Portal 2 is a clever game. That doesn’t mean it wears a monocle, sips on tea and appreciates contemporary art (because that would make it pretentious). Portal 2 is a game that makes you think long and hard (totally refrained from a “that’s what she said joke over there” – or not). It challenges you, mocks you and ultimately rewards you with its devious but satisfying level design and sharp writing this series has now become famous for. It is without a doubt, one of the best games of 2011.

Portal 2 takes place several years after the first game. You step into the boots of test subject Chell about to be tormented once again by the crazy A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) that is GlaDOS. Ever since you terminated her in Portal, she’s been harboring a real grudge against you that’s evident in every word that comes out of her demented mouth. She’ll make fun of your weight, your parents and the entire human race. Her goal in the game is not just to crush you physically, but to crush your very spirit making her the most vindictive bitch I’ve come across in a game till date. Besides Chell and GLADOS, Portal 2 also introduces another totally awesome robot by the name of Wheatley. This pint sized eyeball with a delightful British accent will bring a smile to your face with his wise cracks and incessant rambling. You may think the game has little to no story but you’ll be surprised by the amount of effort gone into the game’s plot. I, personally would recommend running through Portal before you take up this game but even if you can’t, you won’t feel lost over here.

Up, up and away

Up, up and away

On paper, Portal 2 is very simple. You have to move from Point A to B avoiding various hazards while overcoming certain obstacles. These hazards I speak about can be anything from vindictive automated turrets to bottomless chasms to deadly lasers capable of slicing you up in a matter of seconds. But through all of this you’ll be aided at all times by your trusty portal gun capable of creating uh portals. The game goes a bit easy on you initially so that you fully comprehend the portal mechanics and the way they affect the game’s physics. There are times when like clockwork, everything falls into place and you’ll breeze through certain puzzles. But just as you’re starting to feel a bit confident of yourself, the game will smack you over the head with a puzzle that’ll leave you totally stumped.

But no matter how complicated and devious the puzzles get, the sense of accomplishment that washes over you upon completion makes it totally worth it. And this is what I really like about the game. It’ll tell you just once, how to go about doing things and that’s it. No handholding, no hints, no bread-crumbs, nothing. It’s just you and your imagination, trying to figure a logical solution out. The game will mock your intelligence numerous times, making you feel like a hulking Neanderthal but it never really turns you off so bad, you have to punch or break stuff.

Portal was just about three hours long but Portal 2 is nearly four times its length. Add in a good five to six hours for co-operative play and you’re looking at sinking in anything from 15 – 20 hours into this game. Now I’ve played a ton of co-op games in the past but none have challenged me like Portal 2. You see the co-operative play in Portal 2 isn’t just there for the sake of being there; puzzles have been meticulously designed to challenge both players (two player co-op only) and it’s impossible to proceed without proper co-ordination. For those who don’t have a mic, the game even offers players a preset amount of commands that surprisingly work really well.

Why hello there

Why hello there

Throughout the campaign you’ll be playing as one of two cute robots – P-Body and Atlas who like Chell will be on the receiving end to some of GlaDOS’ puzzles and taunts. The only flip side to this otherwise excellent co-operative campaign is that it suffers from the frequent loading that plagues the single player campaign as well. Ah the loading. Portal 2 is broken up into multiple chapters and each chapter comprises of multiple levels. And there’s a loading screen between each level so you’re looking at a lot of loading screens throughout the ten hour campaign. This does put a bit of a speed bump in the game’s otherwise perfect pacing.

Another normal day for Chell

Another normal day for Chell

Portal 2 like all of Valve’s games post 2004 has been built using the Source engine. This engine has obviously been polished over the years and looks surprisingly good. Framerates, at least on the PC version hold up remarkably even during some of the intense set-pieces. The game’s art style has been tweaked a bit as well. Where Portal was all shiny and metallic, Portal 2 is more dilapidated and run down, since the game takes place several years after its predecessor. Every character/robot/turret has been well modeled and brought to life by brilliant animation (watching a robot fused with a turret crawl towards you is both cute and a terrifying at the same time). Complimenting the animation is the game’s stellar voice acting that is without a doubt, the best in the business. Of course, it wouldn’t make such an impact had it not been for such razor sharp writing.

Jolly jelly

Jolly jelly

In case it hasn’t sunk in by now, Portal 2 is a must buy. Besides the frequent loading times, the game is perfect on every level offering players a highly polished single player campaign that’ll both challenge and reward them equally. Its awesomness is further enhanced by a stellar co-operative campaign that’s designed meticulously to facilitate and encourage co-operative play. The cake may have been a lie but it sure tastes good.

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