Valve has successfully added another classic to their repertoire, and a great sequel at that. "Portal 2" is just as witty and fun as the first "Portal" game but, more importantly, it manages to stay fresh and surprising in the wake of its well-loved, well-known predecessor.
Chell is back as the protagonist, but she wakes from stasis in a defunct Aperture Laboratories, presumably several hundred years after the events of the previous game. For those who might think that this notion is a jarring transition, have your fears assuaged; Valve does it well.
"Portal 2" presents a deeply interesting and aesthetically engaging setting. Throughout the game, the passage of time is apparent and takes on a thematic turn toward the middle of the game. Test chambers are twined with vines and overgrowth. The chirping of birds tweet throughout the facility where the walls have crumbled to reveal the open sky. And after Chell reunites with her old nemesis, GLaDOS, the entire facility begins to twist and whir with life, with mechanized wall panels springing about in a panic, as GLaDOS rebuilds the testing chambers in the player’s presence. The effect is something like watching disconnected metal limbs languorously rise from slumber and crazily perform their duties. As the player progresses through the story, the game presents several different venues, from nostalgic test chambers to rusted and condemned facilities that are Aperture artifacts from the 50s and 70s. Also, the setting is intrinsically connected to the story, which Valve has expanded considerably.
Valve has, evidently, taken its time to develop the "Portal" storyline, and balances it well in respect to the first "Portal." Fans won’t get a disturbingly overwrought story, like some sequels doom themselves with. "Portal 2" presents a new character, Wheatley, and brings the head of Aperture, Cave Johnson, into focus. Wheatley is a unique version of the many personality cores, and is introduced at the start of the game. While his human voice and persona may be jarring at first, these qualities hold some importance, in a subtle way. Regardless, Wheatley delivers a great deal of funny and charming lines that add up to an awkward and delightfully dimwitted character. The exquisite voice acting doesn’t hurt, either, and that applies to all characters in "Portal 2," especially GLaDOS. The single-player campaign can be completed in about seven hours, but it certainly isn’t short. At the close of the single-player campaign, "Portal 2" builds to a very satisfying "end."
"End" is in quotes because "Portal 2" does not end with the single-player campaign. Instead, Valve extends "Portal 2’s" story into its co-op mode as an encouraging bonus while playing with friends. During the co-op campaign, players will be presented with increasingly complex tests while GLaDOS simultaneously encourages teamwork and cynically promotes schism between the two players.
Overall, "Portal 2" is a fine sequel. It offers plenty of new content and game mechanics, a hilarious and twisted story and a lot of hidden treasures for investigative players. The voice acting is superb, and the writing is even better. There won’t be a moment without something intriguing pulling at the player’s attention.