GAME REVIEW: Portal 2 – Single Player (2011)

Summary: Portal was released in 2007 as part of The Orange Box, a group of games produced by Valve, the company which created Half-Life. While first only available in this boxed set, it grew wildly in popularity and even won several “Game of the Year” awards thanks to its unique gameplay and humorous content. However, it wasn’t much more than a tech demo of what could be done, so in 2011 they released Portal 2, a stand-alone full-fledged game. Both games star a silent protagonist who has a gun that can shoot portals that she can use to solve puzzles while trying to outwit an Artificial Intelligence that doesn’t like her very much.

Thoughts: The first game felt like a demo because of the numbered test chambers. You were dropped into a room and told to get to the exit, over and over with each room being harder to solve until you managed to break out and defeat the AI that was forcing you to go through the tests. The game proved to have a pretty good replay value because you were encouraged to find the best way to solve the puzzles in the least amount of time using the least amount of portals. Except for the last level, where you go behind the scenes and have to figure out where the game wants you to go without having giant destination points and not being able to tell what surface is portal-able: I didn’t enjoy that part very much and never really wanted to replay it.

Most of Portal 2 is like the last level of Portal 1. There are a few test chambers in the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, but I would say half if not more of the game is trying to figure out where the game wants you to go in vast environments with 95% of the surface not portal-able. The story is great (there is a story!), the dialog is entertaining, there are some great twists, it makes sense as to WHY you are in these areas outside of test chambers, but its just so hard to figure out WHERE you’re supposed to go, and not just HOW. Maybe that’s a purposeful addition to the challenge, but its just not the same. Also, it seems like most of the areas only have ONE way to solve the puzzle/get where you need to go, meaning that if you wanted to play through it again, you’d be doing the same thing but you’d probably be able to do it faster because you’ve eliminated the “where am I trying to go” factor.

I’ll play through it again because I missed some achievements and there is developer commentary on every level, but I really didn’t see much replayability in the single player game itself. I haven’t played co-op yet, I may review it separately. Honestly, all I really want is more test chambers where I try to figure out the best way to solve the puzzle, not the only way. The game can redeem itself for me by releasing more levels. I don’t need more plot, I just want more challenge.

Overall: They tried to make a full-game out of a tech demo, but it turns out I just want more tech demos.
3/5

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