nowledge of the first Portal
will certainly be of use to anyone playing the sequel, but it isn’t required. Both the single-player and cooperative campaigns start out relatively slow with easier levels meant to get you back into the mindset of using portals, then gradually ramp up the difficulty to challenge you more toward the end. Each puzzle is solved by reaching the exit of the test chamber, which may involve traversing obstacles or activating a switch or two first. Portals allow you to navigate the environment at will, but the trick lies with the need for a line of sight through which to project them and the fact that not all surfaces will support placement of these wormhole gateways. In addition, Material Emancipation Grids (force fields) will destroy any portals you have placed or objects you’re carrying when you walk through them, so many puzzles involve figuring out a way to work around those.
ventually, Portal 2
introduces several new elements to the puzzles, such as a tractor beam-like device called an Excursion Funnel, Hard Light Bridges, and Thermal Discouragement Beams (lasers). All of these can be redirected and thus placed wherever needed to provide transportation or activate switches. For example, you might place a portal at the end of a bridge to create a mobile platform of sorts, capable of carrying you across gaps. The tractor beams can be used in a similar manner, but they will also pick up and carry other objects, perhaps a block, and carry it to wherever the beam ends. At that point, it could be pushing the block onto a button on the wall, or you could remove the beam and drop the block onto a switch that you couldn’t reach yourself. Laser beams can be redirected with portals and/or special mirrored cubes in order to focus them onto a particular kind of switch or even use them as a weapon. There are also three different kinds of liquid gel that apply unique properties to surfaces they are “painted” onto. Repulsion Gel (blue) causes a surface to act like rubber for bouncing off of, Propulsion Gel (orange) greatly enhances your speed as you run across it, and Conversion Gel (white) allows for the placement of a portal on any surface it covers. As you might imagine, these gels act alone or in combination with each other to open up possibilities for many new and unique puzzles.
owever people felt about Portal
’s puzzle-platforming gameplay, there is no doubt that its unique setting combined with the hilarious and memorable dialogue proved a winning combination in the hearts and minds of most people who played it. Despite there being only one main character aside from the mute protagonist the player controls (GLaDOS), her detached, computerized delivery of routine praise and vengeful threats laced with sarcasm made for an unforgettable listening experience. The sequel proves there’s a lot more where that came from and also introduces two more colorful characters: hyperactively moronic personality core Wheatley and boisterous Aperture Science CEO Cave Johnson. Wheatley’s breathless one-sided conversations carry you through most of the first act, with his British accent only compounding the side-splitting funniness. Johnson’s voice is only heard by way of pre-recorded messages, but each one is just as entertaining as those featured in the pre-release trailers. Performances from all three actors are outstanding and each is thoroughly backed by the shrewd, ingenious scripts provided by Valve’s writing team. Whether you like solving puzzles or not, you should play through the game at least once to experience the pinnacle of video game voice work.
ven though the Portal 2
cooperative campaign takes place after the events of the single-player story have unfolded, there’s no real risk of spoiling anything if you decide to jump into multiplayer right off the bat. You will end up having to figure out how to use some of the new puzzle elements -- such as the tractor beams and colored gels -- without a formal introduction, but I suppose that would make sense in the context of the crash-test robots you play as. Atlas and P-body (the round one and the tall one, respectively) were designed by GLaDOS specifically to team up and solve puzzles that are too complicated for one set of portals alone. You each have your own portal gun and will be subjected to ever more of her harsh wit and backhanded compliments as you work together to figure out some of the hardest puzzles in the game. Communication is key, so while you can type, place marker icons, and even hold TAB to view things through your partner’s eyes, it is best to have a microphone and play with someone you’re comfortable talking to. The good news is, robots are easily replaceable, so you can die as much as you want and not have to re-load a checkpoint like in single-player. Most of the fun of co-op is in figuring out how the puzzles work for the first time (usually the hard way), so it’s also a good idea to play with someone who hasn’t done it before.