Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tech: Portal 2 review

It's always tough when you make a sequel to a popular video game, but the challenge Valve faced in making a follow-up to "Portal" must have been daunting. The original game came out of left field in 2007 as part of "The Orange Box" and became a smash hit, to the point where phrases like "The cake is a lie" and "This was a triumph" became part of the gamer lexicon. Thankfully, Valve found a way to expand on Portal's pitch-perfect puzzle perspective: partners.

In "Portal 2," you and a friend can traverse a lengthy co-operative campaign that'll take around four to six hours to complete. From the very first room, the puzzles require the use of two pairs of portals, and, as the game progresses, you'll use these portals to form conveyor belts, bridges, launch tubes, and even shields for each other. There are plenty of smart gameplay features designed to facilitate this teamwork, too: you can see from your partner's point of view, ping locations in the game world for your partner to portal, and initiate a shared countdown for tricky timing puzzles.

It's not just the mechanical features of the co-op that are impressive. The two silent robot protagonists provide plenty of "Laurel and Hardy" slapstick humor, since mistakes by either player can send both bots to their oblivion. To take one example, when you and your partner are standing on a light bridge over a giant chasm, and the bridge disappears, for one Wile E. Coyote moment, you'll look at each other in mid-air before plummeting to the ground.

After playing through the brilliant co-op campaign, Portal 2's single-player mode is a little underwhelming. Though the story is artfully told (it continues where "Portal" left off), the actual puzzles are less complex and less interesting than the ones Valve cooked up for multiplayer. "Portal 2" therefore gets a big thumbs-up from long as you have a friend to share the journey with.

Rating: 83/100


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