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It's Time to Think With Portals Again!
on April 20, 2011
(Note: This review contains ZERO spoilers) / Updated April 29, 2011
If you like puzzle games, this is about as good as it gets. There is no other puzzle game like this, and believe me when I say you won't be disappointed. The first Portal game was just an extra; this is a full-length game. The first thing you'll notice is the inclusion of co-op which adds an entirely new layer of fun to the game. Think about what you could do with 2 portals, and imagine how you would complicate the puzzles with 4 portals instead. My friend and I were having an absolute blast trying to figure out just how to position our portals in tandem to set up the solution for these increasingly difficult puzzles. It's challenging and fun at the same time.
There were a few times where we almost gave up, and then the solution suddenly presented itself and we were able to continue. This game is not for anyone who is looking for a relaxing stroll through the Aperture Science Facility. This game WILL test your patience and intellect, and it is significantly more complex than the original game. Don't let that scare you away though, this game is absolutely amazing. New gameplay elements such as funnels, light bridges and gels come alongside the return of the Portal gun and not only do they present some intriguing puzzle designs, but they will test your wit in new ways that surpass even the sharpest minds.
UPDATE: My friend and I have finished the co-op portion of the game and the puzzles spike in difficulty near the end. There are roughly 40 co-op levels in the game, and there are a few trophies to make you come back to a few of the more difficult challenges. The length of the co-op will vary depending on the skill of the player, but my friend and I managed to solve all 40 puzzles in about 11 hours. Some people will say that it takes 5-6, but that's probably on a second or third playthrough. If you've never seen the gameplay elements before, you will have to take some trial and error to figure out how they work before you can think about trying to solve the puzzles.
The single player campaign is excellent, though this also spikes in difficulty pretty significantly about 1/3 of the way through the game, and then again 2/3 of the way through. The game starts off with a quick tutorial, but this game assumes that if you are playing Portal, you already have a pretty good idea of how to think with portals. Some of the puzzles in the middle of the game actually had me turning off my system until the next night, at which point I was able to figure it out in a matter of minutes. One thing that I really love about this game is the fact that it never tells you where you are supposed to go, you have to look around and then figure out how to get there by using everything in your environment. This is ever more evident once you reach a certain point in the game. All of the stops are pulled out and the amount of mind-bending thinking that you have to do borders on insanity. It's never too difficult though, as the solution is always right in front of you. The trick is you have to figure out how to make it happen with varying degrees of complexity. Some puzzles will take you 30 seconds, and others will have you trying things over and over for 30 minutes. All while being incredibly fun the entire time! The single player campaign took me about 15 hours to complete, and I will certainly be playing it again soon.
The voice acting in both single player and co-op is superb, and GLaDOS is even more hilarious than the first time around. It's pretty much a guarantee that you will find the dialog humorous, whether it's listening to GLaDOS telling you that you will fail to solve the next test, or that Wheatley thinks you may have died from a horribly long fall and isn't sure what to do.
The PS3 version of this game also comes with Steam integration and this is a breeze to set up. I managed to log into my Steam account on my PS3 and I was able to see all of my friends and send messages, view achievements, etc. Best part is you can access this all within the game too, and it was very easy to set up. Just type in your name and password, and I was immediately connected. I haven't been able to test out the PC / PS3 playing together yet, but I'll be sure to update my review once I am able to try it out.
UPDATE: Since the PSN has been down since April 20, I have been unable to play online yet. I was quite fortunate to have linked my PSN account to Steam, as players are currently unable to do this right now. When the PSN is restored this game will certainly be received better by the community due to the online portion being completely dead on arrival.
It's been a long time since I've been able to have this much fun with a video game, and one with so much content (apparently Valve is planning on releasing DLC and a map editor for the game to allow creating new levels). The only gripe I have with the game is a lack of challenge maps. One of the best parts of Portal was to see if you could solve the puzzles in the fastest time, fewest steps and fewest number of portals. That is sadly missing from this game, and it would be totally awesome in co-op mode. The story and level design make up for this, but there isn't a whole lot to come back to once you've completed the game. Even still, getting 20-25 hours out of a video game is pretty good for a puzzle game considering the competition these days.
If you're even close to being on the fence about this game, I highly recommend that you give it a shot.