I didn't play the original Portal game until last year...and when I finally did I quickly realized why everyone said it was such a great game. Portal 2 did not disappoint as it really built upon the elements that made the original great, but there are a few things keeping it away from a "5-star" rating.
This game utilizes Valve's Source 3D engine, which is a solid choice for making a first-person game such as Portal 2. It's not as detailed or vibrant as something like Unreal or Crysis, but the graphics do not appear outdated or under-detailed by any means. There is nothing visually stunning in this game that will make anyone take a second glance, but that's not what this game is about.
Music, Sound & Dialogue
This game has music, although it is very occasional, meaning that sometimes you hear music and sometimes you do not. When you do hear music, there is usually something going on, and if the music plays during a puzzle, it will often "layer" itself as you complete the steps of a puzzle. For example, it may start out with just bass and hi-hats, and when you properly activate a portion of the puzzle, the mids will kick in with a complimentary melody, and when all pieces of the puzzle are in place you'll hear a "complete" song. They did a great job with the use of music in this game although none of the tunes are particularly memorable, but they are fitting.
There is not a lot to say about the sound effects because there aren't many - just your basic stuff like switches activating, doors opening, stuff falling or crashing, etc.
The spoken dialogue is the crowning jewel in Portal 2. In the original game you only had GLaDOS talking to you as you progressed through the levels, and eventually you'd hear from the robotic gun turrets. In the sequel, you get to hear from several characters including Wheatley the robotic orb who accompanies you from the start, GLaDOS the corrupted AI, Aperture's Pre-Recorded Information and Cave Johnson. The dialogue is humorous in both writing and execution - the voice acting is definitely top-notch stuff so don't play this game with mute on! I think the Cave Johnson VOs are the best in the game.
Portal 2 is all about solving puzzles using physics and geometry...but you don't need to be a mathlete to succeed. If you're uneducated or simple-minded then this game is probably going to frustrate you and cause you to give up; but for those of you who outpace inanimate objects when it comes to intellect - you are going to have a blast with Portal 2! On average I would say the puzzles are deceptively simple and sometimes tricky - so they are well designed to provide a level of enjoyment to both smart people and morons alike. I had to think a little to solve a few of them, I admit...but I never got stuck and I did not need to cheat and look up any solutions (where's the fun in that).
I completed the game in about 5 hours total, which leads into the main gripe of mine - the game is too short. Yes, they added the co-op mode so you can play with your girlfriend and stress-test your relationship, but single player is what made this game great and that's where the heart of the gameplay should be focused.
That being said, I feel that the game would have become tedious if it were any longer, and to extend the gameplay time to something more reasonable like 20-30 hours, they would need to add more elements to it than simply solving puzzles. Perhaps Portal 3 will add some RPG-like elements that let you "gear up" your character and thus extend the playable game-time without making the extended time feel dull.
Just about everybody can enjoy this game. The characters are great and the game itself is engaging so you feel motivated to keep solving the puzzles and making it to the next level. In addition to the portal gun and cubes, Portal 2 introduces three types of gels that add a new twist to some of the later levels. They also added a laser-refracting cube, light bridges and energy transport tubes. These additions definitely make the puzzles more interesting and the game does well to introduce you to these elements without overwhelming you, so you know how to use them right.
The biggest thing keeping me from giving it 5-stars is the short play time of 5 hours...and possibly shorter for those of you who are smarter than me, and maybe a little longer if you're dumber than me. While the game ends at an appropriate time I feel like the price they're asking warrants AT LEAST 20-30 hours of fun and engaging play time.
Of course it's no mystery that I highly recommend this game. It's appropriate for both children and adults, although a lot of the humor may be lost on children they will still enjoy completing the puzzles.
You will NOT be disappointed with Portal 2 but you may find yourself wishing it was a little bit longer, or about 1/2 the price.
-= SsZERO =-