Portal 2

 
(i)

 

Learning(i)

Inventive and enjoyable spatial puzzler with mild violence.

What parents need to know

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

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

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.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

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

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Has privacy and safety concerns. The game supports an online co-op (cooperative) mode for two players. This option, which has its own objectives and characters, is unlocked only after the single-player game is completed. Players can freely talk to one another while playing, which opens the door to inappropriate subjects of conversation and the sharing of personal information.

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.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • estimation
  • geometry
  • measurement

Science

  • motion
  • gravity
  • momentum

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • deduction
  • hypothesis-testing
  • solving puzzles

Creativity

  • brainstorming
  • developing novel solutions
  • imagination

Collaboration

  • teamwork
  • cooperation
  • meeting challenges together

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Learning Approach

Support

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • estimation
  • geometry
  • measurement

Science

  • motion
  • gravity
  • momentum

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • deduction
  • hypothesis-testing
  • solving puzzles

Creativity

  • brainstorming
  • developing novel solutions
  • imagination

Collaboration

  • teamwork
  • cooperation
  • meeting challenges together

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.

This Learning Rating review was written by Chad Sapieha

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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
Price:$19.99
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Available online
Developer:Valve
Release date:April 19, 2011
Genre:Puzzle
ESRB rating:E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language (Mac, PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360)

This review of Portal 2 was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love thinking games

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written bygameaddictwn April 26, 2011
 

Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!

This is a must-buy for any puzzle and comedy fans. The puzzles are hard but not hard enough to let you give up. The comedy is the best I have seen in ANY game AND movie. Each chapter I played I had to get off the computer and I had literally had to force myself to stop laughing. This game also states that even if you're adopted that you can be the best at what you do. The bad guys *spoiler* even learns a lesson that with great power comes great responsibility *end spoiler*. One thing is the language the world 'bloody' are commonly used. 'O my god' can also be heard multiple times. D*mn is used 2 times and 'hell' about 3 times. Also GLaDOS in the beginning insults you heavily. Another part is where GLaDOS screams. But you can hear she has pain. It was so bad it send shivers down my spine. But aside from that is i FANTASTIC. BEST VALVE GAME EVER. A must-buy.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old April 28, 2011
 

Very Fun & Challenging

This is a Very Fun and Brain Teasing Game which is fun for all ages. Can be a Bit Tricky for Under 7 but besides from that should be a E no Violence maybe uses words like 'Hell' but nothing they wouldn't hear anywhere else.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Parent of a 7 and 10 year old Written bySmurfette711 November 20, 2011
 

I think we can put our differences behind us...for science.

I'm making a note here. This game is a huge success. My 7 year old son and I have played the cooperative game together and have loved it! I can hardly believe how quickly he figures out how to solve the puzzles. He really gets a kick out of being "the leader" and formulating plans to get to the exit. All kids think differently so it may not be for all 7 year olds but for mine, it's been great! This game is a great opportunity for bonding :)
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass