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Portal 2

One of the serious disadvantages to being the editor of How To Play is that occasionally you have to be nice and let other people review games. In this case, I gave up reviewing Portal 2 for someone else. Then I realised that I can post here! Hurrah!

If you haven’t played the original Portal, then stop what you’re doing and go play it. You’ve missed out on one of the most interesting puzzlers that came out in the past few years, and you’ve missed out on the brilliant writing and character creation that Valve have ever done. It will also explain why people keep telling you they love cubes with hearts on them and why the cake is a lie.

Essentially, the game works with two interlinked portals. Go through one and you come out of the other at the same speed. You need to see it to believe it. YouTube away!:

You get the gist. Surprisingly, GLaDOS (Ms Creepy AI lady) is defeated at the end, the facility is destroyed, Jonathan Coulton becomes more of an internet phenomena and we’re done. Right?

Except that in March last year, Valve decided to put an update in. The radios started playing morse code when placed in certain positions, and the ending changed to a robot taking you while saying “Thank you for assuming the party escort submission position”. Portal 2 is then announced soon after.

Aside from the usual awesome trailers, April Fools; included updates to 13 indie games on Steam, all with the note “Happy #potatofoolsday!”. It turned out to be more Portal 2 advertising and culminated in GLaDOS rebooting using potatoes. I think it made sense to Valve at the time, but it didn’t make sense to anyone else.

So, how does it play? As good as the original, if not better. The addition of aerial faith plates, various gels and the light bridges make for some interesting puzzles, along with a fair bit of variety. Original Portal puzzle solving involved dropping a long way to build up momentum and sailing through the air. Portal 2 puzzle solving now includes using a funnel to bring a cube over to you, placing speed gel on to a ramp and firing yourself into another funnel to get to the exit.

As crazy as that solution sounds, it makes perfect sense when you do it. In the 8-ish hours it took me to play the single player I got stuck twice, and I just left the PC for a few minutes and went back to it once my brain had chewed it over a few times. Yes, the game gets harder (and the end puzzles are much more difficult than the original was), but the learning curve is so brilliantly placed I doubt you’ll get stuck much more than I did.

You might also discover that it’s 2 am when you were sure it was only 11 a few minutes ago. While I was planning this out, I ran into a the same problem over and over again: The most brilliant bits of this are spoilers. Valve were always brilliant writers, but they did amazing here.

GLaDOS is as hilarious as last time, and Stephen Merchant does Wheatley with such aplomb that it’s hard to do anything he tells you in case there’s another line waiting, and there usually is — I think I counted 2 minutes worth of extra lines for one task. The defective AIs are so much fun that at [REDACTED] I spent far too long just listening to one trying to hit on me.

There’s also co-op, which is worth playing through for more of GLaDOS’ crazyness. Also, you get the fun ability to destroy your partner (I’m sorry, Raz, the third time wasn’t intentional. Honest), or hit them over the head. Doing these in front of a camera gets GLaDOS scolding you, or assigning arbitrary points. I can’t speak for the length of this seeing as I haven’t finished it yet, but I hear there’s at least 3 hours in there.

I really don’t think there is anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this game. The writing is the funniest I’ve heard for a long time but I’m having to work really hard to not quote it because of how spoilerific it is. The actual puzzles are perfect and the game is just the right length. You need to play this game.

Patrick Rose is General Editor of How To Play while trying to get a Computer Science degree at Sheffield University. His twitter is@drugcrazed and you can usually find him on Steam under the name Drug Crazed Dropkick

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  1. Ben Lovati says:

    @ Patrick~ You are correct sir! Even accidental deaths are great. I also love the comments that Glados makes at the end of each section, especially about how great one person is doing over the other. My favorite: “Like Albert Einstein and his cousin Terry, only one of you will be remembered.”

  2. Patrick Rose says:

    @Andrew: I’m instinctively not calling it GOTY. Brink is in a few weeks, and Skyrim looks awesome (even if my article made it seem like it didn’t to me).

    @Ben: Killing people has never been so funny. “Okay, you just need t- FOR GOD’S SAKE PADDY STOP KILLING ME”

    @Robin: You know who I blame? That idiot who programmed the number generator. DAMN YOU PATRICK ROSE! Tbh, I’m a poor person and unless I get review copies new new games are rare for me. I broke my Nerdist post virginity with a talk about Baldur’s Gate – which is better than Mass Effect by far. But I’ll continue rambling about things. Even though I’ll review Brink over at HTP, I’ll probably talk about it here as well.

  3. Robin Burks says:

    Patrick, Mr. Number Generator sounds like a cruel cruel man. 😛

    But it still makes me happy to see some video game coverage on this site. Video games are nerdy, too! I review the occasional game on my site, but I’m so behind that by the time I get around to the review, almost everyone I know has already played it. Twice.

  4. Ben Lovati says:

    I picked this up yesterday and played some co-op with a buddy last night. This game is an absolute blast, and so far, the puzzle design is leaps and bounds above the first one. Atlas and P-Body have such character even though they can’t speak. This game is a true gem!

  5. Patrick Rose says:

    Robin, it depends on whether I have stuff to review that I don’t do at HTP. I really wanted to review Portal 2, but my random number generator told me to give it to one of our writers. That bastard (the generator, not the writer. He’s a wonderful bloke).

    Example, Brink probably won’t be reviewed here since I told the team that it was mine whether they liked it or not, but Skyrim might be reviewed here. That’s another which Mr number generator will decide.

  6. Robin Burks says:

    It makes me extremely happy to see a video game review here on the Nerdist site! I hope this means there will be more? Please?

    I have to admit, though, that I never finished the first Portal. I got frustrated about halfway in. I’d much rather shoot things (Dead Space anyone?). Maybe I’ll attempt to give it another go once I’m caught up on the tons of XBox games I still need to play.

  7. moni says:

    I just watched my married couple BFF’s play. The two of them beat it twice so far. I enjoyed the story, and listening to Steven Merchant, who made me laugh my ass off.

    I can’t play these games, my motion sickness is insane.

  8. Agent Junk says:

    Beat Portal 2 last night. Amazing game!!