Video Game Thoughts: Portal 2

Portal 2 was a 2011 first-person puzzle game by Valve Corporation that I played on the PC. The first Portal game was pretty good. There was nothing really wrong with it, but Valve took the game to new heights in Portal 2. This one had a bigger story focus, but the gameplay was still very good. From the start I was navigating abandoned areas of this old corporation that housed the Portal levels in an attempt to escape the complex and finally gain freedom. A new character was added, a robot by the name of Wheatley. He was voiced by Stephen Merchant. He did a great job with the voice. Wheatley was a memorable character. There are all kinds of clips of Wheatley from the game on YouTube these days.

I was super interested in exploring the factory areas outside of the test chambers and the game did not disappoint. By the end of it, I learned all the secrets of this company, including why they had built the Portal gun, created the test chambers, and why the main character (the player) had been imprisoned there. The game got more and more interesting as it went. I got to go down into deep caverns full of top secret projects that had been abandoned over the years. The Portal gun was used throughout to navigate these areas. There were few “levels” like the previous game. Instead, the whole area was one long level with many little puzzles along the way.

I especially loved the gels. These were new gameplay mechanics added in the game. Blue gel made whatever surface it attached to become bouncy. The player could jump really high off of it or bounce object off of it. Orange gel increased the player’s running speed on it. This worked with objects too. There were many controls in the game to slather gel all over surfaces. The graphics were always really neat.

The puzzles themselves were really fun in Portal 2, but I liked one thing about the Portal 1 puzzles more. In Portal, the puzzles were more open-ended. There were usually a few ways to solve each puzzle. I always like a game that lets the player get creative and find their own solution. Portal 2 went away from that route. Most of the puzzles could only be solved in one way. This resulted in a little more trial and error than the first game and a little less satisfaction when I solved a puzzle. It also slightly reduced the replay value. I couldn’t go back through the levels to see if I could solve them differently. There was almost always only one solution. In this way, Portal 2 was slightly over-designed, but this was a very tiny downside. It was one of the best games of 2011, definitely one of the best puzzle games in video game history.

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