PlayStation 3 (2011)
The big G-S-G-S-G
General opinion: Very entertaining
Story: Pretty good, with some nice twists
Graphics: Not the most detailed, but not bad either
Sound: Nice and atmospheric
Gameplay: Still interesting and original
Portal was certainly one of the most interesting and experimental games of the last decade. It was a fairly short game, though, so a sequel was definitely welcome.
And yeah, Portal 2 is basically just 'more of the same'. But when the formula works, it works. It is, however, clearly longer and more varied than the original, which is good. The basic gameplay remains unchanged. It plays like a first person shooter, but you're armed only with a weapon that creates portals, up to two of which can exist at any one time. Go through one, and you come out of the other. Deceptively simple, but used to create a variety of puzzles, largely physics based. There are some new interesting puzzle elements, as well, such as gels that make surfaces bouncy or boost acceleration.
You can't really say much about the plot without spoilers. The protagonist, Chell, wakes up once again in the derelict Aperture Science research centre. This time a somewhat annoying, and not too bright, AI named Wheatley is trying to help her escape. But GLaDOS, the homicidal AI in charge of the centre, ends up being revived, and things go from bad to worse... There are some delightful twists, and a fair amount of fun dialogue.
The atmosphere of the game is eerie, laced with a healthy dollop of dark humour. The ambient electronic soundtrack works very well (and the album is available as a free download, a fact I greatly respect the game's makers for). The ending song, though... It's not bad, but it's not quite up there with 'Still Alive'.
Visually the game is still perhaps a little more minimalist than some of today's big games (at least as far as interior decor is concerned), but there is more variety than in the first game (and as before the research facility setting doesn't really require much in the way of detail). There is a sense of scale, too, that the first game didn't perhaps convey. The Aperture facility is huge. Physics and special effects are also pretty cool overall.
I didn't find most of the puzzles very difficult, although many of them are pretty creative, and cracking them always feels rewarding. There were only a few places that caused momentary frustration, but I always found the solution in the end. As the game is indeed quite linear and puzzle based, replay value is difficult to estimate. The atmosphere and story are good, but whether they're good enough to keep you going if you already know the solutions to the puzzles I don't know. There is also an additional two player co-op campaign, which I haven't tried out. I'm not really one for playing games online, and rarely have like-minded gamers around at my place, but I'm sure it's a neat addition to those out there that play multiplayer games...
So, bottom line, yes, I obviously liked Portal 2 plenty, and can't really find any major flaws in it. Definitely recommended for people who love quirky sci-fi and games that require a bit of thinking and not just fast reflexes.
Ben B. Bainton, 11 June 2012