Saturday, January 28, 2012

Portal 2

So over the holidays, I picked up Portal 2.  There's actually a not-so funny story regarding this.  In the days before the Steam Holiday Gift Pile started, Portal 2 went on sale.  I bought it then.  Then the Holiday Gift Pile starts.  The first free task was "check your inventory".  So I check it and what to I get?  Portal 2.  I later gifted it to a friend.  Then on the very last day, where you could only get Valve stuff, guess what... I got Portal 2.


With any sequel, it's natural to be worried that they fucked it up.  Generally there's less of that worry with Valve, and it shows plain as day here.  Portal 2 retains all the core gameplay elements you knew and loved from the original.  As an additional layer of cake (with some icing), they added a bunch more gameplay mechanics for us to use while solving puzzles.  A small list of them includes Aerial Faith Plates, Hard Light Bridges, and three gels that do various things with the surfaces you splatter them on.  In other words, Portal 2 is how a sequel should be done.

Portal 2 is much longer than the original as well.  I recall thinking "okay, it looks like I'm almost done", only to have the game continue.  I thought at first that it just felt tacked on until a few levels later when it all made sense and I realized that the game was really just beginning when I thought it was about to end.

At the beginning, you're introduced to a rather hilarious personality sphere named Wheatley.  Eventually you get to leave the room you're in and you end up in a wonderful throwback to the original Portal.  It's been some time since Portal took place, and the test chambers you go through certainly look like they've aged.  Wall/ceiling tiles are strewn about the floor, it's beginning to get overgrown, and some of the doors are malfunctioning.  It really makes you feel like the portion of the facility that the original took place in was just a small portion of what Aperture Science had available.

If that wasn't enough, it becomes readily apparent how massive the testing facility is when you get to the second third of the game where you learn about the Aperture Science backstory and go through some chambers that are done in an entirely different graphical style.

It's clear that they paid a lot of attention to the overall graphical feel of each section of the game as well as the puzzle design and overall gameplay.

With the core gameplay having remained the same, it should come as no surprise that the controls remain entirely identical to those of Portal.  It's still just you and your portal gun solving puzzles, putting boxes on buttons, etc.  This is a good thing, because it makes the controls tutorial a lot shorter this time around and let them focus on designing puzzles, scenes, and every other aspect of the game.

There are some new elements that enhance the controls and gameplay, though, and help quite a bit.  If you middle click, or use your scroll wheel, you will zoom in and out, which helps when you're trying to place a portal on a far-away surface.  The game gives you hints to use it on multiple occasions.  The graphical enhancement is being able to see your portals through other surfaces, so you know exactly where they are.

In addition to the much longer single player, there's also co-operative multiplayer, which I have yet to see.  However, I've seen videos of it.  Basically, you and a friend can team up to solve chambers that require two players' worth of portals.

To satiate metagaming needs, there are plenty of achievements this time around.  I instinctively started knocking cameras off of walls as soon as I had the portal gun, but Camera Shy is and forever will be limited to the original game.  Its replacement is Smash TV, where you have to smash TV screens in the later levels of the game.  A couple of them require dying, which meant that I didn't get them until after I'd beaten the game.


I came.

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