In today’s gaming climate of big-budget first-person shooters and third-person adventures it’s not often you’ll hear of a feature length puzzler being among the year’s most wanted games. Portal 2 isn’t just any game. Portal 2 is the follow up to developer Valve’s brilliant original mind-numbing Portal adventure – a title held in universal acclaim. We spent some time with Portal 2 ahead of its April 22 release. Read on for our hands-on impressions.
The original Portal was renowned for its unique puzzling adventures. Players created oval-shaped portals from which to teleport themselves from one location to another in a game that saw players become the subject of an experiment conducted by AI unit GlaDOS (Generic Lifeform and Disk Operating system).
Portal 2, from what we’ve played and seen certainly looks like it won’t disappoint eagerly-awaiting fans. It’s different, yet at the same time incredibly familiar. The humour is still there too. The signs are that Portal 2 will be just as likely to tickle your funny bones.
Portal 2′s setting takes place hundreds of years after the first adventure. You’re in the same place – the Aperture Science labs. The formerly sterile looking lab has fallen into disrepair.
The tiled walls show cracks and have gone mossy. Formerly sturdy platforms now hang by their hinges. Pools of murky water nestle on the once pristine tiled floors. “It’s been a long time,” GlaDOS, in her effortlessly ominous sounding voice welcomes us.
Before you get there you begin in what looks like a hotel bedroom. It’s immediately clear you’re part of a continuing lab experiment. You’re first told to look up, then down, then to stare at a painting on the wall while listening to classical music. It’s a form of relaxation, you’re told.
The feeling is that of taking part in the oddest, most deranged medical examination you’ve ever had.
Enter Wheatley – a webcam-lookalike robot voiced by Office director and Extras co-star Stephen Merchant. Wheatley is the first being you come into contact with. We won’t spoil what he tells you, but Merchant’s voice acting is brilliant.
His almost clumsy-sounding British accent seems to complement the manic happenings all around you as he tries to make sense of the surreal situation.
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Soon the floor starts shaking. Huge cracks tear apart your room. It soon appears that you’re not in a bedroom, but a container suspended on a rail. It’s utterly chaotic. You have no idea what’s going on as the container bobs and weaves like an unsteady ski lift towards its destination – the Aperture Science labs.
As more cracks start appearing you can see you’re in a huge chamber with other such compartments scattered stacked as high as the eye can see like some twisted IKEA warehouse. Your container soon crashes into the decayed labs.
You go into a lift. “Smooth Jazz will be deployed in 3…2…1.” Portal 2 features all the eccentric charm of the original. The monotone voiceover of GlaDOS is just as unnerving, yet welcoming.
You then find yourself in what looks like the exact same type of test room as the original Portal, complete with the same radio. As you walk past a mirrored surface it becomes clear that, yes, you are reprising the role of female protagonist Chell. Though you’re still left unsure of why you are where you are.
Onto some Portal style puzzles. As usual you’re broken in with a series of not too tasking puzzles. The first is a matter of pressing buttons to make portals appear in a certain location to let you enter a door to the next task.
We won’t go through every puzzle we played, but they gradually increase with more difficulty as more variables are introduced. It’s not long before you get the Portal gun. Instead of bullets, its projectiles create a single blue portals that gets replaced every time you make a new one. You walk into a blue portal, and you exit through an orange one.
You’ll need said Portal gun for the rest of the puzzles, many of which, as you might expect involve moving weighted cubes into switches by creating Portals in floors, walls and ceilings.
For those unfamiliar with the original, you can use these portals to literally walk through walls. Moving through a portal at high speed or velocity will propel you through it at the same speed you entered, making impossible jumps possible.
One of the most entertaining tasks involved having to move a cube onto a platform by pressing buttons that launched said cube into the air via a platform to avoid it falling into the water and having to start over. It wasn’t the most complex, but it was enough to show that the puzzles of Portal 2 will feel just as rewarding to accomplish.
With more goodies in store such as liquids you can paint the floor with to solve cube-shaped conundrums, bouncing platforms, Portal 2 co-op play and more in a setting more eerie than the first the puzzles on offer should offer plenty more variety than what we got to play.
Portal 2 will test your imagination, multitasking talents, timing, your aim with the Portal gun, and most of all, your patience.
You will laugh, you may toss the controller in anger or scratch your head in disbelief until it bleeds, but that’s what made the original so gratifying. On recent evidence Portal 2 should be the same.
Out April 22 2011 | £TBC | Portal 2