I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t thinking about getting the new Portal version. But friends mentioned getting it and there was this co-op option that should be fun. So I got it.
The game follows the previous game about… centuries after Chell escapes the first time while killing GLaDOS. I was expecting some kind of explanation about it inside the game, but there isn’t (sorry, spoilers). The explanation is in the online comic book that you can see on the Portal 2 website (sorry, no spoilers this time).
The game mechanics start the same, but Valve added some new tricks, like (no, no spoilers, you should know this from the videos they posted around) light bridges, lasers, bouncing gel, high speed gel and a special gel that let you put portals on surfaces that couldn’t keep portals before — extending the game even further.
The first levels and mostly a recap of the classic mechanics, like portals, boxes and buttons and momentum. I thought it was quite boring, but just because I played the first version. I bet those levels are there to teach newcomers how things work. While I understand that, the levels are very small, but there is a very annoying loading screen. Due this, you’ll see a loading screen taking about 15 seconds to load a level, completing the level in about one minute and then having to wait yet another 15 seconds to load the next level.
Once you get past those training levels, the challenges start. Although not the real challenges yet, as those are obviously the last levels, they provide the exact amount of deception, frustration and satisfaction when you figure out how to complete the level. And some levels seem designed with deception in mind, with some obvious solution right in front of you, hidden by some bright, new thing just a few meters in front of the solution. Also, I must congratulate Valve for the level and teaser video design: At some point, in one of the levels, I thought “Oh, I remember seeing this on a video, I’ll do that” and then I was happily surprised when things didn’t went the way of the video — and that’s why you should watch them, they will teach some stuff about the new mechanics without spoiling you with solutions that you’ll bang your head on your desk for a while while figuring it all when trying something silly.
This time, instead of having only GLaDOS and the weird phrases written in hidden walls as companions, you have Wheatley, the robot/entity responsible for your care in the beginning of the game (not going to spoil how it begins, but you’ll find in the very first minutes of game play), some weird phrases written in hidden walls, the Aperture Science notification system and… GLaDOS. There is yet another personality that will add some explanations and a nice story arc mid-game in a very absurd location of Aperture Science HQ (oh, spoilers?)
Also, the single player campaign explains the origin of the robots you’ll play in co-op mode, although just in the end.
Speaking of end of the game, I completed it in 9 hours of played time — or so says the Steam launcher. This is a bit below 5 times the time it took to complete the first game.
Speaking of which, there is a co-op mode in Portal 2, as I mentioned right from start. I played just the first level with my cousin, but I think it gave a good idea how the game play is: The first level have two somewhat connected corridors, with each robot (player) taking a different corridor. Some obstacles in corridor 1 must be solved by the player in the corridor 2, allowing both players to keep going. Each player have their own set of portals, so you can “chain portal” on the way out. Valve also added some “flags”, allowing players to point to each other where they should go, open portals or drop boxes, without the need of typing or speaking.
The last point I’d like to add is replayability. The first portal, without the co-op and with a very short play time, didn’t offer much of it: You could finish the game 2 or 3 times in a free afternoon. Obviously, with a different game style (the co-op) and a longer story mode, replayability is a reality. Specially ’cause some levels are really fun to play, without the “how the heck I find the way out of this” feeling all the time. There are, also, more achievements this time — obviously easy to add due the longer gameplay: While the first Portal have 18 achievements, the new one have 50, some about the co-op game. All that, with the updated visuals — graphically, this game is prettier than the first version — give a lot of fun replaying the game again.
The game is really worth it, even if you haven’t played the first game.