BtG! Portal 2

This is the first in a new “series.” I say “series” instead of series because it won’t necessarily be an every week thing, though I will in fact try to keep you updated every week, probably on Fridays. The thing is, there are probably only so many times you can hear “not much to say guys” before wanting to hunt me down with pitchforks.

This series is dedicated to me finishing video games. It’s titled “Beat that Game!” Or, in moments of stress, perhaps “Beat that Damn Game!”

I’m going to put together a little list of games I want to beat and write about, post it on the side of the blog somewhere, and make my way through them. I’ll talk about the game just like I would any other time, but I’ll also likely discuss what it’s like to have played or beaten the game when I did, either rapidly, or years after everyone else ever heard of it, beat it, and forgot about it.

The first game is Portal 2, which I in fact beat yesterday. Oh, if you’re in the same boat I was in – spoilers, delicious spoilers, ahoy.

It was great, it really was. I think a lot of people felt some trepidation about a sequel to a game that just seemed finished. In fact, until I woke up Glad0s, I thought I was playing a new character, and not Chell. I realized the character was a woman, but I hadn’t read the comic and didn’t know Chell gets dragged back in by – well, I’m not sure. Portal 2 implies Glad0s is entirely shut down until Wheatley activates her again, but Coulton’s famous song “Still Alive” implies she’s around doing stuff after you’ve left in the first game. I know it’s just a song, but the second Coulton song, at the end of this game, is certainly about the plot.

I loved Portal 2, that was easy. Essay over.

Of course not. But yes, I loved this game. I mentioned trepidation earlier. First two minutes, trepidation over. I adored Wheatley. I was genuinely sad when Glad0s apparently destroyed him, and genuinely excited to see him peeking out from behind the panels Glad0s was furiously reseting. That also made the ending, where I had to destroy him, not as great for me on the happiness index.

I found the final fight a little easier than the first – I recall having to try two or three times in the first game just to get the timing down exactly. In this one I did it in a single playthrough. I will say I didn’t work out I should shoot the moon with the portal gun, I just did it for the hell of it, which somehow makes the success that much more awesome. Of course, once it worked, I recalled that the white portal gel was made from moon dust, but I didn’t in that moment where Chell is hurt and needs to do something fast.

I read something after beating it celebrating (well, not really) Portal 2’s anniversary. Has it seriously been out for a year? Jeez. I picked it up a few weeks ago, and mostly burned through it, with some pauses in there for other games. I also watched TheKittyMeister play the first game. She wanted to after I made her play the opening sequence of Portal 2. That worked better than I planned…

Somehow I avoided spoilers entirely for this game, and I’m really glad about that. Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn’t, but the moments of supreme frustration outside the puzzles themselves, when you’re in the bowels of the earth – those are better when you don’t know if you’ll survive. Valve was entirely capable of killing Chell in either game, I wouldn’t have put it past them. I thought they were about to, actually, when Wheatley and I spun out into space through the portal. I really did, for a moment, think Chell was about to die.

I adore Cave Johnson, just like everyone else in the world.

I haven’t played the co-op yet. I have a friend who hasn’t either, we’ll probably do that soon.

The article I mentioned earlier, that “celebrated” Portal 2, was actually a piece about how the second game isn’t subtle and hence is worse than the original. Besides the obvious problem, that subtlety != good, I find it is subtle, but in different ways. For instance, no one ever actually tells us that Glad0s was originally Caroline. Sure, it’s obvious, but the game never states that outright. Wheatley may be “comic relief” and “trying to be funny,” but what does it mean that that personality is the one that kept Glad0s from thinking clearly when he was attached? His entire persona after he’s grafted to the mainframe is trying to prove he’s not an idiot. Glad0s finds humility, but only long enough to delete it. That might be the best SF moment in the whole game series, by the way. Sure, a high-functioning AI would develop and change over time, but it could also rearrange parts of itself if it had access to its own files. Why wouldn’t it delete parts it didn’t like? Why wouldn’t Glad0s ruthlessly delete the last vestige of humanity left in Aperture? The comic makes clear that no one else is alive in the hibernation chambers, so with Chell leaving it’s just the robots in Glad0s in an endless permutation of “testing.” I want to play the co-op so bad, so I guess my final note is to avoid spoilers of the co-op in the comments if you’d be so kind.

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