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26/05/2011 Thinking Game People Podcast
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Portal 2 PS3

Portal 2




Further reading:
Chris Jarvis- Novel Gamer
Andy Robertson - Family Gamer
Sinan Kubba - Returning Gamer

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Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
Scared Gamer (360)
Tired Gamer (360)
Scripted Gamer (PS3)
Reporting Gamer (PS3)

This week we talk about Portal's ideas, character and struggles with delivering an adequate sequel.

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Podcast Guests

Andy Robertson appears in this podcast. "Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

Sinan Kubba appears in this podcast. "As an 80s kid I was obsessed with gaming. But university, stress and life relegated my hobby to the backseat. After years in the wilderness, I'm back into video games. I don't just want to play games that remind of a happy youth though. I'm just as excited about games that take things forward, experiences that re-ignite that curiosity and fascination I had years ago."

Chris Jarvis appears in this podcast. "I write stories to say what I think about games, for me it's the only way I can really communicate what I feel about them. Do you ever have a response to something that's hard to put into words? I find that sometimes I have something to express that can't be communicated by trying to explain how I feel, directly."


Before the tape started rolling, here are our scribbled notes.

Chris Jarvis- Novel Gamer

I absolutely loved the original portal. I think what worked for me so well was that I came to it not knowing much other than that it was a first-person puzzle game. It was the gradual building of tension through the eerie voice announcements that really worked for me and by the time events transpired that caused me to realise that more was going on here. It created a really believable fiction for me that this was some poor individual that has been stuck in this maze as a test subject.

It also worked for me because the basic concept creates such a great toy, in the portal gun. Itís easy to ignore the pressing matter of the puzzle at hand and just play around with creating portals in different parts of the room and seeing what happens. The strength of the level design, I think, was that they must have done that experimentation themselves and then thought about how the ideas theyíd created could be utilized in an actual level.

Iíve actually been a bit aware that Iíve been skirting around playing portal 2. I think itís actually a testament to the power of the first game. It felt very complete to me. Even though Iím sure that a sequel could improve the environmental elements of the puzzles and create some incredibly rich new puzzles, Iím concerned that the sequel couldnít do justice for me to the fiction Iíd uncovered in the first game. No-one wants to play Portal 2: The Quickening. Iím guess Iím waiting for re-assurance from someone who loved the first game as much as I did that playing Portal 2 will add to the experience and not simply exist as a re-hash for those who missed the original or a cash-in on a now legendary IP. One of my pet hates is reverse-continuity, where the sequel undermines the fiction of the first story by adding a wholly unsatisfactory explanation to previous events. For more information see Highlander II, The Mummy Returns... or actually maybe donít bother.

Andy Robertson - Family Gamer

I really enjoyed the first game, like so many other people was impressed by the unusual play mechanic. But more than that it was the storytelling and disembodied narrator glaDOS that really hooked me in.

The game offered a very simple premise and didnít stray too far from that formula. I think the puzzles worked because it was clear where their boundaries were. The length of the game and the complexity of the puzzles felt like a good match. I was happy to consume the whole thing in a few hours.

Portal 2 made an imediate connection to the story of the first game to me, with the embittered return of glaDOS and introduction of new characters to flesh out the cast. It was great to be back in that world again and see how Valve had developed it.

However, I was a little worried that a boxed version of the game would demand a longer experience. And that this experience would undermine my enjoyment of the game. At first this didnít seem to be the case with a snappy plot and interchanging characters. But as I played on I found that it really dragged out.

I wasnít impressed with the addition of new novelties like the bouncing paint, and would have preferred more turrets and companion cube work.

All that said, I think that Portal still offers a fantastic and unusual experience, and one that newcomers find compelling. Once a non-gamer has their heads around the first person controls it is magical to see them stretching their minds further with the portal physics.

Sinan Kubba - Returning Gamer

I loved the original Portal and I love Portal 2. Comparing them should be easy since they both essentially take place in the same location, feature the same characters by and large and are based around the same mechanics. Yet the subtle anomalies between the two games make them feel very different to me - this is not your fatherís Portal, as they say.

Both games are very funny, and itís very arguable that the writing in the more considered, less experimental Portal 2 is funnier - itís easy to forget that the first Portal started life as a project by students before Valve took it up.

I think the first game made me feel claustrophobic but it did it with intimacy, however odd that sounds. The disembodied voice of GLaDOS teasing and twisting me as I tried to make my way through her nefarious puzzle chambers gave the game this incredible balance of funny and genuinely sinister. There was an appreciably Ďdarkí vibe to the game.

I like a game that can simultaneously really make me want to escape/reach a goal and yet make me enjoy the ride fully - thatís what Portal did. The second in comparison feels like a punchline deliverer - a really good punchline deliverer but thereís no sinister edge to the atmosphere. Itís just very funny. Returning to Aperture feels like revisiting a friend rather than being dragged back to a prison. Itís a small loss but Iím not sure how Valve couldíve made it work otherwise. I think it was just natural.

In many ways the real star of Portal 2 is the environmental design. Exploring Portal 2 is a joy. From the little touches like panels rearranging themselves in the chambers to all the little gems to discover when you leave them - like the date of signature on the back of a turret box to all the paintings on the Aperture walls - Portal 2 is a game of discovery. I love to learn about the backstory of this bizarre scientific institution that came up with all these brilliant things but through such ridiculous methods. So if the first game made me want to escape even though I was enjoying the ride, the second made me want to hang around and see more. Maybe thatís not quite as unique as what the first game made me feel, but Iím a sucker for seeing the little touches of effort in a game that most people wonít notice.

One thing Portal 2 has over Portal 1 is that it seems to be easier for newcomers to pick up. My girlfriend struggled with Portal 1 a lot - the puzzles got difficult quickly and she soon lost enjoyment when they became a bit too requiring of dexterity. Portal 2 requires little to no dexterity - and the hardest puzzles just arenít that hard. Usually compensations around difficulty bother me, but the ride in Portal 2 is so enjoyable that I didnít much care - I was just thrilled that I had a game I could share with my girlfriend - and the ride is indeed so enjoyable that I was very happy to watch her play through it. Does that make Portal 2 less of a game and more of a story unlocked by puzzles? If so, is that a bad thing? I enjoyed it regardless.

Other Reviews and News

Here's what else we have written about this:

Skylanders Giants is well and truly with us, but we discover that many people aren't aware of the new features, the new implications for figures they may already have and just what the buying options are... watch now

Sat, 08 Dec 2012 Loading comments...

Bob and Fred review Portal 2 at our live theatre performance. Portal 2 is apparently a "Bob" out of 10, although Fred seems to disagree... watch now

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 Loading comments...

In Today's Scripted Gamer Fred and Bob discuss Portal 2. Or as they like to call it, Now you see me, now you don't... listen now

Wed, 30 Nov 2011 Loading comments...

Special is an overused word, but for me Portal was the special experience that ignited my return to gaming, and one I couldn't be more thrilled to share. .. read now

Sun, 26 Jun 2011 Loading comments...

Portal 2 takes you for a lab rat, and you are soon jumping through hoops to escape your testing facility. After the first game Portal 2 had a lot to live up to, happily it quickly allays these fears... read now

Thu, 02 Jun 2011 Loading comments...

More Tired Gamer reviews, chronological or alphabetical.

Written by Game People

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