A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Portal 2 is a first-person action game but not a violent shooter. The gameplay is built around environmental puzzles -- how to get from point A to point B while avoiding C. Players have to figure out where to shoot portals, how to jump through them, and at what velocity and angle. There is some animated violence against enemy robots, and the player's character could get hurt by guns, turrets, and other objects, but the focus is on puzzle solving. Parents should note that cooperative play supports open voice communication, a feature that Common Sense Media does not recommend for pre-teen players.
- Parents say
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What's it about?
Portal 2 continues the story of Chell, the silent female protagonist from the original 2007 cult classic Portal. After being asleep for many years, she's awakened by a robot companion, Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant of The Office and Extras fame). This floating orb -- dubbed a “personality sphere” (you'll meet others, too) -- humorously explains that you have brain damage. Still, it needs your help to find the portal gun, rescue other test subjects, and rebuild the dilapidated facility. However, GLaDOS (pronounced "Gladys"), the intelligent but malevolent computer system from the first game, is accidentally revived along the way, and it isn’t thrilled you're awake. This highly enjoyable tale with well-written dialogue offers a few twists, new characters, and more backstory for fans of the franchise.
Is it any good?
If you liked Portal -- the relatively short experiment bundled with Valve's Half-Life 2: The Orange Box -- then you'll love Portal 2. As with the first game, players navigate dangerous environments using a portal gun, which shoots two connected time-space portals through which you (and objects) can travel. Momentum is maintained; therefore, you'll need to assess each situation differently -- often with a "trial and error" approach. You'll use these portals to redirect energy tractor beams, test your skills on "faith plates" that propel you through the air, and experiment with surface gels (such as a repulsion gel that allows Chell to jump from platform to platform). You'll also use special cubes, air currents, and other items to stay alive and unravel more of the story.
Once you finish the single-player game you can tackle a co-op mode with an online friend, which features a new story, characters, and maps. Truly, Portal 2 is a highly enjoyable first-person puzzler with a healthy dose of humor and sci-fi to keep you glued to the screen for many hours on end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about online play. How do you protect yourself while playing online? What should you do if you think you have encountered an online predator?
Families can also discuss puzzle solving. What can you learn from solving puzzles in games? Do you think solving puzzles in games can better prepare you for problems encountered in the real world?
- Platforms: Mac, PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
- Subjects: Math: estimation, geometry, measurement
Science: gravity, momentum, motion
- Skills: Creativity: brainstorming, developing novel solutions, imagination
Collaboration: cooperation, meeting challenges together, teamwork
Thinking & Reasoning: deduction, hypothesis-testing, solving puzzles
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Valve
- Release date: April 19, 2011
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: STEM
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.