Portal 2 Appreciation


Yesterday, we threw Liam a party for his graduation. True to his heritage from me, he never really wanted a party. However, he went along with it. In spite of the awkwardness of having so many worlds collide, I think it went well. While sitting with his friends, one of them asked, “What’s your favorite game?” Another thought about it. My answer required no though. “Portal 2.” Then, I realized for all my talk about the game, I never wrote an article. So, join me for some Portal 2 appreciation.

For his part, Liam agreed. I think his friend, taken aback by my sudden interest in the conversation said something along the lines of, “Portal is a good game.” For me, it represents so much more. Those who read (and spider – Hey Sergei!) the page on a regular basis know that one of my main reasons for playing a game is the story. So, about that story.

Portal 2 Story

On the surface, it focuses around a faceless (unless you find a mirror or can portal yourself to see it) protagonist that needs to escape the crumbling infrastructure of a long dormant mega-corporation. Sure, a bit on the nose, but you write what society knows. Initially armed only with a pair of leg prosthetics that allow you to absorb the impact of high falls and a wittier than he thinks personal assistant, you strike off into the wilds of Aperture Science. Soon, you find your only weapon, a portal gun. Eventually, an old foe returns. Your former assisstant betrays you. Through it all, you wield only a gun that creates portals. Seriously. That’s it. I mean, it makes sense with the title. But, how can that possibly be interesting over an entire game? Well, more on that part later.

Well, one way they kept me hooked was the secondary story of Cave Johnson (the head and voice of Aperture science) and his assistant Caroline. The always fantastic J. K. Simmons voices Cave to perfection. But, honestly, Caroline (voiced by Ellen McLain) steals the show. We learn there exist “similariities” between her and the aforementioned former nemesis, GladOS. Unlike many things, if you haven’t played, I won’t spoil it any further. I want you to experience the story fresh like I got to. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

Portal 2 Gameplay

You start the game by waking up from a decades (centuries?) long sleep. Something went terribly wrong in the facility and all fail safes failed to keep people safe. Wait, why are we telling the story here? Doesn’t this belong up there? I’m setting the scene. Just give me this Portal 2 appreciation moment, please. You have no weapons. Similar to any other FPS, right? Well, sure, but the difference is, ultimately, you don’t fight anything. No demons, orcs, aliens, bug people, nothing. You run through the facility, just ahead of the chaos until you find a gun.

And, still, you fight nothing. Well, why the hell am I playing this game then? For me, that’s the beauty of Portal 2. WIthout any actual combat and very little peril, through the story and experience, they build a tension that forces you to keep playing to get to the end, survive, and excape this prison, frankly. They add science fiction elements of being able to create portals with the gun and ground up moon rocks and other mumbo jumbo that allow you to do superhuman things, too.

Portal 2 Puzzles

Like the primary story, Portal 2’s gameplay exists simply to allow them to build devious puzzles for you to solve. You must use your surroundings, your brain, and clues from previous puzzles to work your way through increasingly difficult levels. Many of the puzzles are straight forward to solve. But, the solutions take time and effort to put together sometimes. Some took me a good couple of hours to work out the actual solution. Even when I go back to replay the game (twice so far), a few of them give me trouble.

The Verdict

Obviously, there’s more to my Portal 2 appreciation. The game is visually appealing. Even with the tough puzzles, it takes less than a week to beat if you play a couple of hours each night. Since the game came out over a decade ago, you can get it for 10 bucks on Steam. Heck, every time I bought it (at least three times now for different systems), I got it in a bundle. The first time, it came with Half-Life 2, Portal, and Portal 2. Usually, it’s just the two Portal games. So, honestly, for a gamer like me, the Portal universe gives me everything I want from a game. Good story, simple controls, fun puzzles, and an overall great experience.

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