Should any of you have time in your busy schedules, in between sleeping and cursing the futility of your lives, gather round and I shall tell you a tale that has found a permanent place in gaming folklore. A long time ago (about 4 years to be exact), a company called valve, having taken an absolute age to bring out Half-Life 2, issued by way of apology for the even longer wait for the next instalment a small bundle of games known as “The Orange Box”. On this disc was a game called “Portal” which, despite the lack of time and effort put into making it, became instantly beloved by nerds the world over. And lo, did the fanboys gain something other than HALO to constantly crap on about to people who just do not care. And it was thus, that those same fanboys did that day gain the ability to sprout a great big hard-on the second anyone mentions the word “cake”.
Anyway, spring forward 4 years and Valve have made the inevitable sequel. Now, when you’ve got a game franchise as popular as Portal, then you have to be EXTREMELY careful not to go the Bioshock route and try to shoe-horn in an unnecessary sequel that turns out to be a big pile of wank. And to make sure the fanboys didn’t queue up to piss through their letterbox, Valve had to put all of their collective brain-power to very good use. The good news is they certainly did, and produced a game that has to be an early contender for game of the year.
Fresh from the events of the last game, your character ends up in storage in the very same facility she escaped from at the end of that last game (no they don’t explain how, stop asking), and must again go through chambers of puzzles and floor after floor of a dilapidated science facility using a magic gun to stop an evil Stephen Merchant from destroying the world (and I bet you never thought you’d read that sentence). The only way it could really be made much better is if it wasn’t broken up by loading screens every 2.3 seconds. It’s things like this that can really put people off a game…
But what’s most important is that it’s fun, which is a shockingly rare thing in games these days. Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun playing a game since Saints Row 2 came out. It’s engrossing, it’s well put together and it’s funny (I don’t know why, but the line “so how are you doing? Because I’m a potato” really got me). And not funny by the standards of British stand-up comics, because that would make it resolutely UN-funny, but with subtle humour and casual throwaway comments that for some reason give you a very happy feeling while playing it.
Now you may think that I’m writing out a love letter rather than a review on here, and to be honest you’re pretty much right. It does have one major problem, though. And that problem is that it isn’t Portal 1. It was one of those games, like Minecraft and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, that was put out with no clue about how popular they would actually become. And as such any sequels to any of these games will inevitably be compared to them. To be fair, the gameplay is pretty much the same: Walk into room, shoot holes in walls, leave room, repeat. However, the phrase “don’t fix what isn’t broken” has never been more apt. The controls still work well, except for the fact that the jump button only seems to work occasionally, and the puzzles are that right mix of challenging yet fun, but when you look at it in the simplest way it really is just the same as Portal but a bit longer.
However, one new feature of the game is that there’s now 2 player co-op, which is a nice change in games these days compared to having to join online games full of racist, whiny 12-year-old cock balloons, but if you have short patience do NOT play with people who haven’t played Portal before. Otherwise you’ll spend the entire game shouting “shoot the portal over there… no, there! On that barely visible bit of wall on the ceiling that’s a slightly different shade of grey to the rest of it! Here, give me the controller”, and they’ll end up resenting you for the rest of both your lives because of it. Either way it works well and is a good way to either lose a couple of friends or kill a couple of hours, depending what sort of person you are.
Anyway, I guess I’d better sum this marriage proposal review up. If you want my advice, don’t think about Portal 1 when playing Portal 2, because if you do then you’ll be disappointed. If you just treat it as its own stand-alone game then you’ll have a few hours of genuine fun apart from the 20 million loading screens. The writing’s good, the story’s good, the loading screens still plague the entire game (but apparently I’m the only one who cares) but I had a hell of a lot more fun than I would have done by doing anything else. I completed it and gained a warm, happy feeling inside myself because of the fun I’d just had, and if you don’t at least rent it then you’ll be disappointed. Just for God’s sake don’t talk to a fanboy about it, because after about 2 seconds you’ll want to somehow stuff them into one of the portal guns and shoot them into the fucking sun.