Portal 2 was recently offered as part of the Xbox ‘Games with Gold’ programme. In doing so, it became the last Xbox 360 title that is to be included. Thus closing the book on the platform. However, a highlight of the programme it most certainly has been. Looking back even now, 11 years after Portal 2‘s debut, the game remains one of the best co-op puzzlers available on modern hardware.

Merely an extended tech demo the original Portal may have been, but a stunning tech demo it was. Included within the hugely generous Orange BoxPortal was every bit a Valve game. In everything from groundbreaking gameplay design to unique character presentation. It was a short but wholly enjoyable ride that received praise from all corners of the industry. It surely comes as no surprise then that Portal 2 was also met with a great amount of anticipation. And moreover, that Valve emphasised that this time around it was worthy of a retail release all of its own.

Portal 2 screenshot

Portal 2: Bigger, Yes… But.

Of course, they’re right. The main campaign featured in Portal 2 is a short game, but one which is so progressive that any fan of videogames wouldn’t begrudge paying a full retail price to experience it. And even then, Electronic Arts surprisingly published it slightly cheaper than other games of the era. And of course, in addition to the main campaign is a shorter co-operative campaign.

The core component of the game remains largely unchanged. Equipped with the portal gun, the player can fire two portals onto any flat white surface, passing through one to exit from the other. With this basic premise, a few switch puzzles and some additional new mechanics, Portal 2 builds to a mind-bending array of logistical and momentum puzzles, making the player think in new dimensions and regularly contradicting the long-founded rules of first-person videogame design. Portal 2 is a crossword in pictures, soduku with measurement in place of numbers: a 3D depiction of a mental challenge.

Portal 2 screenshot

Portal 2 Player

While the single-player campaign is engrossing in its own right, the co-operative campaign opens a whole new can of worms. Now you have four portals to manipulate, but two bodies to transfer from the entrance to the exit. It once again pushes against the boundaries, moving the formula forward in new, unpredictable directions. With just the single-player campaign included, Portal 2 would have been a very welcome expansion of the gameplay. Yet now, with the co-operative mode thrown in for the bargain, it’s truly adding to the experience.

Both the campaigns feature just as much unique personality as would be expected, with the return of Chell complimented by two friendly droids, Atlas and P-Body. The single-player campaigns see you returning to the original Aperture Laboratories, but now the area is clearly in decay. Foliage bursting through cracks in the walls and much of the electronics within the area in a less than functional state, while Stephen Merchant provides a fantastic friend and instructor in the form of Wheatley, a robotic personality sphere.

Portal 2 is a rare gem. Despite the critical acclaim of the original very few contemporaries have sprung out of the woodwork in the intervening years. The reason for this? Most certainly it’s because there are very few studios willing to take on Valve on their home turf: if you want to deliver a videogame with as much invention, individuality and character as Portal 2, you’d better be certain you’ve got it right from the very start. Even 11 years later, Portal 2 shines on modern hardware just as it did at initial release.

Categories: Games