2011 – Portal 2

Portal 2

Developer(s) Valve Corporation
Publisher(s) Valve Corporation
Distributor(s) Valve Corporation (online) Electronic Arts (retail)
Director(s) Joshua Weier
Producer(s) Gabe Newell
Artist(s) Jeremy Bennett, Randy Lundeen
Writer(s) Erik Wolpaw, Jay Pinkerton, Chet Faliszek
Composer(s) Mike Morasky, Jonathan Coulton (Ending Theme: “Want You Gone”), The National (“Exile, Vilify”)
Series Portal
Engine Source
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s) Retail   April 21, 2011 Steam  April 19, 2011
Genre(s) Puzzle-platform game
Mode(s) Single-player, co-operative multiplayer
Distribution Optical disc, digital distribution

Liam:   Despite the fact there will be no way for us to directly compete in this game I still really wanted to play it. I found the single player game to be one of the most enjoyable, touching and genuinely funny games I have ever played. Ever since I first played it I have recommended it to anyone in earshot and I am finding it quite hard to not turn this entire write up into a sales pitch for what is probably one of the best games ever made. Ps. Buy it!

The game is a first person puzzle game when you take the role of a silent protagonist named Chell. You have a gun but instead of bullets you fire ‘portals’. You walk into one portal and you appear from the other, you can also manipulate other objects such as ‘companion cubes’ through the portals. All the puzzles revolve around using these portals to overcome any obstacles in the ‘test chamber’ such as lasers, turrets and poisonous insta-death water and making your way to an lift taking you to the next puzzle chamber. All this is done under watchful supervision and constant dripping sarcasm from GLaDOS, a malicious and often narcissistic artificial intelligence system. I don’t want to spoil the plot for any of those that haven’t had the pleasure of either of these games, but needless to say there is a reason why GLaDOS is upset with you. You monster.

I can’t think of many console puzzle games that have broken thought to the mainstream, aimed at the casual market they tend to dominate the handheld computer space like the excellent Professor Layton series or the once ubiquitous Tetris. Portal does this excellently though by combining traditional FPS mechanics with a truly amazing story line feature impressive voice acting with what is a fiendish puzzle game which will have you scratching your head.

We will be playing the co-op game and I fully expect this to be an utter train wreck. The co-op game requires both players to co-ordinate their way through test chambers by working together to figure out the puzzle. The way the chambers are designed mean that one player cannot essentially ‘carry’ the other player – both are required to be involved. I have no idea how this is going to pan out after being awake for 28 hours. There is a high probability that one of us will lose our temper with the other during this game.

Joel:   Well… this is a game that’s been on my wish list for a long time. I was really pleased when it ended up on our list as my crippling apathy was a real obstacle in picking this up and so I was finally inspired to grab it. Liam, despite our “no practising” rule kindly conceded to let me “work through the single player game” which was nice. So I did. At least, I started to and made pretty decent headway, but I’m yet to finish it what with the aforementioned apathy. And “The Last of Us.” And “Resident Evil 6.” And half a dozen other top drawer games – it’s hard work finding the time!

So having racked up a fair few hours on it, I can honestly say it’s one of the most original (conceptually at least) games I have played in a long time. The careful balance of wit and threat from the omnipresent GLADoS (I think I’ve capitalised that correctly, but that pesky apathy is preventing me checking) is one of the real delights of this game, as is the whole concept of “thinking with portals” which I must admit I’m guilty of bringing into real life on occasion. Then there’s your fair-weather-friend Wheatley, expertly voiced by Stephen Merchant. But I won’t go into too much about him. Suffice to say he’s nearly as funny as GLADoS.

So what is it? Simply put, it’s a puzzle game. Find your way from point A to point B via button C, using your portal gun – a device which projects either end of a portal onto particular types of surface. Sounds simple. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it makes you want to break things. I suggest familiarising yourself with Occam’s Razor before you buy Portal 2, it may save you some time and a few bars of blood pressure.

I really hope they make a third instalment because, as I near then end of the game, I am fairly sure it’s one I’m going to miss. Liam and I are going to be working through the co-op mode on the night, which is a lot like the single player mode except that on occasion, you have to string together both of your sets of portals to achieve your objectives. That requires teamwork, something Liam and I are not known for when playing together 🙂

We have devised a few metrics for gauging performance to try and declare some kind of winner, but as far as I’m concerned, we get to play Portal – Everyone’s a winner!


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