Review: Portal 2

At a Glance

This game is recommended!
This game is not just good fun, it also stays fairly true to Christian moral values, making it a great addition to anyone's library!

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 10 and up
Genre: First Person Puzzler
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2011
Review Published On: August 27th, 2016
Played on: Martha & Thaddeus

Available from:

Steam

Save System:

The save system works exactly the same way as it did before: you can manually save your game in the pause menu, or just let the autosave feature record your progress at the beginning of each chapter or major area anyway.

Pressing ESC opens the pause menu, should you need it.

Summary of
Major Issues:

Like the first game, various characters insult each other and the player. Unlike the first game, there is no blood to be seen, no matter how many times you're shot by a turret.

Screenshots

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Still doing science?

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Under new management

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Target acquired



Game Overview

Portal was a groundbreaking game in many respects, and so everyone was excited over the promise of a sequel. Valve delivered; the sequel is much bigger, plays better and has more features that will keep fans testing with Aperture Science for a long time.

Portal 2's gameplay is almost identical to its predecessor. The main difference is that there are the new obstacles and locations for you to play with. One example is the new redirection cube, which is a box with glass lenses that can be used to weigh down buttons or redirect laser beams.

Another addition are three colored gels, each of which has a unique effect when it splashes something or when Chell walks on it. There's a slick orange gel which allows Chell to run faster, a blue gel that makes everything bounce, and a while gel that gives you new portal targets.

In addition to the main game, there is also a new feature called the Perpetual Testing Initiative, which allows players to make their own levels and share them via the Steam Workshop. This mode has its own story, complete with some unique narration.

But, while there are new characters, new items, and a lot of new lore to find, there is one thing that didn't make it to the sequel. There isn't any cake; Even the developers were tired of that meme by the time the sequel was being developed.

Story Overview

At the end of the first game, GLaDOS had been destroyed and Chell was being dragged back into the facility by a "party associate". Portal 2 takes begins sometime after this, with Chell being woken up from stasis for mandatory mental and physical exercise. Once this is complete, she returns to stasis to await further testing.

Some time later -- possibly hundreds of years later -- she is woken up from stasis again. This time the facility is crumbling, and the computerized voice is unable to finish its instructions before a little ball shaped robot appears and makes it very clear that this is an emergency. He attempts to get Chell's chamber out of the main housing blocks, and after introducing itself as Wheatley, it leads her to the prototype Portal Gun. Using this old device, they make their way through the remains of Aperture Science as they head for the surface and freedom.

Things take a turn for the worse when Wheatley accidentally restarts GLaDOS. To say she is angry at Chell is an understatement, as GLaDOS soon forces Chell "test" again, this time with new, highly dangerous obstacles. GLaDOS may be a computer, but she is clearly seething with rage. She becomes all the more chilling as she remains calm as she finds ways to insult or injure Chell during the testing.

After clearing several dangerous tests, Wheatley manages to help Chell escape the chambers and the pair confront GLaDOS again. This time things go differently, as Chell follows Wheatley's advice and has the center's machines forcibly remove GLaDOS' hardware and place him in the mainframe. With Wheatley in control of the facility, he moves to send Chell to the surface.

...but then stops, feeling an itch that he needs to scratch. Soon, Wheatley has gone mad with power, and now Chell needs to team up with GLaDOS to stop him before the facility is destroyed in a reactor core meltdown!

Points of Interest

Higher quality than the original
Portal had a lot going for it, but it didn't have much of a budget and was a small game. By contrast, Portal 2 has a huge amount of content, a much more elaborate story, multiple areas to explore, and even a few easter eggs if you know where to look.
Puzzles are more complicated
Fans who thought that Portal was too easy should enjoy the sequel, since the chambers seen here are elaborate and often more difficult than ever. That's not to say they are impossible, only that you're going to need to put more effort into solving them. Many of the chambers are also huge in comparison, allowing for more crazy acrobatics as you go.
Multiplayer support
One of the new features in Portal 2 is a new two player campaign. In this mode, each player takes on the role of a robot (either Atlas or P-body), and then they cooperate to solve complex test chambers together.
More characters, more fun!
Portal 2 presents us with several new characters, and while they might not get an equal share of screen time, most of them are extremely memorable. In particular, GLaDOS and Wheatley get a lot of character development over the course of the game. Just remember: it's not over 'til the fat turret sings!
Steam community and workshop features
Like any game made by Valve, there's a lot of achievements to earn and Steam trading cards to collect. The Perpetual Testing Initiative uses the Steam Workshop and allows players to make and share their own test chambers. In a bit of a twist, the workshop feature goes beyond just playing custom levels: it has its own story! As you play the fan-made levels, you'll be greeted by Cave Johnson and informed about your progress throughout the multiverse.
Blatant hints at points
Unlike the first game, this one was tested with some focus groups. Players generally aren't thrilled with the results, and don't have much in the way of good things to say about the focus group. The most obvious result of the focus testing is that many parts of the game make it blatantly obvious where you're supposed to place your portals, removing any option to let the player figure it out for themselves (which, after all, is part of the fun of puzzle games).

Concerns and Issues

Almost everything that's a problem in the first game
The first game had some issues with GLaDOS being insulting and manipulative, and here she's not even pretending to be nice to Chell. Messing with turrets is still encouraged (and fun), but it's also a bit more disturbing now that we know they are actually sentient (see below).

On the plus side, there isn't any blood this time around. In the first game, getting shot by a turret would result in a splatter of blood on the wall behind you. Now Chell just gets stunned for a moment.
Wheatley turning evil is a bit scary
When we first meet him, Wheatley is a hilariously fun character. In many ways he acts like the typical bumbling sidekick in an adventure story. But, once he gets plugged into the mainframe, the humor evaporates as he begins acting like an irate toddler, punching things and screaming. Worse, we learn later in the game that this is a side effect of the mainframe's programming, meaning that our adorable little friend is being heavily corrupted by forces beyond his control.
Drug metaphors
The mainframe causes AIs connected to it to develop a need to test subjects. When their puzzles are solved correctly, the AI receives a euphoric feedback from the mainframe. However, the AIs will develop a tolerance for the feedback over time, which results in addict-like behavior as they become frustrated from not being able to get their next fix. GLaDOS didn't need the encouragement and just learned to ignore her "itch", but Wheatley goes into withdrawal rapidly.
Here we learn that turrets are sentient
They can sing, talk about various things and are otherwise "persons" in the usual respects. This doesn't stop anybody from knocking them over or blowing them up, however. Potentially worse are the "frankenturrets" Wheatley creates later in the game. These sad little creatures are clearly in severe distress, not even knowing what they were supposed to be.
Cave Johnson was not a nice person
During part of the game you'll be exploring ancient parts of Aperture Science. These areas are narrated by Cave Johnson, founder of Aperture. Originally, he had heroes, Olympians and other great athletes come to test at his facility, and he welcomes them cheerfully. As the money faded, he resorted to recruiting homeless people, and his remarks toward them aren't pretty. It's very clear that he favored money over people. This trend continued in the Perpetual Testing Initiative storyline, as he treats his assistant like he's about as important as a clipboard.
The Perpetual Testing Initiative storyline has a few "oddities".
The basis of the Perpetual Testing Initiative is that you'll be sent to other Aperture Science labs around the multiverse in an attempt to save money on construction costs. During these trips, you'll be greeted by Cave Johnson, though it might not be the Cave Johnson from your own universe. Some of these strange alternate universe messages are a little weird and might concern parents that overhear them. For example, there's an alternate universe where Cave Johnson thanks everyone for coming to prevent global starvation by having ritual sex with a giant bird.

Thankfully, this is just a punchline, not an actual objective.