Light theme

Portal 2 review
by Pandsu

If you care at all about Game Design as an art form for any reason and want to learn about player guidance, conveyance of information, sound design or environmental clues, this game is one that absolutely MUST be studied.

I'm not the biggest Valve fan out there. I have an immense amount of respect for the company, especially if we're talking about the time frame of Portal 2's release and the impact the Half-Life franchise, the Source Engine and Steam have had is in no way lost on me, but their flagship titles have always been a mixed bag for me.
I think Half-Life is cool and its sequel was super interesting and technically impressive at the time, but the world-building, atmosphere and just general minute-to-minute gameplay never really gripped me in the way it has gripped others.
Due to their shorter length, I actually preferred Episode 1 and especially Episode 2, but I never really cared all that much about any of the Half-Life games, personally, and saw myself more as a distant admirer of what they have achieved, though I still say, to this day, that the Source Engine is one of the best-feeling engines ever.

So, naturally, while I was blown away by the value of it, I didn't really care that much about the Orange Box when that was announced, and chances are I wouldn't have given it a go anytime close to launch if it wasn't for that weird little extra game shown as a little pack-in bonus: Portal.

The trailers were incredibly intriguing at the time. The cold, sterile environments, the mind-boggling gimmick of the Portal Gun and the unique flavor of humor they presented players with made it impossible for me not to look forward to the Orange Box.
Everyone was hyped for Episode 2, some really cared about Team Fortress 2, and Portal was seen by most as just this extra little curiosity. Almost like some kind of tech demo or something. But for me it was the other way around.

And then came release day, and I played through Portal in a single sitting, and would just sit there afterwards for at least 10 minutes, with a huge grin on my face and slightly teary-eyed, in awe of the amazing ride I had just experienced.
This game, while incredibly short, was something truly special and struck a really good balance of demanding conundrums and the kind of silly humor that feels like it's melting away your brain. All of it presented mostly in a very chill, take-your-time kind of manner but interspersed with a few highlight scenes that are quite intense in comparison.

Needless to say, the experience stuck with me for a while, and not just because of the memes the game spawned.

So when the sequel was announced, as a full-price standalone title, the hype was overwhelming. I was aware how much I was setting myself up for disappointment. Portal was lightning in a bottle and kind of had the perfect length, ending pretty much right before it would start to overstay its welcome. And it was something unforgettable and special, yet not something I would've deemed worth more than maybe 20€ to most people.
So how could Portal 2 possibly NOT disappoint? How could it possibly more than a retread or a paid expansion or something?

But still, the hype grew bigger and bigger with every month, week and day the release grew closer. Every new trailer and gameplay video they showed, I was giddy with excitement and bracing for the whiplash once the almost inevitable disappointment would kick in.

But ooh boy... as you can probably tell by the rating I gave this game, and the tone of this review so far, it somehow managed to exceed my incredibly high expectations.

Portal 2 definitely IS more Portal, but at a far greater scale in any way. It constantly expands the scope of the basic Portal puzzles and adds so many new gimmicks and tools that the portals themselves begin to feel secondary, instead of the main focus, even though they are constantly being used. They simply start feeling like, say, Mario's Jump, in that it is integral to the gameplay, but kind of "is just there" as a natural part of your move set while the many other gimmicks demand the player's attention.

The environments have also been expanded greatly. The game still takes place in the same research facility of the original game, but the player is no longer restricted to a few simple, mostly white rooms and instead gets a literal look behind the scenes, as well as to what happened to this facility in the long, undisclosed amount of time since its abandonment.

Portal 1's "story" and writing was carried mostly by the evil, sarcastic AI GLaDOS and supported by some more-or-less hidden environmental story telling left behind by a previous test subject.
There is so much more of both of these in Portal 2, with GLaDOS becoming way more of a developed character than she was in the original, but even her brilliance is now rivaled by newcomer Wheatley, a little, spherical, British robot who both guides and hinders the player throughout the adventure.
I don't wanna give anything away, just at the off chance that someone who hasn't played the game is reading this, but there are a lot of hilarious, and awesome in the original sense of the word, twists and turns this game's story takes that makes Portal 1 almost feel boring in comparison.

In this way Portal 2 takes everything people loved about the original and expands it in just about any conceivable way.
And to top it off, there is a whole separate Co-Op campaign with its own unique dialog (well, monologue really) and its own brilliant level design.
And some time after the game has been out, Valve even released a pretty easy to use and publish Level Creator tool which gives the game almost endless content.

What really impressed me about the game above all else though is how polished and well-designed it is. There are so many subtle audio-visual clues about solutions that, without feeling hand-holdy, always seem to get you to the right solution of a puzzle eventually, no matter how absolutely stumped you might feel at the outset.
When you first play the game, you probably won't really notice, or quickly drone out, many of the noises given off of the different things found in a level that inform and remind you of the state and location of them in subtle ways, even when you are not actively looking at them. This helps immensely in giving the player a complex image of any level and puzzle in their head and gently guides them towards the right path.

The pacing, too, is amazing, which kept me from either getting exhausted and puzzled-out or bored, even though I played the game pretty much in one setting with only a few short breaks in-between. And I was laughing the whole way through, though the game does get pretty intense and mellow at times, especially if you do pay attention to every little thing.

This game is simply a masterpiece that I lack the competency to properly do justice. If it seems AT ALL appealing to you, you absolutely owe yourself to play through it at least once. And at this point, especially during special sales, the game is dirt cheap and should run on pretty much any machine bought in the last decade-or-so, so you really don't have an excuse not to play it.
And if you have, hecc, go play it again!
«Blew my mind»
«Beaten more than once»

Other reviews33

Arguably one of the greatest puzzle games ever created, and Valve's magnum opus. Portal 2 did what seemed impossible: it took Portal, a four-hour little curio made as an added-extra for The Orange Box, and turned it into a fully fleshed out campaign that added new elements, new characters, and a superb co-op mode without sacrificing any of the charm, puzzles, or comedy of the original. 
«Beaten more than once»
Amazing, top 5 best games ever played. Played back in 2017 and was a blast figuring out the puzzles
When they transfer my consciousness into a stadium-sized supercomputer, the vast flow of information will drive me insane. (c) Cave Johnson

The program that drives everyone mad. By this fact we can realize that any module will be poisoned by it. That's what happened to Wheatley. This is a nice story with a blurred notion of morality. Someone must to control this system and the only one, as it turns out, is GLaDOS.
«Blew my mind»
«OST on repeat»
Cool conception, great game
«Blew my mind»
«Can’t stop playing»
One of the best puzzle games of all time.
i cant say anything that hasnt already been said about this game 
«Blew my mind»
«Can’t stop playing»
Wanna hate your friends? This is how you do it
«Better with friends»
Игра супер! Шедевр однозначно!
«Blew my mind»