Portal 2 in the test - the trophy for the portal
The cake may have been a lie in the first portal , but the follow-up game is the pure, delicious truth. And at the same time one of the most creatively challenging continuation projects that a game developer can do. Because the predecessor was still a small, fine, surprising puzzle snack, Valve Portal 2 developed it as an independent full-price game, with a story lasting a good twelve hours and a new co-op multiplayer mode.
The beloved low-budget indie was stretched to blockbuster format - sounds like a recipe for disaster, but went surprisingly well. Portal 2 builds on the foundation of its predecessor with some brilliant new puzzle elements, sends us through a variety of tricky test rooms, gives insights into the outside world and explains the history of Aperture Science with a few story twists.
Getting started: Every start is easy
The portal, which was published in 2007 as part of the Orange Box , was a test chamber game in which we fought our way through a series of rooms in the role of the human test rabbit Chell under the watchful eye of Artificial Intelligence GLaDOS.
The use of the portal cannon, a wormhole-producing device from the laboratories of the Aperture Science company located in the Half-Life Story universe, was of central importance. Portals can be created on certain areas through which one can walk, fall or use them as pass-throughs for other objects. Portal hopping really gains in appeal through realistic physics. Through a deep fall into a portal, we collect enough momentum to shoot out at the other wormhole end with sufficient karacho and thus to jump over gaping abysses. These basic principles are quickly taught to beginners in the first rooms of Portal 2, before additional components are added, which combine to create breathtaking puzzle constructs as the game progresses. That also wrests awe from portal professionals.
The story: GLaDOS returns
All the puzzling and tinkering is held together by a story divided into ten chapters, which offers a good rhythm of the game. There is no shortage of puzzle test chambers, but Portal 2 repeatedly interrupts them through action events and even a trip outside the sterile laboratories. The portal odyssey begins with the fact that we are suddenly awakened from a deep stasis sleep - a few centuries late.
Aperture Science is deserted and in an advanced state of decay. The droid Wheatley, who is responsible for the welfare of the guinea pigs, offers himself as an escape helper. The neurotic, nervous, hectically babbling robot leads us through the first light puzzle rooms, in which we quickly capture our only tool, the portal cannon. Then Wheatley looks for a shortcut to get us out of the building faster, accidentally pressing a few locks too many. The result: GLaDOS is being revived - the uncanny artificial intelligence that we believed to have defeated at the end of the previous game. And which is incredibly resentful: she wants to test us for the rest of our lives!
The campaign: long and versatile
But do not worry, it is not tedious and monotonous in Portal 2. GLaDOS serves us 22 new test rooms, "almost like in old times" and enriched with the first additional puzzle elements, but the versatile story has surprises in store.
A story twist in the middle of the game is associated with a welcome, two-chapter change of environment. Escaping the test chambers, we research Aperture Science's industrial and research facilities. They are deserted, but the voice of the past is Aperture founder Cave Johnson, known from the inventions commercials, whose voice recordings are played when we enter a new area - a touch of organic shock . Johnson not only makes all sorts of more or less funny tumor humor comments about experiments and side effects; Through his monologues, we also learn how Aperture Science came under the control of a computer intelligence. This makes the previously very abstract portal universe a little more tangible. As pleasant as the breadth of these "outer levels" is for the eye, they have one disadvantage: there are a few places where discovering the next goal or exit to the hidden object game degenerates. By pressing the middle mouse button we can zoom in order to see some portal placement areas hidden in the distance. This is not an impossibility, but a bit tedious.
The claim: tough, but fair
In the course of the portal odyssey, Valve continually introduces new design elements and introduces them to the player, in order to then combine them with established objects and rules. This increases the average puzzle complexity compared to the predecessor, without the difficulty level being driven into painful areas.
Good sign: If you hang in one place and only after a long pondering (or help of a dear fellow human) comes on the funnel, the typical reaction is an enlightened "Aaah!" And not an insensitive "huh?", The creativity and logic Thanks to the challenges posed. The extensive avoidance of situations that require extreme control precision, such as the hairy jump sequences of the predecessor, also has a frustrating effect.
The innovations: Gel hoch 3
By far the most ingenious innovation of Portal 2 are three colored gels, which were developed in the experimental kitchens of Aperture Science. We can't take the Glibber with us, but there are plenty of levels where the gels drip from tubes.
Through portals they are forwarded to all possible corners and ends, where they permanently color a surface and thereby change its physical properties. The blue repulsion gel makes objects jump, the red propulsion gel ensures ice-like smoothness, and the white conversion gel allows portals to be placed. Of course, physics comes into play; Where exactly the gel flowing through a portal splashes depends on the angle of incidence. This game element allows for some adorable puzzles, and on top of that, flicking around with the color is irrationally fun. When we have to manage the conversion gel in one level so that two towers are recolored to place a portal at a sufficient height, we cannot hold back and try to whitewash the area as far as possible. This is comparable to the childish joy that playing around with physics objects triggered when Half-Life 2 appeared .
The puzzles: tricky, tricky, portal
The versatility of the tractor beams should not be underestimated. These bluish shimmering energy lifts also wander through portals and shape many puzzles in the last third of the game. The rays carry objects they have captured, which can be used, for example, to weigh down a red button on the ceiling with a cube. Tractor jets are also used to spread gels and to transport our character; some levels also contain switches that can be used to reverse their direction. The light barriers can also be combined with portals, which provide helpful protective walls against self-firing systems and make remote areas accessible as walkable bridges, provided that we lay the portals appropriately so that we do not plop into the void.
Many level outputs only open in Portal 2 when a certain number of prisms have been electrified by the addition of laser beams. To match, there are new mirror cubes that we place so that the lasers reflect at the desired angles. Particularly satisfying: Braise away one of the annoying turrets by setting it on fire with a laser beam. We also make big leaps with the catapult fields that throw us through the air in a certain direction.
The problem: lack of assistance
Despite all the love for the quality and variety of the puzzle design, the absence of any kind of help function or choice of difficulty is unpleasant. Anyone stuck in one place is reliant on cheating on the Internet; it would be nicer if you could call up at least cryptic clues within the game.
On the other hand, something like a challenge mode is missing in order to have an incentive to tackle the puzzles again after playing through them successfully. As a consolation there is the new co-op mode, which contains a good portion of additional puzzle rooms that have been specially designed for teamwork by two players. Valve suggests that different types of additional content for Portal 2 could be offered for download, but first wants to wait for players to react before making any concrete plans.
The humor: lonely tip!
Portal 2 is also powered by a refurbished version of the aging source engine. The graphics are always nicer and more varied than the sterile, often claustrophobic chambers of the predecessor, but new PC technology standards are not set. The graphic effort is completely sufficient for the game principle and atmosphere. The physics effects in connection with portals and new puzzle elements have been very successful; Details like the realistic gels splashing around are more significant for this type of game than the latest graphic effects achievements.
Humor and atmosphere were the fun trump cards from Portal. The successor is more extensive and varied, but sometimes just louder and not necessarily coherent. Wheatley is spoken in the English language version (which you can also choose from the German version) by the English comedian Stephen Merchant, who once invented the BBC television series The Office with Ricky Gervais. In contrast to GLaDOS, his voice is not alienated. The Droid Wheatley does not sound like a droid, but like Stephen Merchant: very fast, largely funny, but strictly misjudged. In the German dubbing, this is even more negative without a celebrity vote bonus. For a few more laughs, Valve sacrificed some atmosphere here. The best sayings still go to the account of GLaDOS, whose sarcasm module has survived the transfer to Portal 2 very well. By action standards, the game is remarkably intelligent and humorous. But you shouldn't expect a new running gag from the cult caliber of “The Cake is a lie”.
Portal 2 may have lost some of its charm and freshness of surprise when it was promoted to a full-price product, but has otherwise grown in all areas. The added puzzle elements give the still fascinating portal game principle a new dimension, the single player campaign is more substantial and motivating than in the predecessor, and the co-op mode with its additional levels is the icing on the cake. No kidding.
Co-op mode: double the fun
Portal 2's co-op mode offers around 40 additional levels, specially designed for two players who take on the role of the cute droids Atlas and P-body. You meet your partner in a central area and then - accompanied by the usual cynical GLaDOS comments - enter one of six test tracks. If you play through to the exit, the next (more difficult) area is unlocked.
Compared to the familiar solo game, a little rethinking is required, the first route familiarizes us with the special features. Each player can create their own portal pair and should not be selfish. Most puzzles are designed so that you have to help each other; only then can both participants reach the exit. So you reach dice over obstacles, press switches at the same time or use control panels to clear the way for your partner. If one of the two droids suffers an accident - including cheerful animation - it will be put back together quickly and the level progress will not be lost. It only becomes painful for the other player if vital partner portals or associated light bridges disappear through the death of the buddy.
Keeping track of things is not as difficult as it might seem at first. The outlines of all portals can always be seen through walls. There is also a partner view especially for the co-op mode: Hold down the TAB key and a window appears at the bottom right of the screen that shows the current perspective of our partner. With the F key we use the ping tool, which can be used to mark a specific position for the competitor. This should allow the interaction to work without voice communication. Groping through a level with a Steam random acquaintance using hint symbols is not the ideal way of playing.
Coop mode is most beautiful when you can talk to a friend and discuss puzzle solutions together. Not to mention the Schadenfreude bonus if the partner suffers one of the many original droid deaths, be it with or without our intervention.