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GLaDOS Strikes Back: Portal 2

Portal 2 was confirmed over two years ago, but there was plenty of material at E3 2010 to whet appetites for the title. A 13-minute demo rekindled the heebie-jeebies of the first game, while introducing visually stunning new elements.

In case anyone is unfamiliar with the award-winning Portal, it deposits the player in the midst of a mysterious lab. A disembodied voice gives vaguely threatening instructions that the player is to solve a series of puzzles. Addictive and unique, it can make a gamer feel either very smart or very stupid. Portal appeals to casual gamers as well, and it brought the phrase “the cake is a lie” into mainstream consciousness. (If you don’t know what it means, check Urban Dictionary.)

 In Portal 2, the player again takes on the first person role of human lab rat, awakening from cryo-sleep in the Aperture Science lab. Centuries have passed, and the lab is cracked and overgrown with greenery, like something out of “Life After People”.  Early trailers emphasize this new, semi-outdoor setting, which allows for some great artistic use of natural light. The beauty of the setting is juxtaposed, of course, with the fear of the unknown.

At its start, Portal 2 introduces a new character, an eyeball-shaped security camera with an East London accent. He promises to help you escape but you soon find yourself reunited with GLadDOS, who has survived the events of the first game. “I think we can put our differences behind us,” she intones in her ominous cyber-voice.

The lab, it appears, is rebuilding itself.  Portals have taken on new dynamics, with the ability to stretch into tunnels, exert suction, or form bouncy surfaces. With many new choices available in a given puzzle, one can guess these levels will be much more challenging than in the first game. Plus, there is the added suspense of wondering if and when GLaDOS will exact revenge for her “murder.”

Demos abound online at the moment, but those wacky folks at Valve could come up with some unexpected twists by the time Portal 2 is released. It was originally slated for holiday 2010 before the company announced the delay, explaining, “Making games is hard”.

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