Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. After last week and the long-awaited release of Kingdom Hearts III, this week’s game is also in a series that has long awaited a third entry.
#41. PORTAL 2, by Rhain Radford-Burns
2007’s Portal is a perfect gem of a game. The use of a portals to solve challenges is a unique gameplay feature that can entertain for hours, and the surprisingly deep narrative keeps players hooked as they discover each detail. However, with an average gameplay length of three hours, Portal did not outstay its welcome, and fans wished for a sequel to build upon its perfect gameplay. Valve granted that wish in 2011 with Portal 2.
Portal 2 opens in a generic, empty bedroom—an ironic start for such a complex and expressive game. In a few short minutes, the player is taught the game’s simple controls through a series of humorous dialogue prompts. The game wastes no time with its tutorial—a trope that the rest of the game continues with brief loading screens and very little time dedicated to cinematics.
Before long, the player receives the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device—better known as the Portal Gun—which allows the player to place two portals and teleport between them. Though this use of portals is a seemingly simple mechanic on paper, Valve added several new features to Portal 2 to elevate the challenge even further.
Among the additions are excursion funnels, a tractor beam that moves the player in a specific direction irrespective of gravity; lasers, which the player must decipher their way around as direct contact leads to death; light bridges, which can be extended through portals and grant the player a platform to traverse; and paint-like gels including the Propulsion Gel, which moves the player more quickly, Repulsion Gel, which provides a significant bounce, and white Conversion Gel, which paints a surface to accept portals.
These new features, alongside the returning turrets and companion cubes, add such significant depth to the gameplay and keep the player engaged for several hours. Valve’s continued and more complex use of propulsion—wherein the player must use gravity to increase their speed in order to jump across spaces—remains an incredible joyous gameplay feature, and the addition of the gels makes these challenges much more intelligent and rewarding.
Portal 2 expands upon the story of Aperture Science established in the original game. As the player ascends through laboratories built in the mid-to-late 1900s, they discover some of the secrets behind the company and its founder Cave Johnson, significantly increasing the depth to each of the game’s seemingly one-dimensional characters. In addition, Portal 2’s ending remains one of the strongest, most epic, and most surprising finales to any video game.
Along with being deep and intriguing, the story also presents myriad humorous moments. The return of Ellen McLain as artificial intelligence GLaDOS, as well as the introduction of Stephen Merchant as Wheatley and J. K. Simmons as Cave Johnson, was an expert decision on Valve’s part. McLain’s dry delivery of her lines can be comical at times and unexpectedly heart wrenching at others, while Merchant and Simmons’s performances as more unhinged and power-hungry characters regularly provide some of the most hilarious lines in any video game.
In addition to its strong single-player offering, Portal 2 also introduced a cooperative campaign, wherein two players—either via split-screen or online—assume control of robots Atlas and P-Body and must solve puzzles similar to those in the main campaign. Doubling the number of portals creates further complexity within the challenges and cooperating with another player, whether a friend or a stranger, adds a layer of trust and thought to each puzzle. More than likely, however, each player will spend a significant amount of time hurling abuse at their partner as they continue to find different ways to destroy each other.
Portal 2 set a new bar for puzzle-platform games. Expanding upon the perfection of the first game in every way—from gameplay features and original score, to the characters and narrative, and the addition of a cooperative campaign—Valve somehow topped its previous effort. Until the unlikely event of a sequel—or any future single-player game from Valve—Portal 2 will forever remain one of the greatest video games of all time.
Thanks for reading our thoughts on Portal 2! Come back next week as we look at another interesting and innovative game. In the meantime, stay tuned to OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.