Sarcastic. Annoyed. Catty. Hurt. Passive Aggressive. The rogue computer known as GLaDOS is back for more "enrichment through science" in Portal 2, a bigger, funnier, and more satisfying follow-up to its 2007 predecessor. The sequel has you doing much more than going through sterile test rooms, one after another. You will see how the sausage is made, so to speak, at the mysterious Aperture Labs, encounter new characters, and learn new ways to use your lone piece of equipment through the game, the portal gun.
While Portal's controls haven't changed -- the portal gun still shoots out blue (entrance) and orange (exit) portals -- the types of tests you'll encounter have. You'll align lasers, create energy bridges to cross areas (or use as a barrier against turrets), play with different colored goop that lets you jump, travel fast, and so forth. You'll see much more of Aperture Labs outside of the testing areas as well, exploring the catwalks, assembly lines, and abandoned areas that make up the enormous facility. Oh, and there are many surprises along the way, making the game feel more adventurous than the comparatively confining original.
The puzzles are not necessarily harder than in the first Portal, even while there are more things to track, largely because the environments no longer have as many "portal panels" -- flat surfaces that allow you to create a portal -- as in the first game. This means that, for the most part, if you see a surface that can take or hold a portal, it's almost always part of the solution for reaching the level's exit. Some may find this aspect disappointing, as it gives the puzzles a more linear approach than the more freeform structure of the first game. Yet the difficulty is carefully balanced so that you never really need to consult a hint guide or quit in frustration -- everything is "fair."
Portal 2's puzzles are creatively designed, typically requiring multiple techniques to move to each area of the puzzle room, from bouncing and flying to switch pulling and floating. Though discovering a solution will make you smile, the story will make you laugh out loud. GLaDOS is no longer the only major speaking part in the game, and each new chapter you'll experience has you doing something different, learning something you didn't know before about the world. The atmosphere that the developers have managed to create is fantastic, so much so that you'll be thinking about the game long after you've completed it.
Once you've mastered the single-player campaign, there's also a whole new co-op mode that offers specific challenges starring two new robotic characters. The level design is particularly noteworthy, requiring both characters to work together while firing twice the number of portals. It should be noted that a microphone is a must for the co-op levels, so this isn't a mode where you can just search for random players and expect to do well. It takes communication, coordination, and keen timing to succeed.
Portal 2 is available on three platforms (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC), but all three versions feature the same content. The advantage with the PC version is that it includes, as a separate download, an editor that lets you create and share new levels with other Portal 2 owners, increasing its longevity. The PlayStation 3 version also includes a code to download the PC version of Portal 2 at no extra cost, so if you want the best of both worlds, the PS3 version is the way to go. No matter which version you choose, however, you'll want to take it slow and savor the game. You may not be advancing science, but playing Portal 2 is nonetheless an enriching experience.
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