Portal 2…

Portal 2 after the break…

Portal 2…

To say that I’m entirely disinterested in this game would be a falsehood. However, from what I’ve been able to see so far of the game, I’m just not that compelled to make the leap, become a servant of the “Steam” DRM just to play the game.

To recap for those not in the know, Portal 2 is the sequel to “Portal,” a video game produced by Valve. “Portal” is about a woman trapped inside a series of test chambers who must use a “portal gun” in order to both escape the test chambers and the mentally imbalanced computer A.I. (named “GlaDOS”) who is running the simulation. The “portal gun” shoots “portals” – Doors that can connect two improbable locations, sort of like a wormhole but only in more practical, terrestrial terms.

Having played “Portal,” one of the largest misgivings that emerged from that game was it’s short duration and the use of dark humor. Although crafted well, one simply could not take away that they had received value for their dollar. Also, the use of dark humor detracted from the sense of mystery and seriousness that one needs to build up in order to appreciate a puzzle game of this nature. Humor, quite simply, is tough to achieve well because everyone has their own unique standard on just what is “too much,” “too little,” “too dark” and “too slapstick” for their tastes. Perhaps this is why humor is often the ingredient of the foolhardy game designer.

“Portal 2” apparently takes place centuries after the events of the first Portal with the exact same protagonist. How the protagonist lived “centuries” after the first event is a mystery. Also, the plot in the sequel seems to mirror the original – That you are trapped in a series of test chambers (albeit far more decayed then the last time) and must escape a partially rejuvenated “GlaDOS.” Along for the ride are a few additional characters as well as a few additional game play mechanisms, namely the ability to “paint” surfaces that would give those surfaces different characteristics.

To paraphrase a movie director’s famous quote about sequels, “A successful sequel is a paradox; It is neither successful nor a sequel for the successful sequel must be entirely different then the original except for it’s intellectual property and it must be successful in spite of it’s familiarity and not because of it.”

I have little doubt that the fanbois will love Portal 2 simply because of what it is. However, I can not help but feel a little cheated that, after an extensive wait, we are greeted with more portals in the same setting against the same villain. You can not help but sympathize with Valve for they have a problem that we would all enjoy possessing: That of extreme success in a product with a gimmick for it’s chief game play mechanism. How one tops that success, or even dares match it, is a riddle few have ever successfully overcome.

Yet it is difficult to imagine how many more successfully implemented gimmicks Valve have remaining in their game play arsenal. Half-Life 2 gave us the “Gravity Gun,” even though DOOM 3 possessed it first but just didn’t implement it as an actual part of it’s game play (it later did with it’s expansion, Resurrection of Evil). Portal gave us the “Portal Gun,” even though the video game Prey possessed such an innovation in many of it’s prior implementations years before Portal “rediscovered” it for game play usage.

As we get closer to the release of Portal 2, one can not help but feel a bit underwhelmed – Much like in the same way for BioShock 2 that did little to build upon it’s unique setting and simplified game play mechanics. More of the same might satisfy some, but not most. It takes a lot of effort even to make a bad game, never mind a classic, so congratulations are due to the development team. Yet in every sequel, a little professional laziness is inevitable and this sequel appears to be no different. That’s too bad.

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