Game Diary 20130128


After much delay, I finally bought myself my promised post-semester reward in the form of first-person puzzle game Portal 2, during the holiday sales on Steam. Also bought a copy of that and the first Portal as gifts for Ami.

So those have been most of what I have been playing for the past few weeks. I played through the first Portal game a couple of times previously after finally getting hold of it. Since then, I've been unable to play it since 2009 on account of running Ubuntu for that laptop period. Now that I have a Windows computer again, Valve has released a version of Steam for Linux so I would have been able to play Portal again anyway, probably.

Sooo. I finished Portal again, taking rather more time than it ought to take, on account of trying to get some of the achievements on offer for it. Mainly the ones for detaching cameras from the walls and finding and taking radios to discoverable locations. I wanted to try and finish all the advanced test chambers before playing the sequel which, as the name suggests, are versions of the puzzles from the main game which have been made more difficult. But, because they are indeed much more difficult, by the time I got up to the last I realised it would take possibly quite a long time. And I wanted to finish the single-player campaign in Portal 2 prior to playing the co-op mode with Ami, so for now Advanced Testchamber 18 remains undefeated by me.

First thing I noticed about Portal 2 is how much improved the graphics are. And, the first Portal was still one of the most recent and graphically advanced games I had played prior to its sequel, so this was very impressive to me. Also helped that the first environments you go through are also the beginning of the original Portal game, so you get to see directly how much the look of the game has been improved.

Overall it feels like a lot of work has been done and lessons learned in the meanwhile to making games more playable and more fun. The tumbling as Chell emerges from portals in various origins has been taken out, making it vastly easier to navigate situations where the player needs to re-position portals on the fly. The display has also been cleaned up a lot and even though I already knew the controls from the previous game, the on-screen guide to the controls at the beginning was still nice to look at. Audio cues have been added for interaction with the various puzzle pieces (the different gels, at least) which greatly simplifies interacting with them and knowing when you are under the effect of their various properties. I might be mistaken or misremembering things too, but I think using objects has been simplified also.

There was a lot more story and several more characters than in the first game. Story was a lot of fun, very amusingly driven by the character interactions, although the player is more of a bystander since the player character Chell is mute throughout the game and she acts only through the game being played. I ended up lingering a lot in various parts of the game just because it was fun to hear the various characters monologuing and I wanted to find out what else they might say.

As much fun as the story is for Portal 2 in itself, I was disappointed a bit by it in relation to the previous game. Mainly, that Portal 2 takes the events of the previous game at face value, whereas I had thought a less literal interpretation made better sense of events. But now that interpretation has been canned, which in my eyes diminishes GLaDOS and the entire scenario a bit. Also a little disappointed that where the first game had a 99% female cast, all but one of the new additions are male.

The first Portal game was already pretty good at it, but I think the designers have learned a lot about teaching players how to play as they play, getting skills learned, developed and applied. I am looking forward to playing through with the developer commentary on.

Although, maybe because of that, I was also disappointed the puzzles weren't harder. There were a few different 'testing track' sequences in the game, at the end of which some dramatic event would happen and you would be forced to begin a new track designed by a different character, and using new skills. I tended to only feel much engaged with the puzzle-solving toward the end of each of these, and then it was over too quickly. Maybe the advanced versions of the chambers will be more interesting, or maybe I was too distracted at the time to really appreciate the puzzles.

Probably, going to play through both games again in the relatively near future. Plus there are still the co-operative maps to try, and the Perpetual Testing Initiative, which makes for easy access to user-created maps. Am looking forward to those.