Portal 2 marks Valve’s triumphant return to Aperture Science. The original Portal had the element of surprise. Its style of first-person physics-based puzzle gameplay was unique. GLaDOS, the murderous robotic villain, was new and vibrant and evil in the most charming way.
From the first moments of waking up in the rusting Aperture Science facility to right before the credits roll, Portal 2 rarely falters. The world is bigger, the story thicker, and the character development more surprising.
You still play as Chell, dragged back into Aperture after the events of the first game. You soon meet Wheatley, a spherical robot, voiced by Stephen Merchant (The Ricky Gervais Show, Extras) who helps you through the early stages. It’s difficult to overstate how Merchant’s obvious enthusiasm for the role benefits the game. No word Wheatley speaks is without witty inflection, and the consistently clever writing perfectly complements the onscreen action. It’s easy to be be just as concerned about missing lines of dialogue as about progressing through the puzzles, especially during Wheatley and GLaDOS’ verbal sparring matches.
The original Portal benefited from its brevity. It had a concise story paired with inventive first-person puzzle mechanics that challenged you to be creative while pulling the trigger. Portal 2 makes the original look like the prototype it was. It’s filled with a larger cast of characters vividly brought to life through brilliant writing and some of the best voice acting in video games. Its puzzles are challenging without being unreasonable, and, once you’re finished with the single-player mode, one of the best co-operative experiences on the market awaits. Valve cuts no corners and finds ways to make you care about everything from the major characters to the cubes used to solve puzzles. From the beginning of the single-player story to the end of the co-op mode, Portal 2 is a novel, unforgettable experience.