The Orange Box from 2007 was a standout release in next-gen gaming. A bargain compilation disc of multiple games, in addition to the highly anticipated Half Life 2, it included a curious new game entitled Portal.
Obsessive gamers bought the disc for the sequel to 'the biggest-selling shooter of all-time', but the gaming community soon focused on this bewildering new extra. It was a first-person shooter that blended brain-bending puzzles with an inventive story heavy on humour, and its only drawback was its quick three-hour playing time, feeling more like a prototype than a fully realised game.
Four years on and we finally have a dedicated sequel. Cleverly keeping to its predecessor's tried-and-tested formula, returning gamers will appreciate the follow-up's similar dynamics and screwball hilarity. Those new to the series should prepare themselves for a mystifying thrill ride, a mind-bending adventure set in a bizarrely involving universe.
Creatively expanding on every aspect of the series, the gameplay is first and foremost. And while your indispensable portal gun still allows you to move from one area to the next through its orange-to-blue mechanics, the developers don't disappoint with a crafty variety of new additions. The 'gels' are your most handy add-on, shooting goo that helps the player across surfaces, with propulsion for gaining speed, repulsion to jump higher, and conversion to turn any surface into a porting hole.
Anyone who has ever suffered through a seemingly impossible puzzle game knows that a large distraction is occasionally needed to keep one's interest. In this case, it's the game's brilliant story, highlighted by its comical characters - the mean-spirited computer system GLaDOS was the first entry's surprising standout in both her motives and madness, and she returns along with two new characters: an awkward AI companion voiced by The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant, and the founder of this entire kooky world played by J.K. Simmons (the newspaper editor in Spider-Man), each rounding out the story in both action and amusement.
And the same can be said for the entire game. With its extra layers of playability and story, this is the sequel that Portal fans had been hoping for.
A side-splitting sci-fi adventure through spatial landscapes, Portal 2 is a fully formed follow-up, with even the smallest of additions offering a more satisfying sense of achievement when each brilliant brain-teaser is completed.