Pre-Game of the Year 2011: Part 5
The final pre-game candidate is an amazing first-person experience which reintroduces an iconic villain to the series and adds some amazing new features. Obviously, I’m talking about the impressive first-person puzzler Portal 2. You may, at this point, be wondering why there is an obvious Skyrim-esque void in this list. With a playtime of about six hours thus far, I felt it a bit unfair to include it. For the record, from what I’ve played of it, Skyrim was one of the best games I played last year. Now, let’s travel back in time to 2007 when Valve gave the world the wonderful gift that was Portal.
If you told me that a puzzle game you can beat within about four hours would be among my favorite video games of all time before I played Portal, I would have called you crazy. The thing is, sometimes it’s hard to strike a good balance with the different elements in a game. You either end up with an awesome story that’s a chore to play or a fun game with very little pushing it forward. At the risk of making an awful Goldy Locks reference here, Portal had a mixture that was just right.
A simple concept when you think about it, you’ve got a gun that shoots two different portals. Once both are placed on a surface, you can travel from one to the other. Add some creepy turret robots, a whole lot of deadly water and a strangely lovable cube and you’ve got a formula for an incredibly fun experience. While all of these things made this game both mind-bending and thrilling, that is only one part of this perfect recipe.
Once again, like the rest of this title, the story seems pretty straightforward. You are a test subject for the portal gun that is being led through a number of tests. All of this seems fine as you go through each of the testing areas, but there’s something slightly off that you can’t quite put your finger on. Just when you’re ready to accept the premise for what it is, you find a wall panel that is slightly askew, just enough for you to fit inside. What you find are the scribblings of another test subject, driven to madness.
The atmosphere in the game is perfectly crafted to give you a sense of both the sterility of the test environment and the hidden insanity that lurks within. The writing is some of the best I’ve ever experience in gaming and the voice work pulls it off in spades. Sadly any concept, given enough time, can grow a little stale. Portal does not offer that chance as it can be completed, depending on the speed in which you solve the puzzles, in one sitting. It doesn’t feel like too much or too little and it doesn’t leave you feeling cheated.
WIth a game this amazing, I thought it would be impossible to properly craft a sequel that could live up to it. Thankfully, I was dead wrong once again. Portal 2 takes all of those concepts and brings them back. It doesn’t rely on old tricks to win players over and introduces several fun new elements to the puzzles to keep things fresh. It even features an awesome co-op mode which is almost as good as the single-player campaign. If you haven’t gotten the chance to player either one of these games, do yourself a favor and get your hands on them immediately. I’m not kidding, stop reading this and go. Now!