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There’s a book available on Steam. Well, kind of a book, an interactive story based thingy, called “Portal 2: The FInal Hours”, and because I find Valve’s development process fascinating, I own it. One of the things it says is that for a long time in development, Portal 2 was going to use a completely new mechanic, one they’ve never put in a game before. Then, for a while it was based on the Gel gun. In the full game, you don’t get to put down Gel yourself, it gets pumped out of static pipes, and you can direct it with Portals. 

One of the differences between Portals 1 & 2 is that the new game slashed out the more pixel-perfect requirements of jumping. There aren’t any points where you *need* to do a precision jump into that portal there, it’s part of the reason the Aeriel Plates exist. If you missed the pixel precision, die and repeat puzzles from Portal 1, this is very much the game for you.

The setting is straight out of Portal. Somewhere between 1 & 2 of the main series, Nigel the Personality Sphere wakes up a test subject to put them though some experimentations with a new device they’ve cooked up. In this case, a device that shoots speed gel and bounce gel. Go forth.

This is a good game. It’s 27 levels of More Portal-style game, with its own spin on the formula. The plot is lifted, along with some of the jokes, from the first two thirds of the first game. The voice acting is good and the script is funnier than most full games. The level design is a couple of notches higher in sheer bastardry than the main game, with occasional lacks in knowing exactly what you are supposed to *do* next, but it does a good job of, once you know what you should be doing next, keeping the feeling of failure to being “I missed that jump” rather than “fuck this fucking game with a rusty portal gun”. There are a few instances where I felt like I was playing against the game rather than solving puzzles. Unless I’ve missed a trick somewhere, a couple of the solutions feel more like exploiting edge-cases of the physics system than a logical use of the tools at hand. 

Steam says I spent five hours playing it, and that was from beginning to end. At least 45 minutes of that was spent on one single level (entirely skippable, by a different route, for the game *knows* that this one is a bastard), a speed run of the most aerobic moves in the game where one slip will kill you.

The biggest problem the game’s got is that it’s up right next to, and directly comparable, to Valve, a company at the top of its game. I get the feeling when playing it that this is basically an alternate universe Portal, but in the hands of a less competent developer. This is in no way a slight to Eugenio Roman and the team who made it, but a few of the raw edges just feel more jagged in the engine that brought us the polished diamond shine of Portal 2.

That said, it’s currently £3.50 – normally £5 – for around five hours of portal-style spacial puzzling, and I’d recommend you buy it.

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