There are many games that I hear good things about that I never end up playing. “Bioshock”, “Mass Effect”, “Skyrim”. But every time I look into these games, they are rated M for all kinds of naughty things, and I decide I don’t want to play them, no matter how much other people like them. And I might be missing out, but such games are often not my thing. (I watch “Andy Griffith” on TV, for crying out loud!) And then I kept hearing about how great a game called “Portal 2” was, and I looked into it, and guess what, it was rated E. E! (Well, E 10+, but I have a theory that’s just an extra paranoid rating invented to prevent lawsuits, because a “Kirby” game is certainly not harmful to those younger than 10, and those games have that rating nowadays, too.) Now that is more my thing. More my thing indeed.
And so I bought it, and as is normally the next step after buying a video game (well, after taking off the plastic, I suppose, a task that involves varying degrees of difficulty, and putting the disc in the console, which also can be difficult when it doesn’t want to come out of the case, I’m looking at you, GameCube discs…), I finally got around to playing it. My first impressions? First, it was funny. Very funny, actually. Second, it was fun and challenging in a whole new way I had never seen before. Third, I love it. I love the game. But, I get ahead of myself.
When I first started playing this game, it did take some getting used to. In case you haven’t yet played this delightful game, all the puzzles are solved using this portal gun that can make up to two portals at a time. And it is pretty disorientating at times. I mean, my first time through a portal, I was watching myself go through it at the same time. Which was pretty weird. It was also a rather frightening experience at first falling through portals far below and then being shot out another one. And it was pretty darn confusing at first, too. You finally get the portal gun and the ability to make not one, but two portals, and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. (And it didn’t help that I was looking at some useful diagrams sideways at one point…)
But, once I did get used to it all, it was awesome. Seriously. This game has such creative, challenging puzzles. It’s not just the portals, though those are the main things you use. There are also solid bridges of light to traverse and lasers to redirect and turrets to avoid, and it was just great. I loved these puzzles. One of my favorite things in games are challenging puzzles (which is why the “Zelda” series is one of my favorites, when the puzzles are actually difficult), but too often, puzzles are too uninspired and easy, or they are hard, but you start seeing repeats, and they just get old. A puzzle is no good anymore once you’ve seen it a dozen times before, even if it was challenging the first few times you did it. One example is the puzzles in the “Zelda” series, involving Link sliding a block over ice to get it to a certain location, and once you push the block, it slides until it hits something. Well, “Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box” had the same thing, only instead of a block, it was the Professor ice-skating over a frozen lake. It was fun, but I had seen it before. (And spoiler, figure out your route backwards…)
But, sometimes something awesome and grand happens. Sometimes a game actually offers something new in terms of puzzles. What, creativity? Who’s heard of such a thing! The first example that comes to mind is “Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time”, which involves the most creative puzzles involving time and multiple recordings of yourself. These puzzles involved Clank recording himself doing actions, then, he could play recordings of himself pressing buttons and other such things and work with those recordings to get to places he couldn’t go alone. That may not make any sense, but trust me, they were some of the best puzzles I’ve ever seen. That game was worth it just for those puzzles and the humor alone.
And being too lazy to think of more examples, or perhaps, there aren’t any (no, there probably are, and I’m just too lazy), I return to my discussion of “Portal 2” (and likely the game that came before it, but as of writing this post, I have not played that yet). It’s just a really wonderful game. The puzzles were just so creative and challenging. Sometimes, I just wandered around for twenty minutes before I figured one out. But, I always did. That’s what makes them so great. They are difficult, but they are all do-able. In fact, the solutions are pretty easy once you figure out what they are. Sometimes, you jus have to try things or backtrack a little, and then the solution just comes to you.
Another thing that needs mentioning is that they managed to make this into an actual game-game, which is also impressive. What I mean is, it’s not just a series of puzzles the entire time like I expected. There is more to the gameplay than just that (which I’ll get to in the next paragraph), plus a story and two great characters, the robots GLaDOS (a character that I’ve heard about specifically and who played a large role in me getting the game so I could see who she was) and Wheatley, who have some of the best dialogue ever, making this game so much more fun to play.
And then, besides the rooms of puzzles you go through at certain points throughout the game, a good chunk of the game is also spent exploring the abandoned Aperture facility (all the while learning about some of the history of the company), and the only way to explore this crumbling, old place is to use your brain, the portal gun, and your environment. The catwalk is missing, and the door you must reach is a good 50 feet away? No problem. Just find a good place to make portals, and you’re as good as there. Your door is now 50 feet up? Pshaw, portal gun and some blue gel. Pow! I’m so through that door it’s not even funny! (Or is it?) So if you’re like me and don’t want a game that’s simply a collection of puzzles, well, this one isn’t. I mean, it really is, but the puzzles are hidden amidst the exploring.
So people who have told me “Portal 2” is great, thank you. I would have never bought the game if no one had told me how good it was. I saw it in stores, but always just passed it by, not giving it a second thought. But, now that I’ve tried it, I really enjoyed it, and I just love when I can get a game that has creative, challenging puzzles, and I am so impressed they were able to make this game into something more. I didn’t expect that. In short, puzzles. Humor. Exploring. Plus GLaDOS and Wheatley. Is a good time.
Few Know That the D in GLaDOS Stands For Duck…