Now armed with a total of four portals (two each) you are both going to have to communicate and think your way around many an obstacle. The only issue with this is when I’m playing with a random. I am essentially an unsocial sod that would rather speak to trees than some stranger over a headset on a console. Luckily the boffin socks at Valve have though of this one too- giving you a tool in the game that allows to to instruct your partner though the use of markers and a count-down tool to use when you have to do things together at a specific time. Nice move, Valve, but until you’re games come with free sandwich toasters you’ll got nothing but a nod from me (nods).

Not since Tetris have I been so impressed by a puzzle game (I think i was only impressed by Tetris because i was 7 and blocks did it for me back then). I loved the first Portal and thought there was no way they could top it. It was such an original idea with a great dark comedy running under it. So is Portal 2 better? Yes. Yes it is. Buy it.

Available for Xbox360, PS3 and PC/Mac

Written by Brown from www.quiteenjoy.co.uk for geek&spell.co.uk

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