Review: Portal 2

Table of Contents

Quick Info

Gore & Brutality Magic Sex Civility Religious Objections
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Additional Notes
This game is also available for Linux! This game's soundtrack is available!


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Still doing science?

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Under new management

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Target acquired

General Information

Genre:First Person Puzzler ESRB Rating:NR - Not Rated
License:Commercial My Rating:Older Children (10+)
Played on:Martha, Thaddeus
Available from: Steam
Soundtrack:Available as complimentary DLC

General Notes

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.

Oh, and 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 Wheatly, 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 Wheatly 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, Wheatly manages to help Chell escape the chambers and the pair confront GLaDOS again. This time things go differently, as Chell follows Wheatly's advice and has the center's machines forcibly remove GLaDOS' hardware and place him in the mainframe. With Wheatly 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, Wheatly 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!

Gameplay Overview

Portal 2's gameplay is almost identical to its predecessor. The differences primarily lie in the new obstacles and set pieces found in the testing chambers. 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.

Also added are three colored gels. There's a slick orange gel which allows Chell to run faster, while jumping on the blue gel will cause her to bounce higher. The last gel's ability is probably the most profound of the three: you can place portals on any surface that is coated with this white, sticky gel.


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 Wheatly 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. There's also support for the Steam Workshop, which 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! Called the Perpetual Testing Initiative, you'll be greeted by Cave Johnson and informed on 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

Everything wrong with Portal is found in Portal 2
It's not a big surprise that the sequel would have similar content to the first game, so this is pretty much expected. Here's a link to them.

Wheatly turning evil is a bit scary
When we first meet him, Wheatly 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 Wheatly 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" Wheatly 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.