Friday, April 22, 2011

Moving Science Forward

Since the First of this month there has been a lot of a buzz within the gaming community.  Gaming websites and forums everywhere have been littered with posts, or advertisements for Portal 2.  This is a game, that for many, needs no introduction or explanation.  If you don't fall into that group, it's ok, I'll catch you up.

On April 1, 2011, The Potato Sack bundle of games went on sale on Steam (a digital method of distribution for computer games).  This began the ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that was created by Valve Software to promote the release of Portal 2. (more about the ARG here)

Now, the good stuff.  Portal 2 is a fantastic game.  The characters, environments, and dialogue are incredible.  If you enjoyed the first game, you may find yourself grinning quite a bit throughout the sequel.  For fans of the first Portal, Portal 2 does not disappoint.  The new elements added to the puzzles are a very welcome addition.  In the first game you had your portal gun to get you from point A to point B.  Now you must use your environment and Gels that are hiding deep within the Aperture Science Laboratories.  Portal 2 adds a propulsion gel, and repulsion gel.  One helps you take flight by bouncing you into the air, and the other assists you in speeding along the ground to build momentum.  The learning curve isn't too steep if you're familiar with the first game, but it might offer a bit more of a challenge to someone who is completely new to the series.

Level design in Portal 2 is done rather well.  It truly feels as if you are in an abandoned research facility.  Windows are shattered, panels are falling from the walls, and vegetation is overtaking the facility.  Computers, turrets, companion cubes, and rubble are strewn about.  There are even hidden rooms to find with cryptic writings and drawings on the walls; all of them trying to give hints as to what used to be, and what is now.  The puzzles are clever, and at times you'll think they're impossible.  You do experience a few different environments, and the pacing for the levels feels pretty good.

Dialogue in Portal 2 will keep you engaged throughout the entire single player game.  It's great to have GlaDOS back wishing death upon you, and to have Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant) bumbling along, helping you through the facility.  Cave Johnson (voiced by J.K. Simmons) is the founder of Aperture Science, and you hear recordings of his voice periodically throughout the game.  He tells you about past test subjects, and the need for danger in scientific research.  "We do our science from scratch."

The gameplay of Portal 2 can be summed up into one word: Fun.  This game will definitely warrant more than one play-through.  You'll want to go back and look for things you may have missed the first time around.  There is so much to look at, that if you beat the game in less than 8 hours on your first go-around, you surely have not seen it all.  The completion time varies for lots of people, but it would be fair to say the game is between 6 and 10 hours long for the single player campaign.  Portal 2 also offers a co-op experience.  In the co-op campaign you play as either Peabody or Atlas.  You have to work with a friend to complete the puzzles.  You can't just leave it to your friend to do all the work; it actually takes real cooperation.

Portal 2 will continue to steal my time in the coming months.  Hopefully it will do the same for you.  The videos below showcase some of the game elements, and the voice actors as well.  Go play the game, or buy it.... for science of course.

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