“Science isn’t about why, it’s about why not.” -Cave Johnson
This game is nearly everything games can and should be. Portal 2 is funny, powerful and tells a brilliant story with narrative methods that can only be achieved in games. This game achieves everything that I have been ranting over for the past few months.
Portal 2 uses every element of traditional game design effectively, space, movement, difficulty, functional and logical level design, agency and the player’s expectations. It uses all of these to convey the plot, the conflicts(internal and external), the personality of the characters and the overall mood of the scene.
This is the only game I have played so far that portrays internal conflict through game-play elements. There are a few games I can think of that I haven’t played that do this, Catherine and Silent Hill. Portal 2 manages to execute this masterfully and also manages to give the player a motive and portray conflict through that. By portraying internal conflicts through game-play elements(space especially) and aesthetics, there is a stronger emotional connection to the characters. Half Life 2: Episode 2 tried to achieve an emotional connection through aesthetics rather than mechanics which jeopardized the emotional impact of the final scene. One of the scenes(can’t disclose or else I will spoil it) in Portal 2 was the most powerful scene I have ever encountered in games(probably not as powerful as Heavy Rain, but I haven’t played that).
It is also a very engrossing and immersive title. In comparison to the first you are not simply imprisoned in a static dead environment, you are stuck in GLaDOS’ claws. Stuck in a dynamic puzzle where the only way out is through wits and cunning. The sound-scape and level-design really convey this idea well and make the player seem small and insignificant. The player might be small in comparison to the environment, but the interactivity of the environment allows the player to feel as though he/she has significant influence on the environment.
Portal 2 is the video-game equivalent of Citizen Kane, it’s built on the tenants of the first Portal whilst giving the ideas more thorough consideration and much better overall production quality. Not to mention this game is really enjoyable.