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Portal 2 - A New Standard of Creativity in Gaming

Since I’ve only and probably will only play the single player campaign, that’s all I’ll be reviewing in this review (I don’t like playing co-op with strangers, or online multiplayer that much in general), though I’m sure the quality would apply to both sides.

In short, Portal 2 is remarkable. It’s despicable that I’ve put off playing it for so long after its launch, but Portal 2 is easily one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played and in my opinion, the best game of 2011.

The most distinctive element of Portal 2, among its many distinguish attributes, is the entire game’s sense of character.

Compared to probably any other game I’ve played, almost every aspect of Portal 2 is so distinct and unique that almost everything feels like a unique and separate character.

Other than the main character you play (though this might be arguable, I’m not sure), everything you see and interact with has this distinct look and feel to it so that the entire game results in such an enjoyable experience.

Like I’m sure almost everyone (with a soul) was, I was laughing and chuckling almost the entire way through the game and all the chatter heard throughout just makes the game that much better.

Of course, this was yet another amazing aspect of the game, each character built around a certain cheerful but dark humour that Valve is known for, leaving the player enthused and encouraging them to keep playing; a feeling I haven’t felt in many games recently.

The visuals are, of course, pretty awesome.

While some of the visuals look a tad dated (there’s only so much you can do with that engine), the art style and animation shines through so brightly that it looks better than most visual powerhouses because of it.

The visuals also work extremely well in conjunction with the gameplay, which is definitely intended.

The somewhat simplistic style of the game, just like its predecessor and most Valve games actually, generally help keep the game grounded in a way, always keeping the emotional tone upbeat and cheerful and placing little pressure on the player.

One can argue that I’m looking too much into the strength of the art style, but I believe that the style, overall, works as well in the gameplay as well as it does aesthetically, and having just the look of the game act as such a strength is definitely something the game’s entire crew should be praised for.

Pacing: the constant (and consistently hilarious) chatter overheard in the game’s entire play through also plays a part in the generally impressive and balanced pacing of the game.

The chatter often helps keep the player entertained and motivated to keep playing.

Especially towards the game’s awesome climax, Portal 2 consistently encourages and motivates the player to keep going through not only the very well written dialogue, but actively increasing the scope and intensity of the game as you get closer to your goal.

Portal 2 also doesn’t feel like a short game either, another great design element that seems to be fleeting in the story or action focused, linear games of recent years.

Again, this element is more a question of the player’s feeling; a feeling of general fulfilment that leaves the player satisfied with the game they’ve played.

This can depend on the player, but in my opinion, Portal 2’s length is almost perfect (especially with its pacing), not seeming overly short or long and convoluted.

Portal 2 tells its story very well, getting the player involved and leading them through a meaningful journey with a satisfying ending.

The audio is, as expected, extraordinary. Most would argue, including myself, that this element is the strongest and most identifiable of the game, and it would be hard to argue against. Each character plays their part perfectly and is hilarious because of it, their distinctive voices leading the player through their adventure laughing the entire way.

The music and audio cues are almost as good, the small touches just adding to the enjoyment of the game.

Much of Portal 2’s enjoyment as a game stems from its general accessibility.

Not accessibility in the way most games use it now (simplification to reach a greater audience), but in the way that Portal 2 is enjoyable for anyone who plays it, especially in regard to the puzzle design.

The puzzle design in Portal 2 is generally incredible. The puzzles are always satisfying and rewarding to complete yourself, and are never really too difficult to pull off by yourself (though I did need help with 2 of them).

This subject also comes back to the idea of ‘small touches’ that are sprinkled throughout to keep the game enjoyable and fair, such as being able to see portals through walls, small sound cues when travelling on gels, small design changes to indicate where to shoot portals and many others that continue to keep the game fun and without frustration, despite the frequent locale changes.

Portal 2’s gameplay is, like its predecessor, always intuitive and easy to understand, and its atmosphere is fun, charming, dark and thoroughly enjoyable, but Portal 2 isn’t amazing just for these individual elements.

It’s amazing because all of these fantastic, wonderful elements come together so well into one individual product.

Overall, Portal 2 is an extraordinary game, reminding one of the general perfection and imagination of Pixar.

Like most Pixar films, each element of Portal 2s production: its art style, its animation, its gameplay, its characters, etc.; all of them are combined into a singular product that doesn’t try to focus or call attention to one element but creates such an enjoyable and lighthearted experience that can be enjoyed by anyone.

Portal 2 reminds me of how great AAA games can be when they focus on the enjoyment of the game, keeping a lighthearted tone that most have rejected during the current generation of games.

Portal 2 reminds me of why I fell in love with games from such an early age, and why I continue to love them well into my adolescence .

Portal 2 is one of the best (and closest to perfect) games I’ve played in years, and is definitely a game that everyone should, regardless of their age or preferences.

Given, I don’t feel the same way I do when playing Portal 2 than when I play Spyro 2 (my favourite game as a kid and ever), and I doubt I’ll play through it again (though it is tempting), but Portal 2 is one of the funniest, charming and enjoyable games I’ve ever played, and will be considered so for many years by many others. 

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