An indie sci-fi project becomes a huge cult hit and eventually leads to the production of a highly anticipated blockbuster sequel. Sound familiar? This scenario could describe the 1991 flick “Terminator 2” and now “Portal 2” -- the sequel to a low budget game originally slated as a bonus feature in Valve’s “Orange Box" collection.
The Terminator’s Lil’ Sis
The comparisons between James Cameron’s futuristic action flicks and Valve’s first-person puzzler don’t end there. Both feature robotic villains who are card carrying members of the Intelligent Machines-Gone-Wild club, hell-bent on the destruction of a human who represents a threat to their authority.
But while the Schwarzenegger-faced cyborgs from James Cameron’s sci-fi series can be described as stoic, humorless machines single-minded in purpose, GLaDOS, the viciously funny A.I. out for vengeance in “Portal 2” is the opposite. She’s more like the Terminator’s annoying little sister.
The voice GLaDOS uses sounds distinctly female. It would rather toy with protagonist Chell by running her through a series of exhausting trials and tribulations rather than going straight for the kill. It’s even both chatty and catty -- frequently bombarding you with quippy
barbs about your outfit or weight like a robotic TMZ host at the Oscars.
GlaDoS and the rest of the small cast of cybernetic beings in “Portal 2” contain more personality in their circuits than the flesh-and-blood characters in most games -- and it’s part of the reason why Valve’s new first-person action-puzzle game stands as a towering achievement in gaming. When games intentionally try to be laugh-out-loud funny, it doesn’t usually work. But “Portal 2” is often hilarious without trying to be a comedy.
“That suit looks stupid on you,” GLaDOS says with a dose of snark after you complete a test early in the game. “I’m not just saying that, it’s in your file.”
Fun With Portals
The gameplay of “Portal 2” hasn’t changed drastically from the original, but that’s a good thing. Once again you navigate the treacherous world of Aperture Science’s vast facilities brandishing only a Portal Gun -- which you use not to fire holes into your opponents, but to shoot dimension-bending portals into walls, ceilings and floors in order warp instantly from one place to another.
Some of the familiar puzzle elements return -- auto gun turrets, floating platforms and pressure pads -- along with new elements like gels with special effects and light-bending bridges that add to the variety. Some of the puzzles are fairly obvious, and others are
head-scratchers, but none of them seem impossible to solve -- which is a credit to the game’s designers.
Portal 2’s eight to nine hour single player campaign is probably enough to earn the price of admission, but the game also features an innovative two-player cooperative mode with a story totally separate from the solo game. Playing as one of two GLaDOS created robots brings in a teamwork dynamic and new kinds of challenges considering there are four active portals at once instead of two.
Like “Terminator 2,” the sequel to “Portal” takes a brilliant idea planted in the original and makes everything bigger, badder and better.
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