One important part of Roused is that it is in no way timely. Sometimes a post will go up about something that just came out or happened, but much of the time I’ll be writing about stuff as I enjoy it, with no concern for release date. This is the premium example of that fact. Four years later, and I finally got around to playing Portal 2. Maybe I can get into the Guinness Book of World Records as the very last person to play through this game for their first time.
I knew I’d like it, knew that all the fuss was probably well-earned, and it still amazed me with its joyful simplicity.
For those who don’t know the series, Portal and Portal 2 are puzzle games. You have a portal gun that creates two sides of one portal. You need to use that to solve various puzzle rooms to advance the game.
Portal 2 is perfect.
For one, it’s hilarious. Throughout the game you are regaled and tormented by two AI’s and one series of prerecorded voice messages, and the writing for each is delightedly twisted. Not just delightfully twisted, but also delightedly twisted; these writers clearly delighted in being creating these insane AI’s hellbent on testing you to death. Among the three voice actors, one is Stephen Merchant, and another is recent Academy Award winner JK Simmons. The game still would have been amazing without the writing and voice work, but that extra layer makes an amazing game something truly special.
Most importantly, the puzzles are amazingly satisfying. They never get particularly difficult, but they are always enjoyable to solve. It was like zen to me during a week when I really needed some mental peace. The way these game crafters take a few very simple elements to create such variety in their puzzles is really impressive. And the simplicity of the elements makes it so that the puzzles all feel connected; unlike so many games, there are no cheap shots, any challenge is created by fair play and requires intuitive problem solving. Which is what creates such gratifying gameplay.
As I’ve written before about things I took a while to get around to: I don’t really care that I’m late to this party, I’m just glad I got to join it.