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Portal 2: Final Smack

Portal 2 is certainly a good game. Were it on its own as a standalone property, it would be a solid, interesting and fun game. It’s a game by Valve and the quality shows. However, as a follow-up to Portal, it doesn’t quite live up. It tries hard, but on one hand it lacks the creativity and charm of the original, and on the other hand the puzzles for most of the game don’t really deliver on the promise of the next step beyond in terms of using portals in puzzles. I enjoyed the game, but it wasn’t the breathless, wide-eyed amazement and obsession that the first game inspired. It might have been too much to hope for, but if you put the name Portal on the game, that’s what you’re aiming at it. Details within.


– The game is a significant visual improvement over the previous one. There is a lot of attention to clever moments of visual narrative, detail on objects, and panoramic views. It’s a beautifully surreal environment with lots of wonderful elements to see from start to finish.

– The new gameplay elements are well-introduced and well-chosen. Every feature in the game feels like it belongs. Each is introduced in a natural and intuitive way. It’s amazing how seamlessly you walk through new environments and figure out totally unexplained elements and solutions without even realizing that you were lead to them.  Portal exemplifies the way a game can direct and teach you complex things without you even realizing its complexity.

– Even if they are not as challenging as you want, many of the puzzles are fun. Given that you’re not told what to do, there is a simple satisfaction to figuring out how to exploit the physics of the game to get though a puzzle. And many of the interactions are purely fun to experience. There is nothing like flying through a portal from a huge drop to find oneself careering across the room.

– When they get the characters right, the game is hilarious. There are good new characters that get some great lines, and the return of some old material that’s priceless. It isn’t consistently great, but there are moments that make the ride worth it. The end in particular hits close to the heights of the original game.


– There’s a kind of perfunctory quality to the early levels. I know they need to introduce the core elements to new players, but the early level design feels like they have a checklist of essential Portal elements and they are just ticking them off from level to level.  The game takes too long to get challenging, and there are too few challenging levels in the game as a whole. You can’t help feeling that the game could have gone a step further in originality and difficulty of puzzle design.

– The core structure of the game gets quite redundant with the testing metaphor. By the fifth or six SEQUENCE of levels set up with the same formula, it gets old. The game goes on about a fifth too long in my opinion. It’s not even that the puzzles themselves are bad; it’s just that you have to jump through the same hoop so many times that you start getting tired of jumping through it. More variety in structure would have made the puzzles shine much better.

– The narrative is mixed. For every very funny point, there’s a point where the game tries too hard. None of it is cringeworthy, but there are moments where they make too obvious a joke or push a joke too far. I also don’t think the conversational mode of the game between the NPCs works as well as Glados just talking to you does.


Portal 2 is very good and worth playing. Valve does not disappoint in terms of gameplay. If you like Portal, you should buy it and finish it. But don’t expect it to be Portal. It’s not as good. This isn’t to say it ruins the first game or becomes a disappointment, but it just proves once again how amazing the original game was that a very good sequel doesn’t come close to living up to it. Portal 2 does try too hard in some places to be funny and it doesn’t give you the hardcore puzzles you expect as someone who has completed the first game and is looking for a challenge, but it’s intuitive and fun and expands the core mechanic well, and thus it’s worth a full play.

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