Three Unrelated Things (That You Already Knew)

Thing the First: Portal 2 is amazing. But you already knew that.

Thing the Second: The new Game of Thrones series on HBO is amazing. But you already knew that too.

Thing the Third, and I’m actually cheating a little bit here, because this is at least tangentially related to Thing the First: I can’t play the co-op levels of Portal 2 yet (which I am certain are also amazing) because PlayStation Network has been down all day.

Thing the Fourth, because I kind of feel bad for sneaking that related-to-Thing-the-First thing in there: I wish I weren’t as behind on Survivor as I am. Peanut and I are going to watch the next episode right after this post goes live. If she would let me watch it without her I would probably never miss a week, but alas, I’m not. I made the mistake of watching Survivor without her once, and she took a toe.

For serious, I only have nine toes. She keeps the tenth one in a little jar on the kitchen counter. It’s labeled “This is what you get.”

In all honesty, it took a great amount of willpower to not just load up my WordPress template and type “PORTAL PORTAL PORTAL” fifty times. You guys know I love talking about games, but I’m really not sure what I can say about Portal 2 other than I liked it a tremendous deal. Those 900+ word blog posts about game design theory you all know and love? Usually, in order to spur something like that, a game has to make a noticeable enough misstep that I can see what went wrong and have an idea of how to fix it. Portal 2 doesn’t do anything wrong, though. And that’s the truth.

I can articulate, though, a rare sensation which this game does so amazingly well. I mean, literally only one or two games in history have done it, and the original Portal wasn’t one of them. What I’m talking about here, and this is at least a little bit of a SPOILER!!, is that you play Portal 2 for a few hours and get to what you suspect must be the end of the game. It’s been a good run, and you’ve solved a bunch of neat puzzles, and you’ve had a good ride through the Aperture facility, but you’re to the point where you’ve about explored all the mechanics and seen everything the game could show you. Short and sweet, just like Portal 1, yeah?

But the game doesn’t end. It takes a completely unexpected twist off into Awesomeville, and then… there you are Act 2. New gameplay mechanics. New scenery. New omnipresent voice taunting and/or egging you on. It becomes clear that this is the game you paid to play; everything up to now was just a warm-up. A re-hash. This, though? This is the juicy, meaty center. This is the new stuff. This is the stuff we’ll all be quoting for the next four years.

Once you’ve stretched the new stuff in every direction it will go, which takes another couple of hours, you start to come up on what you suspect must be the end of the game. Things start to come to a head. You learn some things about the game world, discover how the old setting plugs into the new one. You run out of new toys to play with. It’s definitely time for the showdown! But no. Once again, the game doesn’t end. A new unexpected twist. A new omnipresent voice. A totally new atmosphere, both unlike the original Portal and anything you’ve done so far in Portal 2. And then? More new game mechanics to toy with.

I love it when a game jumps me like that. When it lulls me into thinking, “I have seen what this game can do, and it’s been a good ride.” And then, out of nowhere, new more awesome stuff. That’s Portal 2 in a nutshell. The game just keeps surprising you. It keeps bonking you in the head. It keeps you laughing, and keeps you guessing. I was riveted to the original Portal because I wanted to see what new, fresh puzzles the game was going to hit me with. I was riveted to Portal 2 for the same reason, but I also wanted to see what sorts of weird corkscrews the setting was going to take. I wanted my next dose of omnipresently-taunting voice.

I’ve really enjoyed the past several years of cake jokes. Now, I’m buckled in for the onslaught of potato jokes. And I haven’t even touched the co-op stuff yet! Been a long, long time since a new game made me feel this invigorated. Doesn’t leave me much to blog about, unfortunately, but it’s certainly good for the excitable gamer within.

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