A hole heap of fun
Portal 2’s design is meticulously crafted to such a startling degree of sublime ingenuity that from the moment the returning protagonist – Chell – awakens from her century-or-so slumber, you’ll find yourself hurtled through one of the most bold, funny and darned challenging games ever produced.
The setup couldn’t be simpler: you’re handed a Portal Gun – a device which fires two portals onto surfaces, transporting the player through three-dimensional space as you walk through one hole and out the other. Used within the mysterious chambers of Aperture Laboratories, you solve a huge selection of brain-pummelling puzzles, all the time hilariously guided/goaded by resurrected android antagonistic GLaDOS (think HAL 9000 with a singing voice).
It’s a winning formula translated from the original and suitably expanded for the sequel, fuelling exploration and providing an unparalleled sense of accomplishment. Each puzzle exudes depth and nuance, tying in subtle notes about the larger narrative. And while Chell is the voiceless hero, Valve has taken measures to create an intricate backstory to GLaDOS, as well as delving deeper into the history of the scientific facility itself.
While the atypical action may dissuade some, the pacing is exquisite for a puzzle title, maintaining the thrilling flow of a first-person shooter by injecting several new gameplay appendages that nestle comfortably between the established fundamentals. The most stupendous of which are the three new gels: Repulsion Gel launches players into the air; Propulsion Gel increases speed; while Conversion Gel allows for portals to be placed on any surface it covers. They’re all irresistible in their complexity, proving as challenging to utilise as they are unrelentingly charming to simply toy with.
Yet, Portal 2’s biggest innovation is in its cooperative play. Undoubtedly a revolution in multiplayer; you take control of two spritely robots entrusted with a portal gun each. Naturally it heightens the difficulty (although a gradual learning curve is pleasingly implemented), but it also fuels the most actively collaborative gameplay we’ve come to experience. And as the multiplayer provides as many twists and turns to this hilarious tale as the solo campaign, every inch of Portal 2 feels significant. Simply, it’s the game of the year.