The original Portal was a unique twist on the first person shooter/adventure genre. Bundled with "The Orange Box", Portal used a unique blend of storytelling and puzzle solving to become a critical success. Portals successor, the aptly named Portal 2, introduces new characters to the series, intriguing new ways to solve puzzles, and a one of a kind, cross platform co op experience. All of these elements add up to a sequel that not only meets, but surpasses the bar set by its predecessor while simultaneously vaulting to the top of the 2011 game of the year discussion.
In the original Portal, you played as Chell, a test subject who ran through a maze of puzzles put together by an A.I. called GLADOS, who was dilligently "testing" the players ability to get from one side of a puzzle map, to the next. These puzzles were solved by using a weapon, so to speak, called the portal gun. Weilding this gun allowed the player to shoot up to two portals, each forming a window by which the player could instantly teleport through to the opposite portal. Using this formula, the player is able to move around a series of maps to get from one side to the other using boxes, avoiding turrets, and clearing a myriad of obstacles to reach their destination.
Portal 2 keeps this same formula mainly intact. You still wield the same gun, and can only shoot up to two portals, however, this time you are afforded some different tools for completing each stage. The biggest addition is that of new gels. There are two main kinds of gel found in Portal 2, red and blue. The red gel increases speed while the blue gel turns the ground into a super bouncy floor of fun. When combined, both gels add to the complexity of Portal, without making your endeavors seem frustratingly impossible.
The apparent ability to seem more complex without becoming a headache is an area where Portal 2 shines. The puzzles start out rather easy and the difficulty ramps up at a slow, but fair pace. This places the player feeling an astonishing sense of accomplishment when a puzzle is bested, without making them pull their hair out after multiple failures.
Another great addition is co op. This mode can be played online, or in a split screen format, and puts two people in control of a set of testing robots. One of the more unique items surrounding the co op is the ability to log into your Steam account, which previously could only be done on the PC. The player can create a Steam account at the main screen of the Playstation 3 Portal 2 menu or simply log into their existing account from the same screen. When logged in, the player can quickly access a list of their Steam friends, and invite them into a session of Portal 2, regardless of whether they are playing the Playstation 3 or PC version of the game. The players each have two portals (making four total), that must be used in conjunction to solve a similar set of puzzles as in the single player. There are dedicated buttons that are used to communicate to your partner, such as a marker to explain where you would like a portal placed, and a count down timer to keep the two players working at the same time. These buttons are a perfect fit for the co op, and help move the game along without feeling obtrusive or unnecessary. With everything that was added, the ability to create custom stages would have set the title apart even more than it already is. While not imparative, we do have level editors in games such as Halo, and the upcoming Infamous 2, and this would have given Portal 2 an even greater sense of replayability.
Portal 2 expands on an already great formula by adding depth, story, complexity and a unique co op experience The game expands on what the original Portal did best, throwing puzzles at the player that are unique and challenging while also being fun and intuitive. The increased emphasis on the single player story is a great addition, and the co op mode is a solid joy to play with a buddy. The inability to create custom stages is one of the few shortcomings in an otherwise exemplary title. With all the additions that were made, Portal 2 makes its case as a strong contender for an early game of the year nomination.