* Best Puzzle Game of 2011

Launching with an astronomical amount of hype, Valve revisits their modern first-person puzzle game Portal with the highly anticipated sequel, Portal 2. Sliding "in through the outdoor" we are taking all the mental abuse Valve can dish out to see if Portal 2 can live up its lofty expectations.

Buzzed in, Portal 2 begins by walking you through the rudimentary steps of portal-hole puzzing while slowly interjecting Portal's own brand of off-beat humour. This strong sense of humour, which was also a big of the original success is crucial to the games branding. Even though Portal has a sarcastical tone, Portal 2 is serious “Puzzle Shooter,” a genre that practically invented by Valve. For a quick lowdown, Portal 2 is played in the first-person perspective, incorporating humour, intelligence and story progression into one crafty puzzle game. If you have never played Portal, or only know it by name, once you load into its faux training center you will realize why it's so revered. Portal 2 is an one of a kind type of deal, an experience that should be celebrated in a world of modern warfare shooters and Sudoku puzzlers.

Coming in as a brief Portal player, Portal 2 seems to be light years ahead with its presentation and integrated narrative. Unlike the original, Portal 2 quickly grabbed my interest as it dragged me into its puzzling labyrinth of madness. Your playground, a crumbling Aperture Laboratory is a massive behemoth of puzzling surprises. Although, the concept of "enter a room/solve a puzzle" can become repetitive, so much is going on externally that repetition won't enter your cerebral lobes. Yes, this is a thinker, so be ready to turn a few cranks in that old head or yours, and if the cube based portal play wasn't enough, Valve has added a new "gel-like" substances such as propulsion gel that deepens the portal-leaping experience.


Thankfully, Valve has a little bit of patience with their metal onslaught and takes it easy on us “Portal-newbies.” The first few levels take things slow, increasing the difficulty as you proceed. Looking over the games design (which is intriguing and sophisticated) I agree with the pacing and each switch of pace, however I'm startled that they didn't include a “hint” button to help you out those who are stuck. Even without a major helpers, a little help wouldn't have hurt for those who might give up early. Secondly, there is real no explanation for those who don't fully understand the basics of the universe of Portal. It's not a huge deal, we all like a mystery. However, the impact of the narrative might have been better served if it was pushed to the surface.

Continuing the nitpicks, I would have to point a finger towards the graphics engine, which honestly looks a little dated. Although it's not a big deal (gameplay wins over graphics in this situation) a more powerful engine could have helped to enhance the immersion. It's the simple touches, like higher-resolution textures or even head-bobbing while walking that could have made me forget about how little the graphics have adapted over the years. Still, Portal 2 is an excellent game, it's just a shame its ambition in level design doesn't spill over to the graphics.

On the good side of a lengthy development cycle is how long Portal 2 is. While each puzzle room can take anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes (depending on your skill) Portal 2 is a lengthy run. I only wished Valve would have added some type of leaderboards support, or something like leaderboards, ie or challenge mode to increase the titles longevity. What Valve added is a 'Developer Commentary' section that lets you run over a few select levels that contain audio commentary from the development team. This is a a worthwhile addition for those curious in “the process,” but it's not going to expand the shelf life any more than an hour.


Sliding over to the highly positive is the outstanding dialogue in Portal 2. This game has a personality. it's funny, it's a little twisted, but it all equals fun. If we had a “script writing” game of the year award, this would be your early winner (congrats Erik Wolpaw and co.) Even though it is cliche to say, Portal 2 is laugh-out-loud funny... no joke. Better yet, it transforms what could have been a bland experience into something uniquely special. Stephen Merchant (Wheatley) and Ellen McLain (GlaDOS) -- you both deserve a nod of recognition, great work!

Adding on the features of Portal, Valve now introduces a co-op section that is playable online or off (yes! split-screen.) The co-op section has its own puzzles to defeat, which is surely to cause some friction with those playing. Here you don't inhabit the body of Chell, you play as two frivolous test-robots who can cheer one another on via gestures. Oh, robot high-five. Playing through the co-op really shows how elaborate the lab-wizards at Valve are because even more than the single-player campaign, the co-op has some interesting mind-benders that more than hold their own.


Portal 2 slips through its own series of tests to be a genuine follow-up to the now cult classic original. Akin to the original, puzzling in the first-person isn't going to be for everyone, so if testing the waters means you pick up the older, yet priceless 'The Orange Box' or dive right into Portal 2, it's worth a look. Even with its high praise, Portal 2 isn't perfect, but it's imaginative, it's sophisticated, and one of the best puzzlers we've played in years. Thinking has never been so much fun.

  • expanded on the original including new paint-like gels
  • duality of first-person puzzler/shooter is even more impressive
  • this is one funny game, pure brilliance scripties
  • hey man, we got co-op!
  • loaded with charm and longer than expected
  • graphics although decent could have been improved upon
  • where is the “hint” button common, I'm not that quick!
  • could have used a few extra features (leaderboards?!)
Quote: "Even with its high praise, Portal 2 isn't perfect, but it's imaginative, it's sophisticated, and one of the best puzzlers we've played in years. "
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 04.27.11


Portal 2

Valve Corporation
Electronic Arts

Valve Corporation


US Release
April 2011


PS3, X360

Players 1
Co-op 1-2
Online MP 2
HD 1080p
5.1 surround
D/L Content (PS3)