Impressions: Portal 2

Portal and Portal 2 are truly “next-generation” games — meaning there is no way for the concept to be properly executed on a previous console or similar computer hardware.  Yes, there are demakes out there which replicate the rules of Portal.  Each level can ultimately be reduced to simple finite state machines where the game becomes a matter of simply selecting the correct series of transitions/actions to the accepting-state/exit.  But none of this compares to the experience of exploring the mind-bending, three-dimensional puzzles of Portal.  These games excel not by the nature of their verbs and rules, but through the player’s exploration of the levels and the discovery of new transitions/actions that have been obfuscated by the environment.  Portal and Portal 2 just couldn’t be the same game without the graphical fidelity and calculative capacity of this generation of hardware.

Portal 2 in particular has been very entertaining to play, both its single-player and cooperative campaigns.  It builds on everything the original game had established, both in terms of game play and the world of Aperture Laboratories.  While it’s been a while since I played through Portal, the levels of Portal 2 do not feel like retreads.  New concepts have been added, from the mobility gel to light bridges, that broaden the options you must consider when solving puzzles.  The cooperative campaign is the most significant addition to the original’s formula.  Not only do you now have more tools with which you have to solve puzzles, you also have to figure out how to use four portals to solve them as well.  It sounds daunting, but as the saying goes, two heads are better than one.  Coop levels are by no means impossible.

It’s also worth mentioning that where the first game’s story revolved around your total lack of knowledge of the Aperture Laboratory, Portal 2 deals with the aftermath of the first game and how seemingly sentient machines behave in the wild.  It has the capacity to be simultaneously entertaining and harrowing without just rehashing material from the previous game.  Portal 2 is no exception to Valve’s track record of building games that are a blast to play and explore.  You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not playing it.  And a blog post isn’t going to do it  any justice without spoiling it, so hurry up and get it already.

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