It doesn’t take much to remind me why I, why so many people, loved the original Portal.
The game is cheeky, it’s fun, it’s smart.
Portal 2 is all of that, with a friend.
Standing in the E3 offices of Valve earlier today I had a chance to take Portal 2’s coop mode for a spin with one of the developers on a computer.
As you’d expect from a Valve title, there are a lot of really neat touches. You can easily work out an approach to solving one of the games, mind-bending, portal-using puzzles by using the game’s built-in communication tools. Just point at a wall or object and select an icon, Place Portal Here, Go Here, Look Here, and press a button. The icon that pops up on the other players screen, showing them quickly what you have in mind.
You still use one mouse button to shoot one part of a portal and the other mouse button to shoot the other part. The e button on the PC I played the game on was an action button.
Another neat feature, you can press a button to split your screen. Half of the screen shows your point of view and the other half shows your buddy’s point of view.
That gets us to who you are exactly, which isn’t human. One of you plays as a turret, the other as a personality sphere. Both of you move around on svelte robot legs. The devs didn’t go into the back story much for the coop, but it appears the two of you have been sucked into a new round of experimentation by GlaDOS. She wants to know how the experience of going through the tests changes when two people, or robots, are going through it together.
The experiments are all much, much more difficult to solve and all of the ones I tried with the developer required two players working closely together, both to solve the the puzzles and to do the work.
Because you can walk through each other’s portals, things can get a bit confusing at times, but not in a bad way. You just have to remember not to close a portal that’s projecting, for example, a light bridge over a vat of goo while your friend is standing on it.
I worked my way through four or five puzzles and found quickly that playing the game with another person was infinitely more rewarding than playing it on my own. And again, the challenge level is really cranked up.
I also loved how this new dynamic gave GlaDOS another thing to do in her spare time. At the end of each puzzle she did her best to plant the seeds of doubt. Mocking one or the other player, pointing out that one was smart and one stupid by saying things like:
“You work well together as a team. One of you is the brains and the other plods along behind just in case you come across an eating contest.”
It’s fantastic fun, and remember it’s still not the full, single-player experience.
I can’t wait for this game to come up.