Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Not the Portal 2 Post I’ve been Meaning to Write

Y’all know the drill. I get a game, I play through it, I post two articles about it – one each detailing good and bad sides of the game. I meant to do that for Portal 2 ever since I pre-ordered it. The thing is, I still haven’t finished the game and don’t feel at all qualified to write a ten good / bad things post pair about it. Instead I’m going to tell those few of you who still care just why I’m not finishing the game. This is by no means a review nor do I mean to say that Portal 2 is a bad game, even though most points here will be negative. Fact of the matter is that the game lost me and I’ll try to find out why.

In many aspects, Portal 2 is just like the original Portal. The gameplay is pretty much identical, there is still a lot of humour to be had as well as a homicidal artificial intelligence out to test (read: torture, or maybe kill) you. That is probably the biggest problem I have with the game right there – Portal was awesome but I can do only so much puzzling of the same type before I get bored with it. The new elements added to the game don’t really change how the game is played at all. Introducing a different form for real puzzle pieces doesn’t really change how you go at solving a puzzle. I almost didn’t buy Portal 2 because I didn’t see the potential for expansion on the concept and it seems I was right.

Then there’s frustration. Some of the puzzles (especially in the multiplayer mode) either require exact timing or one very special idea to solve. It can be very frustrating to think that one has solved a puzzle but then to fail at control and timing. I’ve had a couple of levels in which I fervently searched for a different solution when the one I found first was correct all along, just not properly executed. Along the same lines, spending hours on a puzzle because I simply can’t come up with the one trick that will solve the whole level for me can be very frustrating as well. When I get frustrated, I stop playing. What’s worse, I’m deterred from starting the game again if I remember being frustrated.

Anecdotally, a friend of mine and I almost gave up in frustration at the very first level in the co-op mode. The game challenges you to use your signal tool on an animal to proceed, but neither of us could see any animals. That let us to assume that the “animal” was supposed to be the other player. So we used the signal tool on each other and things would happen on the screen, but the game would repeat the original direction over and over again and not let us move on. It turns out that there were pictures of actual animals on a wall to the side which we were to shoot. Using split screen, these were rather tiny and didn’t look like anything to interact with at all. I think we spent an hour checking controller settings and wildly pressing buttons until we found out were we went wrong.

Sure, the above example doesn’t show a high degree of puzzle solving skill. The fact is though that we missed one essential clue in the level and were therefore completely stuck. This is true for pretty much all other levels as well as far as I could see.

Oh but portal is funny, right? So you will be entertained while searching for solutions? Well, yes and no. Some writing is quite funny, but a lot of it is rather blunt or even lame. I think I might throw up if I hear GLaDOS use the word “testing” one more time. It’s just. So. Lame. Additionally, all her comments are scripted and if you have to repeat a level a couple of times (because there are enough of them that kill you when your solution fails) the comments will repeat as well. No wonder people are driven mad by that robot.

Then there are my very own personal issues with playing the game on my PS3. For one, I’m not very good at the whole two-thumb control scheme. This will be trivial for experienced console players, but performing precise maneuvers such as shooting portals while flying is very hard for me. This leads to death and repetition which eventually leads to frustration. In my mind, portal shouldn’t be about twitch and how well I can use my controller. Maybe I’m just wrong though and should install it on my PC instead. (Though that would defeat the whole purpose of the co-op thing and all.)

I haven’t played enough of the game to say whether the level design is worse than in the original Portal (though some claim that it is) or whether the game is too short. What I can say is that it definitely isn’t all that much better than Portal 1 to warrant being a new, full-price game and that there are many aspects of the game’s design that would need to be improved in order to capture my interest for a longer time. Multiple solutions for a puzzle would go a long way towards fixing the frustration issue and hiring better writers sure can’t hurt. Then again, maybe the wonder that was Portal simply can’t be repeated by a sequel.

I’m not really disappointed by the game because it is not exactly bad. It just doesn’t manage to pique my interest.


  • I’m currently playing through the single player mode of Portal 2. I was also getting tired of the endless chain of test chambers and considered stopping, but then I got out of it and into a more adventurous set of levels (I think that’s chapter 5 if I remember correctly). This was what I had been waiting for as I found those kinds of levels much more interesting in the first Portal. From then on the game is more intriguing and atmospheric, at least up to where I am now (about chapter 7 or so).

  • My sister and I have started playing the coop mode on ps3 with split screen and we had some issues too with the way you need to execute instead of solving the actual puzzle.
    It’s especially hard and confusing with the split screen.

  • I believe you are a thourough idiot.

    I am going to address every single ‘point’ you made in this… review… you have written here.

    (First paragraph) Portal 2 is nothing- I repeat- NOTHING like the original Portal. To begin with (though this is a bit irrelevant to your article), there is at least only one reference to cake, and, similarly, one reference to the cube. Tell me that’s the same game. NOTHING. Nothing. The original portal is completley planned and neat. Even in the VERY BEGINING of portal two, it is a completley different scene, and overall atmosphere of Aperture Science. It’s kind of, if you didn’t notice, set in the future (99999999999).
    (Second paragraph) If the original Portal was so easy, and the puzzles were the same, why was Portal 2 oh-so-very difficult? Either way, eventually the story has ACTUAL PLOT TWISTS worth waiting for; just keep going. Walkthroughs if you have to.

    (Third paragraph) You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you. If you don’t want hard puzzles, go pick yourself up a copy of, say, Pong, or something like Build-A-Bear Workshop for the DS. Shooting portals was very challenging for you… I find that hard to belive.
    Step 1: press button.
    Yes, Portal 2 can be complicated at times, but that is the ENTIRE POINT OF THE GAME. For the timing in the Co-op mode, thats a pure matter of (here is a shocker) cooperation. There are two players so you can comunicate with eachother and complete the test through collaboration.
    (Fourth Paragraph)It isn’t the game’s fault that you couldn’t find what you needed. GLaDOS kind of tells you exactly what to do. Oh, I forgot; her voice is so repetitive and unbearable. This makes for a perfect segue into the next paragraph.
    (Fifth Paragraph) Wow. Just wow. If you’re wondering why her voice repeats itself each new level, or why it seems scripted, is because IT IS. It’s called a voice actor- a living human being who speaks as the character. Would you rather just not hear anything she’s saying? Turn the volume off.
    (Sixth Paragraph) What. The game is, in no way, all about the controller. Isn’t it just too bad that you can’t play a game without one?

    I rest my case.

  • I appreciate the comment even if I don’t enjoy being called an idiot very much 😉

    I would respond to your point, but I am having a hard time deciphering which part of your comment is sarcasm and which isn’t. Maybe there is something to your idiot theory.

    Let me just rephrase the point of this post. It is not a review nor a smashing of portal 2. It is rather a simple description of the issues that kept me from finishing the game. Ymmv.
    scrusi´s last blog post ..Professional Gaming Journalism. Not.

  • Mehdede.. We are just serious portal nerds. (Yes ‘we’ both Caroline and I wrote the previoius retortion.) FINISH THE GAME (on pc)!!

    Cave Johnson CEO of Aperture Science Innovators

  • Oh I want to. There are just all those reasons above keeping me from actually doing it. I’m sure it’ll happen sooner or later.
    scrusi´s last blog post ..Quote of the Day

  • :iconsoonerplz: <dA joke..
    but sooner. yes. indeed