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Have You Played... Portal 2

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Remember how recently Portal 2 [official site] came out? IT WAS FIVE YEARS AGO. Sorry about that. I have a suspicion those magic windows might be having unsuspected effects on time dilation.

Portal was, and still is, a masterpiece. A couple of hours, massive twists, and one of the most exciting and original means of solving puzzles ever. Portal 2, weirdly, doesn’t feel like it merits the “masterpiece” mantel, and I’m trying to work out why. Because it’s utterly brilliant.

I wonder if it’s because it’s so much bigger, much less of this perfect vignette. Every moment of Portal 2 is stunning, excruciatingly clever puzzles accompanied by hilarious writing and acting. Stephen Merchant isn’t annoying as Wheatley, your robot guide, but is in fact positively great. Ellen McLain is of course perfect as GLaDOS once again, and J K Simmons is wondrous.

I wonder if it’s because it has so much more than just the portals. The light bridges, the paints, the swirly-whirly transporting beams… Each is great (although the paint is the game’s weaker point), but it also dilutes significant impact of just that single tool in the first.

I wonder if it’s because it feels so much more like a massive-budget production, less indie innovation and more money and staff?

Still, none of it matters, because the game is bloody amazing. It’s a deconstruction of the original game, it’s a deconstruction of gaming, and gaming companies. It even feels a little like an origin story for Valve is tucked in there. And the potato. Oh my, the potato.

It’s extraordinary. You surely must have played it?

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John Walker


Once one of the original co-founders of Rock Paper Shotgun, they killed me out of jealousy. I now run

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