Portal 2

Game review by
Marc Saltzman, Common Sense Media
Portal 2 Game Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Inventive and enjoyable spatial puzzler with mild violence.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 32 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 203 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn how to solve problems through observation, deduction, and hypothesis testing in this innovative puzzle game set in a three-dimensional world. Players solve a broad range of physics-based brainteasers that combine real-world laws -- such as gravity -- with novel science-fiction ideas such as teleportation. Problems generally have specific solutions, but players are allowed to arrive at them through an organic process of investigation and prediction. Kids use their understanding of the physical world to figure out solutions to physics-based conundrums.

Positive Messages

The story concerns a fight for survival against intelligent computers that have run amok. Players take on the role of a human who must navigate various traps in a rundown scientific testing facility to stay alive. An emphasis is placed on thinking creatively to solve clever spatial puzzles.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players assume the role of Chell, a female in the future who awakens after a long, deep sleep. Players don't learn much about her personality or past, but she is that rare video game character who uses her wits rather than weapons to solve problems and escape danger.

Ease of Play

Early puzzles are easy. A robotic companion provides clear instructions on how to use the portal gun and move around. However, the game gets a lot tougher as you progress throughout the story.


Expect some sequences with fantasy violence, such as tossing small bombs at a robot "boss." Players shoot a portal "gun" to create interdimensional gateways from one place to another; it is not used to attack enemies. The player's character can be shot by robotic turrets or become sick with poison gas.


Words like "hell" and "damn" are spoken infrequently by the robotic characters players encounter.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEatMoreVeg February 23, 2013


There are no major issues with this game. Violence is only shown by small, non-humanoid, immobile turrets that will shoot if you're in their view. No bloo... Continue reading
Adult Written byhwarming May 9, 2012

I love this game

The player plays as Chell, a woman who is a silent protagonist, and has pretty much no back story. The game is focused on using the Portal gun to get from point... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 16, 2011

Perfect game for tweens in need of something new

This game is amazing. Each character is developed and expressive, and even if they're robots, they have more personality than many human characters in othe... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byconnr_dude June 14, 2012


really 10, REALLY? a little under 10 is fine

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?

Game details

  • 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

Our editors recommend

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Themes & Topics

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