Publisher: Electronic Arts, Valve Software / Developer: Valve Software / Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox360

The following is part one of a two part spoiler-free review. Part one can be found here.

Kate: Any time a game features levels that involve some degree of puzzle solving, and offers both solo or cooperative play, usually one of the two modes suffer. Either the levels were designed with one player in mind and any alterations for two players feels tacked-on, or the levels were designed for two people and the solo mode ends up feeling like an afterthought (such as in the case of Lara Croft & The Guardian Of Light).

Valve’s solution was to simply create two separate games. Which sounds obvious, but it also involves more work. Not only are none of the chambers recycled versions of ones from the other game mode, but even the characters you play as are different, as is the story.

You and your partner play as two robots created mainly for the purpose of testing, though GLaDOS may also have an ulterior motive. I’m not going to say anything else about the story, other than that it does come after the solo mode story chronologically, for people who care about that sort of thing. This is unfortunate, because the rollercoaster ride of the solo mode story ends up making the co-op mode story seem like a kiddie ride in comparison. It’s still entertaining, and the final scene and resulting end credits are a ton of fun, but overall I found the story end of things to be kind of a let down.

Is that how you felt, James?

James: Yeah, however I don’t think I’d call it a “kiddie ride”.  The story elements in co-op are sprinkled here and there, but I found it enough to keep me hooked since they leave so many questions unanswered until the very end.  The ending itself I found a little anticlimactic, however I still think the story elements leading up to the end were really well-done, and gave me more of a drive to reach the end other than just simply saying that I’ve beaten Portal 2’s co-op mode.  That, and the puzzles were really cleverly-designed with two players in mind.

Kate: Right, the main focus is clearly the puzzles, and those were definitely creative and fun. But for some reason I felt the story was missing something, though I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t think it had any really quotable lines, maybe?

James: There wasn’t anything as quotable as in the single-player story, but I still thought there were a few things worth chuckling about.  The story was sparse but what was there really kept me interested.  It definitely isn’t as strong as the single-player, but I thought Valve did a good job nonetheless.

Kate: Oh, I definitely got some laughs from the dialogue. I was especially amused by the way the dynamic was changed by GLaDOS having two testers to talk to at the same time. It’s just unfortunate that the co-op story would probably be more enjoyable if played before the single-player story that tops it, yet co-op has the possibility of very slightly spoiling some aspects of the story.

My story complaints are really just nitpicks. I’m essentially saying that I enjoyed what story was there, but wish there had been more. On the other hand, I found it to be the perfect length for what it is, being roughly the same length as the first game. It makes me wonder: if they do ever make another sequel, will it end up being a longer version of co-op mode? Then again, we all know how Valve are when it comes to third installments of things. 😉

Overall, I enjoyed co-op mode, and was pleasantly surprised at how nicely two sets of portals ended up working, and that it didn’t end up being as overwhelming as it seemed like it could have been. For a co-op experience, I give it a 10/10.

James: Compared to the single-player, Portal 2’s co-op is slightly weaker, and the story just doesn’t deliver as hard a punch.  However, by itself, the co-op mode is very well-polished and is better than just about any co-op experience out there.  For that I think it deserves a 10/10.