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Portal 2 Day#5: School’s Over

Day#5 takes me to the end of Portal 2. The final puzzle is not has stellar or original as I would like it to be, although the narrative does tie up quite nicely. The puzzles approaching the end finally reach a level of challenge that I enjoy with a couple of exception of pixel-hunting for portal-able spots and momentary frustrations. It’s a good ending as a whole, but like the rest of Portal 2, it’s a good game that followed an absolutely amazing one, and despite its successes, Portal 2 just cannot escape that shadow. Spoilers within.

The level I left off in is a drop level with where I have to use catapults and antigrav beams to win. Basically I have to use the antigrav to bring a cube to me, pick up the cube, catapult myself into the antigrav beam, and then ride the beam with the cube to a button in the ceiling that open a door and gets me high enough to reach the door’s platform. Not hard, but not unfun. Glados says that something is wrong but we should keep testing. The next level has a turret and anigrav beams.  Wheatley begins the level trying to insult me, and then Glados makes fun of him for his stupid insults. There are no portal-able areas around the turret, and I die once experimenting with it. The trick is to get the antigrav beam set up from the other side of the room to throw the turret off of the platform, There’s a button here that reverses flow of the beam (it attracts instead of repels) and I have to coordinate putting the crate on a button on and and take it off to ride antigrav beams to the exit. The next level Wheatley makes a big and transparent show about reading books to prove he’s not a moron. The level’s puzzle is to use the catapult to antigrav way up in the air and then drop through a portal to momentum throw me to a door,  and then do the same thing with a crate to get the door open. This one is pretty easy and I’m out in like 5 minutes. Wheatley is getting less and less satisfied with me winning, and at the start of the next level, there are error messages about the base’s meltdown on all of the walls around the elevator.  As I enter the testing room, Wheatley says he’s moving the whole level closer to him to see if that makes the testing  feel better. In this level, I have to use a light barrier to block jumps as a catapult around. There are lots of turrets facing a button I need to press. I have to use the barrier to block a catapulting block so I can pick it up, then use the barrier to block the turrets while I carry the crate to the button. Wheatley is wondering if we’re just not finding the right solution to make him happy.  The next level is a lot of catapulting through portals to create momentum jumping. I need to get a reflector crate to aim a laser first, and it takes me a LONG time to figure out that the first momentum drop I need to get the crate is set up  by using an antigrav to lift me up in the air and then turning the beam off so that I drop through the portal below me to fling myself around. Once I get the reflector cube,  then it’s all portal rearrangement of laser targets and crates depressing buttons to get out. It’s probably the most interesting puzzle level so far.

And more testing levels. Whew. The puzzles themselves are getting much better, but the structure of testing and testing just feels like a grind. The next level is a laser level where  I have to alternate between moving a platform and shutting off a wall of lasers that the platform slides into that will that will kill me if I’m on the platform. That gets me a reflector cube, and I then have to angle the reflector cube on that platform so that I can bounce a laser into the sensor that opens the door. It’s decent but finicky. There’s no elevator here; Wheatley says the lift melted. There is an antigrav beam though and I jump into it. I slide backstage and hover over a big drop until something comes flying at us and he turns off antigrav.  I drop into a room behind the scenes. When we land, Glados asks if it’s alright if she kills him. I run around backstage until I reach the next test level. Wheatley says that he looked around for other subjects (thinking I was dead) but I’m the only subject still alive.  He  says he has a surprise for us coming up. And this next level is genuinely hard — it’s an engaging puzzle with several steps. I basically have to use an antigrav beam to get a crate from a platform I can’t jump to.  There’s a button for an antigrav beam and a button for an orange gel (speed-up) dispenser, but only one crate. I first have to use the crate to keep orange gel spilling from a pipe, and stand on the antigrav button as I cart the gel on to a ramp, and then put the crate on the antigrav button so I can jump off the ramp into a beam that carries me to a faraway exit.  As I exit, Wheatley jokes that we will love this surprise to death. I pass through a corridor that I have to use white gel to cross into new level. Wheatley says that there are three more puzzles until the surprise, and cackles dramatically evilly. There’s a reversible antigrav beam and blue gel around this time, as well a three unreachable turrets. I have to drop blue gel on turrets by dropping it into an antigrav beam, and then reversing the beam to push the gel through a portal above the turrets. When the gel drops on the turrets, they got flying.  I then use the same antigrav beam to drop me on the blue gel to bounce out.

At the start of the next level, Glados says she can get me out soon. I get into a level with a crate bouncing up and down and a catapult facing it. I get on the catapult, but it flings me wrong way into antigrav stream out of the testing room. As I’m trapped in the beam, Wheatley says he found two robots to test with so he doesn’t need me anymore. Glados reveals that these are robots she made to test collaborative tests. The  beam antigravs me onto a platform surrounded by spiked plates ready to crush me. Wheatley is ranting about how he’ll kill me, but then white gel falls on my platform and and I portal out to a corridor before he crushes me. I run out into back area and have to do a couple of momentum portals to get past the broken corridors and smashed areas. I load a new part to start running down a metal corridor when it’s blocked by a big white thing. Glados says it’s a trap but we have to keep going. GOING WHERE? For a few minutes, I don’t see anywhere to go. Oh I see it – there’s an opening in the ceiling revealing a white wall. I portal there and then run into a new room where I’m surrounded by turrets. It turns out that they are crap turrets though so they don’t shoot.

I leave the room out and go onto the next metal hallway.  The hallway faces a room containing turrets that do work. There’s an antigrav ray in the room, and portal it around to catch all the turrets in the beam and throw them around. Once the turrets are done, I adjust the antigrav beam to carry me into a new room over a lake. I have to dive off the beam before hitting the blades in the far wall, dying once from mistiming my dive. I initiate another antigrav  beam over the next chasm, dodging spike plate (after dying a couple of times figuring it out) by creating a lower beam going the opposite way. These leads to a neat next part with ten turrets shooting at me from a separate room where I have to  channel blue gel into a big wall next to them to knock them all down. It’s a nice shooting gallery. I catapult to a corridor to a next section. This is a new room with tubes of explosives outside. A button releases the explosives from the tube and I then have to portal them into a white gel tube to break it open and escape. The next room is cut across by a conveyor belt, but once I get on it , Wheatley turns the belt into a death trap. I use explosives again to break orange gel and spray it on conveyor to run the wrong way on the belt and escape. The whole time, Wheatley saying I should die here rather than face him in his lair. In the next room, I  have to use orange gel from before again to build up momentum to run into air to get to antigrav beam. We float over to a new area. Glados mentions that she knows that I think she’ll betray me, but she says now she seriously won’t. She thinks something’s wrong with her, that she’s heard voices all her life. I don’t know that I believe her yet.  We arrive back in the shaft where I first plugged Wheatley into the machine, and now I plug Glados back in and we begin to rise to what is undoubtedly the final fight.

The next room I arrive at is the final boss, Wheatley on Glados’s body.  He has metal shields on a a series of arms and watched how I beat Glados, and so won’t repeat the same mistakes. The basic structure is that Wheatley throws bombs at me and has plates to protect him from bombs arranged in a pattern. I have to portal bombs back on him to a place where he’s not defended. Once he’s stunned, Glados generates a new core to attach to him, and once he has enough different cores, he’ll be corrupt enough to provoke a control challenge. The first core is obsessed with space, the second core is adventure-y  and bold, and the third spews bad facts. Each one is slightly harder to get, and slightly hard to place on Wheatley. The fight is kind of formulaic and repetitive, but has just enough variety to remain interesting. Once I get all three core on Wheatley, he’s corrupted and there’s a new battle for control. The control override button reappears but as I approach it, it blows up.  I’m thrown to a CS (only the second of the game) where I see my hands in front of me. This is a very odd moment given the game has never used a CS this way before. I’m not dead and Wheatley is amazed. I CS get the portal gun back and regain control. The base is falling apart as Wheatley and Glados scream and threaten. A hole in the roof opens up and shows a full  white moon. I take a chance and portal the moon and it works. Everything is getting sucked into space and I’m holding on to Wheatley to keep from flying off. As Wheatley pleads with me, Glados sends an arm out to cut off Wheatley, sending him spinning into space. The arm catches me and brings me back.

We fade to black and come back to me in an elevator looking the two cooperative robots from the other mode and at Glados returned. Glados talks to me again, and it’s by far the best Glados writing in the game. It returns completely to the love/hate ambivalence of the first Portal. Glados says she’s realizes that she’s my best friend. She sees how Caroline changed her to feel things and thus deletes Caroline. She then says she wants to punish me but I’m too hard to kill, so instead she’ll just take the easiest route — giving me what I want and letting me go. The elevator goes up to a set of turrets aiming at me, but they don’t shoot.  Instead they play a little song. I continue up past more turrets until reach a huge room filled with turrets all making a little symphony. It’s quite cute. After watching that for a few moments, the elevator continues up to the top and I exit to a field of yellow wheat and a bright sun. I turn to see a small shed close its door, and then the door quickly reopens to deposit a scorched and battered companion cube on the ground. We cut to a closing credit with a new song – funny but nothing can ever touch “Still Alive” to me. And that’s Portal 2. Good game overall, and certainly not the disappointment I thought it would be.

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