After the outlandish setting, ingenious gameplay, and hilarious dialogue had all run their course, Portal left you with some pretty big unknowns. Chief among them were, “What happens now?” and “How did that whole weird situation come to pass?” Portal 2 sets out to answer these questions, and in doing so travels both forward and backward from the conclusion of Portal. The result is a sequel that doesn’t try to replicate the successful formula of its predecessor. Rather, it expands upon that original experience, creating something that feels initially familiar. Yet as you progress through the enthralling single-player journey and tangle with the clever cooperative campaign, any worries that things might be too familiar are swept away by the scope of your adventure and the characters you meet along the way. Once again, you are caught up in the fantastic world of Aperture Science, where hilarious and endearing dialogue is delivered by disembodied voices and artificial intelligences, and where inventive gameplay mechanics and a smooth difficulty curve make the sublime satisfaction of puzzle solving accessible to all.
The single-player campaign starts by addressing the issue of what happens now that you’ve destroyed the malevolent AI who tried to incinerate you. “Now” may be a relative term in the bowels of Aperture Science, but the facility you enter is still reeling from your actions at the end of Portal. Almost immediately, you meet a very helpful and attentive AI who wants to team up with you so that you both can escape dire peril. Despite looking like a metal basketball with handles and a camera lens, this AI is physically expressive and immensely entertaining. His well-meaning yet slightly inept persona is an immediate source of laughter that consistently delights throughout the game. Like that of its predecessor, Portal 2’s writing is a standout. Not only is it packed with splendidly witty writing and excellent voice acting, but it also manages to create robust characters out of metal parts and thin air.