Too much icing – The bane of Portal 2


So yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard. Portal 2 has begun making its slow glorious trek into existence, speaking kind, enticing words and releasing ambrosia from its very pores. You may have noticed that a lot of people are clamouring wildly over its new concepts, its cooperative play, its FANCY NEW JUNGLE. And yeah, I’m one of those people, quite shamelessly, with only one glaring reservation.

Portal was a lovely game. It was the epitome of mainstream indie – fantastic puzzle and level design, clever visual design, and humour so black that it would put coal to shame, and this is precisely why we loved it; it was incredibly short and sweet. Portal 2 is promising co-op, a large elaborate story and levels that would baffle Escher himself. The things that exactly made Portal such a wonderful little game were things that never expected a sequel regardless of its quality, and all Portal 2 seems to be doing is trying to prove that you can’t have too much of a good thing.

Portal, was a great little solo concept with ideas that were incredibly endearing for the expanse of EXACTLY ONE GAME. Any further than this, and they’re destined to become spoilt and stale which would be a shame. The other day, I so wittily likened portal 2 to a cake with too much icing, I then instantaneously realised how clever this pun was and got cracking on this article, and things are starting to fall into place.

I think to really get a grasp of the issue here, we going to have to introduce our good friend the example. Super Smash Bros was an excellent micro concept – it was a fighting game, but it took the path of a progressive story mode with all the lovability of your favourite Nintendo characters, and a bunch of quirky enemies. About the time Brawl rolled around, I felt things had gone stale – the story mode had turned into a full blow platformer, the character list was nigh on incomprehensible, and it had downright robbed itself of the charm of the original. Portal, much like Smash Bros relied on a few simple ideas, and great execution, and when you start adding more and more concepts into the mix, it ends up like trying to assemble a house of cards in a tumble dryer – stable concepts deteriorate and lose sight of original visions and charms, quickly overshadowing any possible innovations.

I have no doubt that Portal 2 will be good, in fact Gabe Newell himself boldly proclaimed that it will be their best game ever. Deus Ex invisible war was good except for the fact that it had the shining expectations of Deus Ex stamped all over it, and I feel that portal will go the same way. It will live up to its master’s expectations, but it will never quite fill the unique imprint the original left in the market all those years ago. It just simple can’t.

Miles Newton – Holiday Aficionado


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