PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC
This "first-person puzzler" was set in the Half-Life game world, albeit localized in a new Aperture Science laboratory, and featured a deadpan sense of black humour, a much-loved theme song, "Still Alive," and, of course, its award-winning titular game design.
Portal was rooted in the physics-busting technology of a student-made game called Narbacular Drop, which enabled the entrance and exit of a connected portal to be placed anywhere in the game. In hindsight, it's an obvious game mechanic, but nobody had coded it before ― that ingenuity got the development team hired by Valve to make what would become Portal. Then they set to work on the sequel.
As one expects from an additional numeral, Portal 2 returns with a beefed-up (if still relatively slight) single-player campaign set a few hundred years after the original, with you trying again to escape the now decayed App Science Labs. There's far more of a story this time, and they also added a totally separate co-op campaign with its unique plot.
There are some new physics-upending features ― taken from another student game, Tag: The Power of Paint, which uses gels to increase speed, bounce and other properties. Of course, they could also now afford some fantastic celeb voice work by Stephen Merchant (The Office, Extras) and character actor J.K. Simmons (the Spider-Man franchise's J. Jonah Jameson). Oh, and for good measure, Valve threw in a new song from the National.
But they still knew what made the original such a hit: cake-promising A.I. computer GLaDOS returns in all her psychopathic glory, as does the deadpan dialogue, co-scripted by Canadian Jay Pinkerton, and, of course, the fiendishly clever and impeccably polished portal-based puzzles that you must suss out while being run through what amounts to a rat maze.
The original soared high on the wings of zero expectations, but was akin to Nirvana's Bleach. And since the day it came out, we've been waiting for Nevermind. Portal 2 isn't quite there, more like In Utero or perhaps Unplugged in New York. It's an artistic triumph, to be sure, if not necessarily a revolution-starter.
But where most sequels are a case of creative bankruptcy, Portal 2's success should encourage further investment in experimental game design in hopes of eventual commercial rewards, as well as instant critical acclaim. (Valve/EA)
ReviewsJun 12, 2015
LEGO: Jurassic WorldMultiplatform
The modern Lego game era began a decade ago with Lego Star Wars, which parlayed the early viral success of stop-motion "Legomation" shorts o...
ReviewsJun 04, 2015
The Witcher 3: Wild HuntPC, PS4, XB1
There's a certain meta-relief to exploring The Witcher 3 and discovering that the hype — including the absurd stat of over 200 awards ...
ReviewsMay 29, 2015
Multiplayer shooters and Nintendo have never quite matched up, even back when third-party games like Call of Duty bothered to port their eff...
ReviewsMay 05, 2015
Wolfenstein: Old BloodPS4, XB1, PC
Indiana Jones' indelible gripe "Nazis; I hate these guys" was one I once shared as a gamer. Early gaming relied too heavily on our WWII Euro...
ReviewsApr 21, 2015
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: ChinaPS4, XB1, PC
Much like blockbuster movies, triple-A games have gotten bigger in recent years. While this can still result in great pop-cultural products,...
ReviewsMar 03, 2015
HelldiversPS4, PS3, Vita
Top-down shooters are enjoying a renaissance as Helldivers joins the download-only ranks of Super Stardust Ultra, the '70s-set LA Cops and t...
ReviewsFeb 23, 2015
Nintendo 3DS XL
The Wii U may be losing the now-gen console war (though seriously, you guys, it's a pretty good machine with really good games) but Nintendo...
ReviewsFeb 20, 2015
Kirby and the Rainbow CurseWii U
It's easy to like the hot singles off an album, but hardcore fans live for the deep cuts. So consider Kirby a Nintendo deep cut, a character...