Skip to content

Portal 2 Day#1: Reboot

Day 1 with Portal 2. I will confess to being very skeptical about this game, as I thought Portal was a game that absolutely did not need a sequel. So how does the sequel stand up? Pretty well so far, but nothing particularly new. The single-player (which is what I’ve played so far) is doing an interesting retake on the original game, no new puzzles really, with a possibly interesting narrative taking shape. Add to that the game visual beauty and humor and it’s shaping up well so far. It’s nothing brilliant yet, but it’s definitely fun and I trust Valve enough to believe that this game could become something amazing, so more to come. Spoilers to come.

So I’m obviously alone in my feeling that Portal was an AMAZING game, as close to perfect as I’ve seen, as a combination of gameplay, instruction and humor. I mean, I own a three foot tall plush companion cube. Nonetheless, I was not heartened to hear that a sequel was being made. Perfect things are rarely made better by being extended, and thus my expectations were not high. On the other hand, it’s Valve and I literally cannot think of a single thing that company has done that I would call a mistake. That alone is enough to make me give Portal 2 a try. So with low expectations, here we go.

The game starts on a view of the ruined lab as the title card, after a short loading card with a woman with a portal gun facing Glados (the AI taskmaster of the first game). I wait on the title card until a video loads about the coop mode. It’s what you’ve seen in the commercial:  two robots appear and Glados tells them that humans can’t do the coop test but robots don’t know pride (or anything else). They jump and portal around a bit, but then it’s implied that there’s some real purpose at the end of a death trap level filled with spikes and lasers. Glados says they shouldn’t disappoint her or she’ll make them wish they could die. When I return to the title card, I hit start and launch single player mode. The game loads with a solid white screen.

I come into the game in the expected FPS view in a cheap looking hotel-like single room with a bed and small TV. A mechanical voice tells me that have been in suspension for 50 days. It goes on to say that as a volunteer for Aperture Science, I have to complete certain tests. The voice asks me to look up and down as a “gymnastics” test. Then I’m asked to stare at art (a painting) to feel mentally invigorated. I stare and nothing happens. The voice triggers some classical music to calm me and then tells me to go back to sleep. I hit X near the bed and the game fades to black very quickly before coming right back. Chiptunes play for a moment when I re-awaken in the room that’s now destroyed. Someone is knocking on the door to the room. The mechanical voice is crazed and stuttered. As I approach the door, it opens to reveal a blue robot eye on an arm connected to a track in the ceiling. The eye tells me it’s going to help me get out of this. It moves along its track until it reaches the middle of the room and then it goes into ceiling. The room begins to shake and the objects start flying around. The eye returns and tells me I might have brain damage from being in hibernation WAY too long. It asks me to say yes to acknowledge that I understand it.  A command on the screen tells me to hit A to speak, but when I hit the button, it makes me jump instead.  I do that a second time, and the eye says that’s good enough. The eye retreats again and the room keeps moving and starts falling apart.  The eye (off-screen) explains that it was in charge of watching the test subjects, but everything’s gone wrong and it reveals in a roundabout way that all 10000 of the volunteers are dying or dead from some disaster. Through the holes in the room, I can see the room is moving around a huge exterior space. The room is supposed to be moving to a docking station, but we arrive instead at a wall. The eye responds by ramming the room into the structure until the wall collapses. Now that the room is jutting into this new building, the eye tells me that I need to get the portal gun. In Valve style, I had control through all of this, but I couldn’t functionally do anything until now. I jump out of the room in the building, and the eye tells me that I’m not really ready for the test, but it will meet me on the other side.

I walk ahead in this ruined building and in a clever step, I fall through a glass floor back into the starting room from the original game, now broken and ruined. The mechanical voice returns to tell me that there have been apocalyptic problems but an automated system will keep the test running and the voice speaking. A portal opens in the room on a count of three and I exit this room in the same way as the first game. I keep walking through the first game’s first test. There is VERY NICE feedback on the screen in this game: big clear icons with arrows superimposed on the screen pointing to the things you need to do. Next is the same next step from the first game of the put-box-on-button-to-open-door tutorial level, which I obviously do by picking up the box (with the X button) and dropping it (also X) on the button. I go through the door to the familiar elevator and load the next level. The next level involves using a series of buttons to change the terminus of a portal between three rooms to pick up a box, drop the box on a button, and get to the door to exit. The voice asks me to take notes so that when civilization returns my results can be recorded. There’s lots more loading in the elevators in this version, probably because the graphics have a significantly higher fidelity than the first game.

In the next level, the first portal gun is supposed to be on a podium, but it’s not there. When I reach the podium, I fall through the floor into shallow water. I find the gun there and pick it up. The blue eye is back, but it’s off-stage. It can’t see me and isn’t sure if I’m alive or dead.  I use the gun to open a portal to a fixed orange portal up ahead and from there, keep climbing up the ruins of this basement. I climb back into the testing level. The puzzle here is navigating past two large ditches with a fixed orange portal using a blue to orange/orange to blue portal movement. It’s familiar and easy and I get out quickly. Another elevator to the next level. The third puzzle is the same get cube from bottom of  pit as the previous game, although they play some smooth jazz at the beginning to “calm” me. This puzzle lead directly (no elevator)  to a new  puzzle  with two buttons that need to be triggered by two different blocks, one on a pedestal and one in a pit. I exit into the another familiar room from the original game: the glass room with the portal in the ceiling of a large room above it. This time though, when I drop through the portal on the ceiling, the glass room breaks. When I land, there’s a side path up to the right with a staircase leading to a room covered with lots of test subject graffiti. I go back down and find the exit to the level on another elevator

Level five is two part. I first have to shoot a portal under a block to get the first button that makes a set of stairs. I then have to climb the stairs to a set of buttons, and use the buttons to time a block’s drop and raising a platform to keep the block from bouncing away to disappear into water. With both cubes, I can keep the staircase up and the exit open. The next level is a fling-across level where you have to use a long drop to throw you across the level, this time with cube pickup in the middle. It’s followed by a different fling yourself across the level stage without any  load in between. I have to say – throwing yourself around a Portal level from a giant drop is just a pure kind of joy. The eye re-appears in the next level. I have to portal past a high wall over to its side of the room. It reveals it can drop off its arm, but it was told it would die if it did that. After a false start, it drops off its arm and remains alive. At its request, I pick the eye up and put it on a wall unit. It can do something from the wall unit, but it tells me to turn around  before it will do it. I do have to turn around before he acts, and when I do, the eye then opens a secret panel in a wall. I pick the eye up and enter the panel. We go winding around through back corridors through a load point.

After the load the eye tells me we have to go through HER (I assume Glados’s) room to get out.  I think that’s going to be a ways away, but it’s actually the next room. The eye freaks out about being close to Glados, but she’s dead and we’re fine. We navigate through a few more corridors to a cylindrical room covered in switches. The eye says to find an escape pod switch, but given the controls I’ve got, that would be impossible to do even if the switches were labeled. After a moment, the eye tells me to plug it in and I do. We suddenly start going up, which the eye says is bad. We reach the top, back in Glados’s room. As the eye tries to get us to go back down, Glados reassembles and reawakens. She recognizes me and calls me a monster. That’s odd — I mean, I can’t possibly be the same person from the last game, right? That character escaped, right? Interesting. Glados uses a pincered arm to grab and then crush the eye. She then picks me up in a weird moment of non-agency for Valve; there’s no way I can avoid the arm and nothing I can do anything when I’m grabbed. Glados tells me that we can now start the testing again, and throws me into a pit.

The pit is a just BEAUTIFUL drop through ducts all the way down. It’s a gorgeous transition of black and white and silver tunnels and movement. I end up in the incinerator room. Glados says that I should be able to find the second portal gun here along with the pieces of Glados that were incinerated in the last game. I walk and jump through the ruins and then find the second portal gun when Glados moves some trash for me. Once I have it, I start portaling through the area. As I travel through the ruins, Glados says that her quick save feature forced her to relive her last two minutes of life over and over, but instead of revenge, she just wants to get back to testing. I’m traveling through a nice ruined testing space, lots of hanging broken panels and scarred walls. I finally arrive back in section 19, the incineration level from the first game. Glados says she knows all of my tricks now, and looks forward to testing me for the next 80 years. After that, she says, maybe she’ll learn how to reanimate the dead. That’s a good joke to exit on, so I call it a night.



Posted in Core.

Tagged with .

3 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. CvX! says

    😉 Haha, I’ve just experienced “someone is wrong on the internet!” ( moment.

    Glados doesn’t crush the eye, she just throws it away.

    Also, at the end of Portal, Chell is dragged back to the ruins of Aperture (well, she’s dragged, but we can only guess where to; robot-like sound effects kinda suggest that);looking at your character through portal you can see that she is very similar to the heroine from the first game. 🙂

    Happy Easter, Nick! 🙂 And have fun playing the rest of Portal 2!

  2. admin says

    Thanks for the correct part of the correction, CvX. I assumed the end of the first Portal was figurative. I didn’t realize it was literal. Ok, that makes sense.

    But the eye is crushed. I just checked a video to remind myself. The pincer squeezes, the eye powers off and falls apart a bit, and is thrown away. Not saying it’s dead or anything (haven’t played again yet) or that it’s compacted completely, but it’s definitely crushed.

  3. Heath says

    Enjoying this one myself at the moment. Very good sense of humor and continuity throughout make this a fun experience so far.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.