EVERY so often a game comes along, totally out of the blue, that rocks the gaming psyche so hard it would measure a 10 on the Richter scale.
That was exactly what the original Portal managed to achieve.
Released as a mini-game within Half Life 2’s mammoth Orange Box, Portal was more than guilty of stealing its bigger brother’s thunder.
It was an ingenious medley of both drama and humour, with an old school sprinkling of platforming-sheen.
Portal was so astoundingly clever it made Albert Einstein look like a loveable simpleton, in comparison.
The game’s real charm was in its simplicity.
Firing at two different walls would create a portal -wormhole, Einstein Rosenberg bridge, call it what you will- that would help you to traverse to seemingly unreachable places to eventually escape from room after room.
Portal was innovative in the way it used gaming mechanics to traverse through the levels.
The game would often force you to use momentum and gravity to get from place to place.
More often than not you would find yourself having to travel across massive chasms to reach the other end of a room.
So for example, by firing one end of a portal down to the bottom of a pit and the other end onto a wall nearest the chasm, you could use the speed picked up by falling down into the pit to the blast you out of the portal exit and across the cavern.
Naturally then when a sequel to Portal was announced, the world eagerly held its breath, with one question pressing on everybody’s mind: would the sequel live up to the original?
It does not.
It’s so much more than the original that the two are barely comparable.
Portal 2 gives the same honest gameplay as its predecessor but with more cinematic ‘oomph.’
You still play as Chell, the spunky protagonist from the first game.
The opening scenes show her waking up back in Aperture Science’s enormous test lab.
The walls are literally crumbling around you, with your room swaying from side to side.
It’s during this apocalyptic scene that you are introduced to Wheatley, a spherical robot, voiced by the hyperactive Stephen Merchant.
He becomes your chatty guide through the opening few levels.
The game follows a similar pattern to its predecessor.
You still have the same, trusty portal gun at your disposal.
You are also still being chased down by the omnipotent and maniacal robot, GLaDOS, the facility’s operator from the original.
She will put you through your paces with a variety of seemingly brain-busting challenges.
At times it will feel as though you are playing an interactive form of Sudoku.
For some this analogy may sound a horrendous prospect.
But please don’t be discouraged! There is a genuine sense of elation at completing a particularly tricky level.
The game flows between cramped, dilapidated rooms into huge, expansive caverns.
But its real charm stems from the relationship between GLaDOS and Wheatley.
More often than not, you will find yourself pausing to listen to their witty, verbal sparring.
Never has a game’s voice acting proved to be quite so entertaining and genuinely enjoyable to listen to.
It’s like being part of a Jeremy Kyle Show, without having that ashamedly guilty aftertaste.
The only negative point is the campaign’s replayability.
Once you have unlocked the level’s secret- how to get past it, for instance, that is it.
It’s a shame, but it’s the nature of the platforming beast.
However there always a chance to spice things up with the game’s co-op mode.
You and a friend can work together to clear a variety of added bonus maps and objective, with the option to have four portals going at anyone time.
This can lead to hectic and often hilarious results of people flying across the map at one another.
Overall, the game is a bolder more creative update of the original.
But it brings to the table rich characters and an engaging story line.
Finally, there is something to break up the monotony of the traditional first-person shooter!
9.0 Gameplay: Fluid, engaging adding more spice and cinematic flare than the original
9.0 Graphics: Considering Valve are still using the same engine they used more than half a decade ago, in Half Life 2, they are crisp and bright with some fabulous scenery throughout.
10.0 Sound: Finally, a game that knows how to do voice acting. A true triumph of comedic flare and engaging characterisation.
7.0 Lasting appeal: Campaign can last a good eight hour with co-op providing more fun. But sadly once both of these are completed, that is pretty much it.
9.0 Verdict: An absolute triumph that is so close to perfection it is painful. This is a must-buy game for any gamer, young or old. Brilliant.
Available on: PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Valve
Review - Tom Cotterill