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Games of 2012: Portal 2

I expect some of you are looking at this title and saying ĎLolwut!? Portal 2 came out in 2011! What an idiot!í or perhaps just gently wondering what the deal is, or even not caring at all and just skimming past these very words while your head fills with deep self referential questions, like Ďwho am I, really, and am I being the best person I can?í
The point of this blog and hopefully many more is that Iím aiming to write something on every game I finish in 2012. I donít know what it will be exactly: a sort of review, overview, and odd little look Ďn think about thing. The first game I finished this year was Portal 2 from last year and future blogs may even be about older games, even from last generation; what they will all have in common is they will be the games I played in 2012. Title explained. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if needed.

Now I really liked Portal 2, its pretty high up in my favourites of the year. Itís quite a clever little game, with its mind bending puzzles based solely on putting one hole in a wall and another hole on a different wall and passing through them instantaneously. Valve has done a remarkable job building a varied and compelling game around this baffling mechanic. Not only that they built a story and a world around it that is more reminiscent to the type of story telling usually found in linier action games, especially the latter stages of the game where it isnít short of some set pieces that a Call of Duty game may have, if they ever set it in a research laboratory run by a murderous AI. But this isnít an action shooter, itís a puzzle game; see, we donít just have to stick to those safe genres for the thrills, games industry. Wake Up!

But if youíve played the original Portal you already know that. And if youíve played the original Portal you probably think that that game is better, and to be honest, Iíd agree with you.
Portal was an expertly designed series of tests; a truly mind boggling, topsy-turvy trip through the minds of who must be the finest game designers on the planet. A game that had absolutely no hype and when you turned it on to see what the hell it was after finishing all the episodes of Half-Life 2 it would confidently stand up and slap you across the face with itís massive genius. Itís safe to say it was quite a shock; a shock that felt really good. Not like those bad shocks, like static electricity or a dead pet.
Itís also safe to say that most playing Portal 2 wonít relive that feeling again and Iíd imagine anyone coming into it fresh wonít quite get that same feeling, too. There is no doubt Portal 2 has its frequent moments of ingeniousness. Itís a treat that is tasty and generous but is lighter than the thick slab of fudge which was Portal. There are a few too many moments in the middle of the game in Portal 2 where youíre just looking around, spinning in circles, and shooting your portal gun at anything; trying to find a little bit of white wall to pop a portal on so you can move on. Hardily the brain buggery that goes on in the other test chambers, now, is it?

So, together, weíve established that Portal is a better game, no? but there is something Portal 2 does do a little better, and thatís the story. Like most other Valve games the story is actually quite simple, but told brilliantly, and presents a small number of vibrant characters that paint a path for you of different colours and create a rich world in the process. GLaDOSís strange flavour of sarcastic honesty is still the main attraction and Cave Johnsonís stock, archived responses flesh out a history and ideals of the gameís setting, Aperture Laboratories; which are dark and down right hilarious.

Before playing the game I was aware of a divisive character; one Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant. Now Iím not entirely sure what everyoneís problem are, those that have them at least, but I thought he did a refreshingly enthusiastic performance. It certainly wasnít phoned in, which Iím sometimes worried about when someone who doesnít have a great deal of experience in working in a booth. Now, I know he is no Nolan North. He doesnít have the vocal range of someone like him; Stephen Merchant will always act and sound like Stephen Merchant and I guess thatís where the problem lies. Even as someone who enjoys his performance Iíd be lying if that bank advert he does for us in the UK didnít come to mind at times, and you donít really want that happening when youíre trying to enjoy your videogamesÖ economy and stuff.. ICAs? APR? 3.9%?

No thanks, not now.

Personally, I think I was happy with his performance in this because just before I started playing it Iíd been watching his third TV series written by him and Ricky Gervais, called Lifeís Too Short. I donít want to go into too much of a tangent but after that awful show Portal 2 did restore some faith in him again. Lifeís Too Short is a kind of mocumentory (like The Office) but is far too well shot to be one. It follows a twisted version of a sort of famous dwarf by the name of Warwick Davis (played by Warwick Davis) and the trials and tribulations he goes through.

Sounds kind of interesting with Gervais and Merchant at the helm, right? No. What we have is Davis playing David Brent in nothing but cunt mode and all the supporting cast are made up of tossers, shits and face aches. Essentially, itís as if someone watched The Office, then tried to make something like it but didnít quite get it; thatís what Lifeís Too Short is. It amazes me that Gervais and Merchant made this trash. Back to the drawing board guys; you forgot why your work is highly regarded; you know? the complex humility, the dicks, the decent, the dicks being decent, the decent being dicks; all presented in a manner that satires what it is dealing with everyday life. None of that in Life's Too Short.

So after that Portal 2 made me go ĎaaaahhÖ thatís more like it. This be funnyí

Wheatleyís confused ramblings really added to it for me. Portalís world is really strange and having a blind leading the blind dynamic really compliments the other characters in the game. They all change, too. Growth happens right up to the end, even after the credits roll, and itís all believable. Well done, Valve; this may be the best story youíve ever told.

Iím happy the first game I finished in 2012 was one as good as this. No, it isnít perfect, and not as good as the original but itís a nice start, and one that gives me a sense of positivity for the rest of the gaming year.
Oh, but I havenít even touched the co-op; maybe that will put the game on the same level as the original?

Fan art in first pic belongs to: http://sanj-t.deviantart.com/art/Reunion-207026248
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About Leigh Davidsonone of us since 4:59 PM on 09.14.2010


I'm a gamer from the 90s who was raised on games with cute characters in them, both the genuine, heart-warming kind and the cynically designed ones.
But despite me mostly being a Nintendo fanboy it was probably the holy trinity Final fantasy VII, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil that truly got me into gaming.

Now I play anything as I'm open to anything.

Favourite game of all time? probably a toss up between Mass Effect 2, Persona 4, Metroid Prime, Killer7 or Resident Evil 4.

I write bits for the gaming site BitParade

My Twitter - @LeighDavidson
Xbox LIVE:DifferentClass
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Mii code:0228-6106-8734-8508


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