Comedy in video games is something quite rare.  I can only think of a handful of games that can make me honestly laugh my ass off with truly genuine jokes and situations.  The first Portal, a toss in bonus game that was included in Valve’s deal of the century, “The Orange Box”, blew me away.  Let alone that the ingenious gameplay concept was one of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a game in years, the humor and writing in it were honed to perfection spurring one of the biggest memes in internet history, “The cake is a lie.”  Valve had created an unintentional monster and Portal went on to be lauded as on of the best games of this current console generation(and according to many reputable game sites, the best game ever).  Valve had some hefty expectations to live up to when making a sequel to a game held in such high reverence.  And did they do it, well in short, you better bet your ass they did.

For the uninitiated, the first Portal is a game where you are given a gun that creates a blue hole in the wall and an orange hole in the wall.  These holes, portals, in the wall are connected and you can walk into one and come out the other.  The game then throws a bunch of get from point A to point B puzzles at you.  It is not as simple as it may sound, these puzzles require you to use your brain and at times, some quick reflexes.  While you transverse these puzzles you are guided along an AI that goes by the name GLaDOS, who quickly becomes the star of the game with her quick wit and love for science.

Portal 2 takes off some time after the end of its predecessor.  The testing labs of Aperture Science are now in disarray and with the help of an AI core named Wheatly, you embark on an adventure to escape.  And that’s all I’m going to say on the narrative on this game because that is one of the highest points in this game.  Oh, and it’s hilarious.

Gameplay wise Portal 2 uses the same get from point A to point B using portals as the original, but this time on a much grander scale.  And boy, is the scale of some of these puzzles and levels huge.  Along with the portal gun, Portal 2 introduces some new mechanics to use to reach the end of a puzzle.  The game introduces hard light bridges for you to use reach unreachable spots and faith plates which launch you flying through the air.  Also new to the game are gels.  There are 3 different types of these gels and you use them to make a solid surface bouncy, or super slick, and also use one to create an area where you can place portals.

And onto the sound.  Music is much more apparent in Portal 2 than the first, but it is still used minimally(endings aside).  Most of the sounds of the labs of Aperture Science are the sounds you may hear in a run down science testing facility and from time to time some electronic music is used to accentuate the “chase” scenes.  The real winner in the sound design is from the voice acting, which I can only describe as perfection.  Stephan Merchants role as the lovable Wheatly is filled with perfect comedic timing and Ellen McLain returns as GLaDOS and gives the performance of a lifetime(until the inevitable Portal 3).  J.K. Simmons voices a character I will not name, but let me tell you, when you reach the third act, he will have you nearly peeing yourself in laughter.  Lemons, that is all.

Along with the superb single player campaign which should last you about 8-10 hours on your first playthrough(depending on how your logic and puzzle solving skills are), you get a lengthy cooperative campaign.  This had a blast with.  Me and my brother delved into this via split-screen on an Xbox 360, and it may have been the most fun we’ve had together with a video game in a long time.  All of the puzzles are designed so that you and your partner must truly put your brains together and work out a solution using a twice the amount of portals that are available in the single player campaign.  What this mode lacks in story(there is a bit of a story, but it’s mainly just GLaDOS making hilarious snarky remarks to you) it makes up for in the difficulty of the puzzles.  You will be laughing with your partner as you both look at each other completely stumped and jumping for joy when you work together to figure out the solutions.  And communication is the key to making it through this mode, if you are not sitting next to your partner or at least using a headset online, you will have a lot of trouble getting through the plethora of puzzles.  I hope future developers take note on how well Valve created this cooperative experience and put that knowledge to use in more games that make 2 players communicate and work together to get to the end of a level(the whole co-op means take turns giving cover fire is getting pretty old and wasn’t very entertaining at first either).  And to parents that have children, this is a great way for you to have some non-violent video game fun with the younger you,  it’s a game for the whole family(there is some mild language, but that’s about it).

And for the negatives, I have to be really nitpicky to find anything bad about this game.  The only thing I can say bad about it is the load screens were a bit long(about 30 sec between each puzzle).  That and the game ends.  That’s about the only bad things I have to say on a game that has redefined narrative delivery, invented new and fun gameplay, and perfected cooperative gameplay.

So, in the end, I can not recommend this game highly enough.  If I gave out numerical scores Portal 2 would be a 15 out of 10.  And don’t listen to the naysayers when they say that there is not enough content to be worth the full asking price.  You get a top notch, absolutely hilarious, perfectly paced, no down time, super-fun single-player campaign that will make you feel like a genius upon completion, audio commentary for the single-player campaign after you finish your first playthrough, and a lengthy co-op campaign that is worth the price of admission just for the amount of fun you and your partner will have together solving puzzles.  And next month Valve is releasing DLC for the game with more puzzles for single and co-op mode, challenge mode, and leaderboards, all for the low price of FREE(even on Xbox360!!).  If you purchase one game this year, make it Portal 2.

Photo Credits:

http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/03/01/12-new-high-res-portal-2-screenshots-confirm-companion-cube-comeback/portal-2-screenshots-05/
http://www.psxextreme.com/ps3-screenshots2/40798-803.html

http://scrawlfx.com/2011/04/new-portal-2-screenshots-are-quite-lovely

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