Geek Out: Portal 2

FYI: If you blog with any kind of consistency and you also have played any part of Portal 2 you are obligated by the Internet Code of Geekery to gush about it on your blog in at least one entry.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Geek Out, and since during my first play session my wife said she could almost see the waves of geeky excitement emanating from my grinning face, I figured I should write about Portal 2 (plus there’s the rule I cited above).

GEEK | WHAT

Portal 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed puzzle game Portal. You play Chell, the same test subject from the last game. Chell is a silent woman forced into the life of a human lab rat by the gleefully malevolent Aperture Science. The first game had Chell square off against a smarmy computer named Glados, the AI that controlled the testing facility. They were the only two characters in the game. Portal 2 expands the cast and so far (no I haven’t finished it just yet), the new characters have been excellent additions. The basic premise revolves around portals. You have a portal gun that shoots a blue portal and an orange portal. These portals can only be opened on certain surfaces, which means you have to use your brain to figure out how to navigate the test chambers. Portal 2 brings the portal gun back and a slew of other environmental devices and gadgets that make for even trickier test chambers.

GEEK | WHY

Normally I do a bullet list of the best things about the game in this section, but I can’t bring myself to chop it up into little concise bites. I love everything about Portal 2. I read a few early reviews, careful to avoid spoilers, and saw some critics toss out the word masterpiece. That’s a bold claim, but it’s true. It’s so true!

The writing is brilliant! It’s marvelously witty and perfectly paced. Starting the game with a character voiced by Stephen Merchant was a delightful surprise. What I like about his character is that it’s a bit of him. He’s not just some celebrity voice they pulled in to play a robot. They let Stephen Merchant be Stephen Merchant, in silly robot form. His early game banter had me laughing out loud, which is something I don’t do often when playing single player video games.

I realized during the first few levels that good sarcasm is lacking in games these days. I’m not sure if it’s because developers are nervous that it will go over the heads of their target audience, or because some game writers can’t pull it off. Probably a mix of the two.

Valve knows their audience. They know who’s playing Portal 2. None of the witty dialog is over explained or repeated for the benefit of every dumb idiot gripping the controller. You don’t get that “we want to make sure everyone gets it” feeling you get from other AAA games. The same goes for the level design. Each puzzle is presented with little hand holding, which means you’ll feel like a genius every time you solve one.

I’d love to show you a video of the witty, wonderful Portal 2 in action, but I really believe this is a game that should go unspoiled. Avoid reviews, trailers and YouTube videos. Just know that this game is great, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, you should.

GEEK | WHO

If you like smart writing and challenging puzzles, you’ll like this game. If you liked the first Portal, you’ll love Portal 2—it’s more of what you loved, plus some extra awesome on top. If you didn’t play the first game, you don’t need to play it to enjoy this one, but I highly recommend that you do. You can get it cheap and it’s only like three and a half hours. It’s a tightly paced, enjoyable experience that acts as a great primer for the sequel.

GEEK | HOW

Portal 2 is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. If you buy the Playstation 3 version new (as I did) you can sync it to your Steam account and redeem a free copy of the game on PC, which is an awesome bonus. Unfortunately, the Playstation Network is down right now, so you’ll have to wait till it’s fixed to claim your free PC copy.