I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand it is a solid piece of engineering and those ten hours I spent with it were fun, if annoying at times. Yet remembering how revolutionary the first Portal was, it’s hard not to blame Portal 2 for its lost potential. A bigger budget and a bigger team, but the result is an uninspired sequel riding on the popularity of the original.
The story in the first Portal , and the progression of environments made sense. First you where a test subject, then you escaped and made your own way around the facility to finally fight GLaDOS. Hints that something was off with Aperture were subtle and built tension. The length was just right, you could complete it in one breathtaking sitting.
In Portal 2 you simply “follow the rail” as the helpful robot with an awful British accent (and forced humor) tells you. References to the original are in-your-face, everything lacks subtlety or any kind of suspense. At least puzzles rise up in difficulty nicely, if a bit slowly. It’s hard to get used to hand-holding popups and NPCs suggestions though. It’s a puzzle game, I want to figure this stuff out, OK?
Sure, the visuals are nicer, but that doesn’t really add anything to the game play. Unfortunately from the technology point of view Portal 2 has a major flaw: the loading screens. Loading between levels takes longer than in the original and there are now immersion-destroying separate loading screens. Both chase sequences in the game are also broken up with the loading screens. The funny thing is: elevators are still here. Yep, Portal 2 has both an elevator and a loading screen between levels.
Ultimately it’s just more of the same. Portal 2 doesn’t push any boundaries, it’s a high fidelity bonus pack to Portal. Sadly it’s nowhere near as important as the first Portal. You can go to Portal Memories to explore interesting environments or to Portal Pro for some real challenge.
Funny thing is that I’ve seen this before. It’s the same kind of thing that happened to BioShock. It was supposed to be a worthy successor to System Shock 2. Developers of both Portal 2 and BioShock made the game accessible to a wide audience. Both games achieved the same level of “critical acclaim” (top spot on metacritic in their year of release). Yet both lost the soul of its predecessor.
If you’re looking for a spiritual successor then it’s clearly somewhere else.