Test: Portal 2

I’ll get out of here.

50 days of hypersleep lie behind me – at least that’s what the voice tells me from the off, which then directs me past the bed to the picture on the wall. I am informed that this is art. Aha. “When you hear the buzzer, you admire the art,” is the request immediately followed by the famous quiz show sound. What am I supposed to do here? I don’t know. But there is no way out of the small living-sleeping room – the door remains locked. What remains is the invitation to the next nap, which obviously lasts longer. than 50 days. I wake up in the same room again, but everything seems rotten and run-down. How long was I away?

Answers are provided by the chatty AI core Wheatley, who will accompany me through the first test chambers of the run-down Aperture Science complex as a sidekick. Even the initial health check will make you smile: I’m supposed to nod the jump button and say the word apple shortly afterwards. It goes without saying that this does not work, which is immediately attributed to my suspected brain damage. “But you are a good jumper”, the AI encourages me afterwards with a wonderful, almost human facial expression. To make a long story short: Even this disturbingly and humorously staged introduction is simply great. And I have to mention portal 2 friends for fun 2011.

Ingenious game principle

Nothing has changed about the ingenious puzzle principle: With the help of the Portal Cannon, the first step is to master the challenges of the test chambers. With the help of the portals, not only are obstacles such as acid flows overcome, but laser beams are also diverted, thanks to physical laws one can be catapulted to undreamt-of heights or get rid of the cute but deadly robot guns. The dice are, of course, also in the game again – primarily to activate ground switches with their weight. A variation is a type of “discouraging deflection cube” with which the direction of laser beams can be changed.

But this is not the only innovation: with the help of light bridges, which can also be passed on and diverted through the portals, you can reach places that would otherwise not have been accessible. At the same time, if placed appropriately, they also serve as protective shields against laser salvos. The new energy tubes, with which you can transport yourself or objects in certain directions, function in a similar way. They can also be extended and diverted in interaction with the portals. The coolest innovation, however, are the three gel variations: If blue gel is on the floor, you hip much higher, for example – or breathe objects like

They introduce movement when they are sprayed. The orange gel, on the other hand, accelerates the movement when you glide over it. Last but not least, the white gel allows the setting of portals where it would otherwise not have been possible.

Think around the corner

The art of handling the gel lies not only in transporting it to the desired place with the portals, but also in combining it meaningfully with each other, whereby all other possibilities should also be considered in this context. A simple example: With the help of the transport tubes one transports a beautiful load of the orange gel and lets it clap on the floor when a portal is switched off – and the “acceleration strip” is ready. But that alone won’t get me over the abyss at the end. So I redirect the dripping blue gel with the two portals to the end of the strip and build a ski jump with which I reach the other side together with the fast approach. New features like this enrich the gameplay enormously and make the puzzles even more complex.

One should not be deceived by the introduction: The first portals are not yet activated from a distance with the cannon, but manually with a switch. The puzzles of the first hour can then be solved accordingly easily. As with the predecessor, one is gently accustomed to “thinking with portals”. Once the cannon is back in your possession, you may shoot only one of the two portals – but the complete upgrade won’t be long in coming. It remains fair and logically comprehensible even later with all the playful additions.

You can’t go on?!

However, there are a few exceptions that can be frustrating – when you’ve worked out a solution that would work, but hasn’t been considered by the level designers. In one section, for example, I have to get a cubus down from a bridge in order to continue. In my infinite

Wisdom, I have come up with a plan how I could jump on the bridge with a combination of free fall and skilful setting of portals. The first ten attempts ended in a deadly abyss, but at some point I actually reached my goal.

I stood on the bridge and held the coveted cube in my hands until I wanted to take it back to the ground, where strangely enough only I landed. The cube, on the other hand, was still on the bridge. What had happened? An invisible wall kept me from taking the object, although it would have worked. However, the designers planned for me to get the good piece by diverting an energy tube – an approach that didn’t occur to me first and cost me many frustrating attempts on the wrong path.

Here I would have liked an optional help system just as much as in the extensive sections of the already somewhat tough middle section, where there are no classic test chambers with instruction boards or other support. Despite the zoom function for analyzing the scenery, you often feel lost here and have no idea how to proceed. As a result, one often wanders aimlessly through the area – why doesn’t the game offer an optional tip when it notices that it hasn’t been going ahead for more than ten minutes or that one is constantly following a wrong track? It wouldn’t have hurt, even if the satisfaction is of course greater if you manage it alone.

Sarcasm ftw

Fortunately, the frustrating random moments are the exception. The majority of the much more extensive campaign is simply fun to face the sometimes damn complex tasks. Successful

The other things that make this torch so special are the nice changes between test chambers, free exploration, escape and skill sequences as well as the few, but entertaining boss fights and traps. That’s all I want to tell you at this point.

And of course there is always the smug humor: Wheatley, for example, is too shy and doesn’t want you to watch him hack a door. That’s why he doesn’t continue until I turn around as requested. Besides he also brings many other funny sayings and wisdoms like “The people with the brain damage are the real heroes in the story”. To camouflage himself from GlaDOS, he also changes to a Swiss dialect at some point – delicious. By the way, the German voice might seem familiar to film connoisseurs as the dubbing voice of Brad Pitt, but the English original with its British accent has turned out even better.

This is also true for GlaDOS, who after her “sarcasm self-test” is in top form again and who unfortunately still pisses on the mute leading actress, teases her and, among other things, raises her because of her weight – and that doesn’t go down well with women in particular, as we all know. In addition to the nasty, but incredibly amusing sayings, there is also a wonderful situation comedy, for example when you have just escaped from a trap and the malicious AI asks me to simply go back, jump into the abyss and finally end the matter. Tip: Just do it!

Back to the past

The test chambers are still the heart of the campaign and I still like them best, but it’s still nice that the game in the middle section opens up a bit more and that the visit to the old facility coincides with a visit to the new one.

allows a glimpse into the past of Aperture Science and its founder Cave Johnson. However, this part is too long and I couldn’t wait to return to the modern laboratory complex at some point.

So, that’s all I write now. Just let yourself be surprised what else awaits you. But it’s great. Oh what… it’s just awesome and in terms of humor, puzzles, scope and design it actually leaves its predecessor behind. Only technically the progress is limited, because apart from the more varied scenery Portal 2 doesn’t look much better than the first part. While the source engine on the 360 and PS3 performs about the same services, it leaves a better impression on the PC thanks to sharper textures and more chic lighting – but the great gaming fun is identical on all three platforms.

Bad bug

But one more thing about the campaign: When I was allowed to test the game at Valve in advance, I (and also other testers) came across an evil, replicable bug during the final battle, which leads to the fact that you can’t finish the game. Since it was already the gold version, the problem will probably only be fixed with a patch, at least on the consoles. Without unpacking the spoiler club now: Once you’ve got the last core, it’s best to put the portal on a wall or as far away from the boss as possible before the rain sets in. It must still be possible to set a portal using the white gel. If the bug occurs, the gel will be washed away and you won’t be able to use a portal anymore.

Coop pleasure

The campaign is already divine, but what the men around Chet Faliszek have worked out for the co-op mode is simply phenomenal! In about 20 separate levels, two players steer the cute robots P-body and Atlas through the crisp challenges that can only be mastered with teamwork. These you can approach them from a console in splitscreen as well as online or in LAN. PC and PS3 owners, in contrast to the 360 fraction, have the advantage that they can also set off together thanks to the Steam connection.

Compared to the solo campaign, the puzzles and requirements are much tougher here. In addition to the increased complexity, the right timing also plays an increasingly important role. For example, the push of a button to eject a cube has to be precisely adjusted so that the competitor catches it at the right moment while it is thrown through the air by devices. And that’s one of the easiest exercises compared to what’s waiting for confusing head nuts in the later stages. A big help is the gesture system, because besides the communication via headset you can mark every place on the screen with a bold icon and show the other player, for example, which switch to flip or where to find a cube – a wonderful visual support.

Madness in a duet

This also includes the countdown icon, which can also be conjured up on the screen at any time and is always useful if, for example, you want to

I have to push a button. But also the fun doesn’t come too short: With the time you unlock new gestures, with which you can e.g. slap yourself, play a round of Schnick-Schnack-Schnuck or just giggle cutely. Of course GlaDOS finds these jokes less funny and also has some nasty comments in store for the robot team to incite them against each other. Although officially no points are counted, she always gives them to one of the two players or notes that only one of them would really achieve something. Although she likes to repeat herself in her statements here, the teasing still makes you smile again and again.

I don’t know how you could have better crossed the co-op mode with the idea behind Portal. Although the level of difficulty becomes madness towards the end, the new multiplayer component is a great addition. However, the replay value is limited: Once you’ve solved all the puzzles, the motivation isn’t quite as great as it used to be to try again. At most, a few hidden rooms with the usual graffiti could serve as an incentive. Compared to the predecessor, however, the scope has been increased considerably: During our test session in Seattle, portal experts already saw the worthwhile credits after five hours, but I myself needed a few hours more and assume that the average player will also be busy for at least twice as long as with the predecessor.

Replenishment to come

PC users are also provided with an editor, but we haven’t been able to take a look at it yet. However, it should be clear by now that the future will look bright for fresh supplies, especially as Valve has already promised to promote creative level builders and provide a prominent stage for their content.

Cool: The user content will not be reserved for PC owners, but will also be made available to PS3 players thanks to Steam.

A bit more problematic will be the Xbox 360, where you will probably only compile download packages with selected content. Since Microsoft likes to earn money with DLCs, you can also expect that additional levels will cost something here in contrast to the PC – the two Left 4 Dead titles have already shown how the DLC bunny runs on the Xbox 360.

If you have all three platforms at home, you should definitely go for the PS3 version, because here you get a Steam download code for the PC and Mac version for free – a fine move from Valve! It’s just a shame that you didn’t think about an optional Move control, which would have been great here. But what is not, can still be…

CONCLUSION

Portal was already ingenious when it was published as a small encore to Half Life & Co in the Orange Box and turned out to be an innovative addict. Unfortunately, the escape from the Aperture Science labs was over much too quickly. With Portal 2, Valve is now following in my footsteps – and exceeding even my highest expectations: Puzzles and level design are the best I’ve seen in a long time! Especially the new elements like repulsion gels bring a breath of fresh air into the puzzle adventure and make for even harder brainteasers that can (almost) always be solved logically. The humor is also a class of its own, because both the chatterbox Wheatley and GlaDOS bring a smile to my face with their funny, biting, nasty and dry sayings. If you can accuse Portal 2 of anything at all, then it’s the somewhat too tough middle section, in which the game world opens up a bit, but maneuvers the player too much into supposed dead ends due to a lack of overview – an optional help system would have prevented this. But what I was completely thrilled about was the phenomenal co-op mode: If you go out together with P-body and Atlas in the separate campaign, you’ll really enjoy it, even if the thinking and timing challenges towards the end become extremely tight. But the feeling of success as a duo is twice as good! No matter if solo or together: Portal 2 is an absolute must for all puzzle fans and for me the highlight of the game year 2011 so far! Thank you for this great sequel, you designer geniuses at Valve!

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