Review: Portal 2 (~7 hours)

This is almost exactly what I wanted from a Portal sequel, though it still isn’t perfect. The most fun you can have in the first Portal is the moment you break through the wall and attempt to escape the laboratory. Here, you wake up in what looks like a hotel room, have been told that you have been asleep for fifty years, and Aperture Laboratories is in ruins. You are once again escaping, this time, from the start of the game. And Valve doubled-down on comedy, with a new British sidekick and character, Wheatley, who is a robot like GlaDOS. The puzzle-solving is much harder, as I had hoped, but it’s not fast-paced like the end of the first game. Also, the jokes are often not funny and about killing, as in killing your character, or killing Wheatley. It’s still fun to have the “aha” moment and progress, but you likely won’t play twice.

Yes, Wheatley is the new sidekick, and he’s a chatterbox to say the least. Jokes are funny or not. I think the funniest joke is: [Wheatley flips a light switch] “Let there be light! That was… uh… God. I was quoting God.” A reminder that Brits take occasional potshots at God, as seen in Monty Python when God speaks: “And don’t apologize! It’s always ‘Sorry this,’ or ‘Forgive me that,’ or ‘I’m not worthy!’” It’s spoiler-free to add that GLaDOS is back. It doesn’t take long to find her. GLaDOS and Wheatley become each other’s nemesis, and the game pulls the System Shock 2 and BioShock plot-twist, a little before halfway through the game. If only they had more originality.

Gameplay is improved but flawed. There are still cubes and turrets, but the turrets malfunction. There are also light beams and lasers, and a lot of time running on the other side of a wall to a testing chamber. I think the game fails when you see how many gray walls there are, as in walls you can’t shoot a portal into. It’s a not so subtle way of guiding you to the right answer. Eventually you meet Cave Johnson, or perhaps rather a recording of Cave Johnson, where you are introduced to gel-like substances. Blue gel makes you bounce (like a trampoline), orange gel has you pick up speed while running on it, and white gel lets you shoot portals on walls where you couldn’t previously. None of these ideas is especially original, not like the originality of the portal gun, but here they are. The gun still works like a gravity gun, letting you pick up objects – I’d rather they stuck with a single concept.

It’s a much longer game than the first, especially now that it supports two players. I can’t remember which friend I played two-player mode with, but I think it was a friend from the West Coast. It’s a lot less story, and the tests need two people to finish. I’m glad to have had the experience. I mean, there was definitely hype about the game before release, and without it, I wouldn’t have found a second player. The “Source engine” is being pushed to the limit, with a lot of geometry flying past you, but eventually you hit load times and there are a few too many of those.

It’s weird how this is the game I wanted, but I still didn’t have much fun. I think it comes down almost entirely to all the freaking dialog. It’s asinine and long and boring, and they try to make jokes that aren’t funny. The jokes are mostly about death. How you killed GLaDOS in the first game. How GLaDOS still wants to kill you. It just isn’t funny. GLaDOS eventually gets a conscience and feels regret for what she did, but the conscience leaves her before much longer. Just try to take dialog in the next Portal (if there is one) seriously. This one is a mess.



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