A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Words like "hell" and "damn" are spoken infrequently by the robotic characters players encounter.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.