Portal 2, the sequel to the cult hit Portal, hits a range of platforms this week –– the Mac, the PC, the Xbox 360, and the PS3. Portal 2 brings back Chell and GLaDOS, along with a series of futuristic puzzles. So how does the latest Valve game stack up? Let's turn to the Portal 2 review scores.
The opening shot
"[W]hat really underpins the best games is so often unseen," writes Tom Hoggins of the Telegraph, in a 10 out of 10 review. "The invisible hand of direction that gently guides you into a world so carefully built, introducing you to the lore and mechanics of a game so deftly you barely even notice it. Making sure you know what you’re meant to be doing, that you never get lost, and are always looking in the right direction when there’s something worth seeing. Portal 2 is the new standard to which this approach is set. It’s a work of masterful craft, mechanically constructed with military precision, artistically wrapped in a tremendous story and environment. Most impressively, its achievements feel effortless."
"The best thing about the first Portal games was the commentary it made on highly structured corporatism, like a stripped-down sci-fi cousin to Office Space," writes Evan Narcisse of Time. "Portal 2's a different kind of funny. It's jokier, chattier and a bit more mean-spirited at times. Where the first game felt chilly and academic, this game evinces a certain weariness and wariness that makes the human vs. AI faceoff much more charged."
"The beginning of Portal 2 finds our voiceless protagonist Chell has returned once again, for reasons explained in Valve’s wonderfully designed 'Rat Man' comic," writes Matt Braga of the National Post. "But without spoiling the brilliant opening sequence, it’s quickly apparent that things have changed. For instance, we’re introduced to Wheatley, a small, spherical 'personality core.' Voiced by the brilliant Stephen Merchant, of The Office and Extras fame, Wheatley acts as your incompetent, rambling guide for a good portion of the game. There’s a uniqueness in Merchant’s delivery, so utterly opposite of Ellen McLain’s voicing of GLaDOS, that makes Wheatley among one of Valve’s most impressive characters yet."
The learning curve
"Without changing the nature of the established and celebrated gameplay," writes Dan Stapleton of PC Gamer. "Portal 2’s gentle learning curve begins by reintroducing us to its basic concepts, then keeps on introducing new inventions to use with portals until around three quarters of the way through, and chambers become complex jungles of hazardous obstacles."
The co-op mode
Almost entirely devoid of any real narrative.... co-op is squarely focused on getting you and a friend solving puzzles together," notes John Robertson at IncGamers. "Each player (taking on the role of robots, Atlas and P-Body) has the standard setup of two portals each, giving a total of four between you. You can only travel through portals that have been shot by the same player – while you’re free to travel through each other’s portals as you like, you cannot, for example, enter through one of your own and then exit through one belonging to your partner."
"The graphics have been polished a bit, but have the same whimsical 1930s sci-fi serial–meets—Star Trek: The Next Generation vibe about them.... Even a handful of early levels from Portal 2's single-player scenario will look familiar if you've memorized the first game's layouts," writes PC Mag's Matthew Murray.
"Though there's a much bigger emphasis on story and character development in Portal 2, you'll spend a lot of time tangling with spatial reasoning puzzles in test chambers," notes IGN. "Valve brings back the same portal gun while greatly expanding the number of gameplay toys. The gun shoots two linked portals through which you and objects can pass and momentum is maintained. To get from one test chamber to the next and through the guts of Aperture's vastness, you'll use your portals to redirect energy beams, coat surfaces with globular gel that makes you bounce or run at high speeds, pass over gaping pits with bridges of light and manipulate cylindrical tractor beams. Arriving at a solution will require quick reactions just as often as clear thinking."
"Valve has created a masterpiece in Portal 2," gushes Nick Cowen of the Guardian. "The depth of content, the mind-bending mechanics and fantastic experience are almost certain to satisfy ardent fans of the first game; and to all newcomers to the series, it's as simple as this: prepare to have your mind blown. Over and over again."