Monday, December 12, 2011

Game Review: Portal 2

Portal 2 by Electronic Arts and Valve

ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for fantasy violence and mild language

You may be asking yourself, "Why is he reviewing Portal 2 on a zombie blog? There's no zombies in that game, is there? Just a bunch of robots and one human." It's a valid point, but I think I have a work-around.

At the end of the original Portal game, your character shuts down the devious test-deploying robot GlaDOS. Fairly early on in this game, the robot is accidentally rebooted and testing starts all over again. Clearly GlaDOS comes back from the dead and is therefore a zombie. Except she is really articulate. And she isn't flesh. And she doesn't eat people. But I digress...

The game involves solving puzzles in a sprawling, broken down science facility called Aperture Laboratories. Your character has a portal gun that can shoot two holes. The character can then travel through one hole and come out the other. So when you shoot one hole in the wall next to you and another hole in the wall across a large chasm, you can get across the chasm by using your holes. Only certain types of walls can have these "portals," usually distinguished by a pale, concrete color.

The holes have some interesting properties. Momentum can be preserved through the holes. A whole at the bottom of a pit lets the character fall quickly and then come out a hole flying through the air for a distance. Also, objects like boxes, laser, light bridges, and other things can go through the holes.

Later on in the game, different gels are introduced that spill on the floor and give different abilities. For example, orange gel allows the character to move very quickly. The gels allow new types of puzzles and provide a nice variety of challenges.

The game also has an interesting story line and atmosphere. When your character first wakes up, she meets a robot named Wheatley who is a bit of a moron but who helps guide her through some of the basics and provides the story of what happened over the hundreds of years that elapse between Portal and Portal 2. The whole area is a run down and falling apart mess, which gives a strong science fiction post apocalypse feel to the game. When GlaDOS is reactivated, the testing cycle from the first game begins again. Some twists and turns provide more information about GlaDOS, Wheatley, and the whole back story of Aperture Laboratories.

The game includes a nice though sarcastic sense of humor. GlaDOS makes many jokes or droll remarks at the expense of your character and of Wheatley's intelligence. There's a bit of mild swearing and taking the Lord's name in vain, but otherwise the content is pretty inoffensive.

I did not play the cooperative mode (except for some small attempts with Jacob; the Xbox controller was a little too complicated for him). But let's face it, when the zombie apocalypse comes you probably won't have anyone to play with in cooperative mode anyway. I suppose I could play with random strangers online. We haven't been able to get a good internet connection from the upstairs router to downstairs, other than running a cable down the staircase, which isn't particularly safe. And please don't ask why we have a 25 foot long cable. Just accept the fact that we do. I'd definitely need a faster connection to play online.

This game is a very enjoyable first-person puzzle solving experience. I would highly recommend it for those who can handle a post-apocalyptic world and a complicated game console controller.

Since the original end credit Portal song seems so popular (it showed up on many blogs I read a few months back), here's the end song for this game:

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