Portal 2: Now That’s a Sequel

30 05 2011

In a year that seems to be brimming with sequels and big-name followups to enduring franchises, it sometimes feels that there is an air of stagnation around all of the current releases. It seems to be an industry trend, some would argue an unfortunate one at that, that encourages the development of sequels as the most profitable and popular way to go, rather than entirely new IP. Developers choose to stick to their guns, and follow the path of least resistance towards brand-building and capitalizing on the familiar. What ends up happening more often than not is for the end user, it seems like a perpetual groundhog day of games where the releases are merely flashier reminiscence of games of the past, where the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

However, amidst all the “2’s” and “3’s” and “Arcade Editions” that we are being bombarded with, there are several entries that stand out above the rest and present themselves as something more than just an obligatory followup. One of those is Portal 2.

Portal 2 falls right into the sweet spot of familiarity and innovation, bringing both refreshing new concepts and endearing nods to where it came from. It doesn’t forget where it came from but dares to break new ground and be something more. The big takeaway from Portal 2 as a template for game sequels is that it EXPANDS upon the previous experience rather than REITERATING it.

It’s easy to point at a given “2” or “3” and argue that there are plenty of “new” things to explore but what it often comes down to with the glamour stripped away is a reskin, short-lived gimmick, or a balance tweak. Portal 2 instead brings new things to the table that force the player to bend their brains in entirely different ways and evolve the experience. The new gameplay elements, especially in the late parts of the game when they begin to compound, change so much about the game and the possibilities to explore without becoming unrecognizable. Just enough remains intact, including the ambience, humor, and deviously challenging puzzles.

And as a side note, Portal 2 does itself a great service by giving a multiplayer component that is thoughtful, self-contained, and again, an evolution of the default experience. Too many games these days seem to have a multiplayer mode thrown in for the hell of it and you can definitely tell when this is the case. Rest assured that Portal 2 doesn’t fall into that camp.

All in all Portal 2 is a wonderfully crafted game and a paragon to what it means to be a worthy sequel. It precisely the kind of game you want to play; regardless of the fact that it has a “2” stamped on the end of it.


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