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Preserving the Momentum: Portal 2 Review

The nasty thing about travel is that you must pass through the undesirable places in between two points in space if you are to reach your destination. This problem of voyage has since been addressed in ludological form by Portal, one of the best video games of all time and predecessor of Portal 2, wherein the protagonist, Chell, awakes in an Aperture Science Enrichment facility governed by the mechanical voice of the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System or GLaDOS, whose sole purpose is to test for the betterment of the future today. In the first video game, we learn that the product being tested is the portal gun, which allows two portals to appear in two surfaces, and passing through one portal leads one to come out of the other. Chell, as well as the product, is being tested by going through various testing chambers. It soon becomes clear that not all is right when, after proceeding through a crack in the wall, Chell realizes there are no humans in observatory decks and offices; all this just as GLaDOS, who has been polite but menacingly sinister during the whole time, reveals her personality and becomes outright homicidal with a tinge of passive-aggressive sarcasm.

Eventually, Chell escapes and seemingly destroys the facility and GLaDOS. As the famous song from the credits sequence tells us, however, this is not so: She is “still alive.” During her escape, Chell is pulled back by a mechanical hand into a void back into the destroyed facility.

This being so, it paved the glorious road toward Portal 2, where Chell wakes up in the enrichment center lounge one minute, asked to sleep, and when she wakes up a massive amount of time has passed. Wheatley, a personality core robot, wakes you, and finds you to be the only human being still alive among thousands of test subjects. He helps you escape, only to awake GLaDOS soon thereafter following a small debacle in the circuit breaker room.

Thus begins the adventure.

The game is typically a puzzle game, where the player must use the portals to advance through various stages of both testing and escape. Going through the portals preserve momentum, so jumping in one from a height lets you go through the other with enough momentum to bring you off the ground for several feet. Most puzzles involve physics and spatial reasoning. The simple elegance of the mechanics is one of the great charms of the Portal series, along, of course, with the gratuitous humor that brings the mechanics and the world wherein these mechanics are practiced with life. Jumping around from one place to another is fun, and the puzzles are different enough for the repetition to never get boring. There are also gameplay inclusions, such as paint which can propel Chell, maker her jump higher, or allow her to place portals in places where portals are usually not allowed to be placed. There is also a new co-op mode with a completely different storyline, so playing need not be a solitary affair.

GLaDOS is still the sarcastic robot bitch she used to be, and I am sure will be remembered as one of the greatest video game characters of all time. Helping the characters is the fantastic voice acting, which gives a human soul to the whole production.

There is really not much to say about Portal 2. Its substance is mostly ludological. I also do not want to give much away. The stages are elegantly simple, even in their complexity, and rich with little details that not only function to reveal the diegetic world but also give it life. The puzzles are challenging and satisfying. The story and storytelling is brilliant. Overall, its only flaw is that it eventually ends. Compared to the video game sagas now being released as major video games, Portal 2 along with its predecessor are short stories, but ones that will be remembered as the best ones ever created.

It is a cliché because it’s true: Less is more. With the grandness of the storytelling and graphics and everything you may assume it is all deadly complicated, but when it comes down to it, as a game, Portal 2 is a simple puzzle platformer, and what makes it so very grand is the spirit that comes along with its mechanics.

A 10 out of 10.


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