Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Portal? Why the F Not?

portal-thumb-410x378 On this week’s forthcoming podcast, you’ll hear us discuss Valve’s genius secret message marketing embedded in a recent update for the popular first-person puzzler Portal.  We didn’t know much about what the crazy Morse code-slash-BBS dial-up signals meant.  So when listening, enjoy the irony of knowing what the Internet discovered after we recorded:

Portal 2 is coming.

What do we know so far?  Among the expected sequel bullet-points of new crazier puzzles and a how-could-we-refuse? reunion with GLaDOS, the biggest revelation is the inclusion of a co-op mode.  It sounds like the game (priced at a full $59.99 for the Xbox 360) will feature separate campaigns for single and co-op play, and that the portal-hopping in co-op will most likely melt your brain.  I can already imagine scenarios in which certain portals are restricted so that you’ll have to hop from one of your portals to one of your friend’s and then a cute little turret will start shooting—I can’t wait.

There’s also talk of a new antagonist: Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson.  I won’t elaborate because I’m trying to avoid over-spoilerification.  Rest assured, the truth is out there.

One thing I’m noticing as Portal 2 info leaks: I’m not seeing the same sequel reticence that preceded BioShock 2.  Is it because the first Portal was so brief that we left it wanting more?  Personally, its brevity was actually one of its greatest strengths.  It demonstrated that a witty, intelligent, (and most importantly) fun game could delivered in a four- to six-hour package.  I worry that the move toward a fuller retail product might bloat what should be a lean experience.

Something I am interested to see how Valve tackles is our familiarity with the first game.  Portal, from a narrative and mechanical standpoint, is essentially an expertly paced tutorial for its thrilling final chapter.  Can the sequel successfully emulate this structure?  Or will our prior experience with the gun, the turrets, and the Companion Cube undercut whatever story they try to deliver via gameplay?

Then again, I don’t know why I’m wasting breath with hypothetical nay-saying.  I’m so damn pumped to hop through more portals.