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Mind-bending masterpiece ‘Portal 2′ hailed as year’s best

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Portal 2 - Valve Software

It's not just still alive -- it's alive and kicking.

Cleverly written, boldly innovative and filled to the brim with some of the most brilliant gameplay ever put to ones and zeroes, the short but sweet first-person puzzle game Portal was an instant hit when it was released as part of The Orange Box compilation of Half-Life games in 2007.

While it never enjoyed the broad crossover success of blockbusters like Halo and Call of Duty, Portal introduced a deliciously duplicitous meme, topped countless Game of the Year lists, and set the stage for a serious coming out party in its sequel.

Thanks to a few ugly delays, that took a bit longer than expected. And now that Portal 2 has arrived for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, can it live up the immense hype?

As the evil robot GLaDOS might say, it's a monster.

Though it's been out for barely a day, it's averaging an astonishing 95% at Metacritic, currently making Portal 2 the best reviewed game of 2011.

Taking place many, many years after the events of the original game, Portal 2 once again drops silent lead character and unfortunate test subject Chell into a series of ruthless spatial challenges overseen by a passive-aggressive, malevolent robot. And while the first game was no slouch, this one goes much, much bigger.

"It's a work of masterful craft, mechanically constructed with military precision, artistically wrapped in a tremendous story and environment," gushes The Telegraph's Tom Hoggins, adding that it "effortlessly represents the medium at its very best." He gives it a perfect 10/10.

Check out a Portal 2 trailer

But is it as fiendishly funny as the first game? According to Game Infomer, you betcha.

"The dialogue's pitch-perfect delivery is half of Portal 2's genius," the pub proclaims, thanks in large part to a few new characters. "I never once thought I'd place [evil robot] GLaDOS second on any list of Portal characters, but J.K. Simmons' character surpasses the malevolent AI even though she's as amusing as ever. I was never bored of the dialogue, settings, or puzzles," insists writer Adam Biessener in a glowing 9.5/10 piece.

IGN scored it the same, in part because they were blown away by the game's look and feel. Running on the same Source engine that powered the first game and fellow critical darling Half-Life 2, it's still a serious powerhouse.

"The attention to detail throughout is nothing short of stunning," says reviewer Charles Onyett. "Metal girders and structural supports break and crash into each another, snapping apart in chaotic and natural ways, consistently serving not only to entertain the eye but to expand our understanding of the game's characters."

But like most games, the real star of the show is in Portal 2's gameplay. The portal gun -- which opens two portals between surfaces, allowing players to literally walk through walls -- makes a return, along with new toys like a gel gun that can turn basic surfaces into trampolines. The result makes for some seriously devious puzzles...in a very, very good way.

"Portal 2 smartly introduces each idea one at a time before requiring you to use them in concert," points out Giant Bomb's Ryan Davis, who loved it so much he "actually felt a little melancholy once Portal 2 was over" because it was just that awesome. His score? What else -- a 5/5.

The game's new co-operative mode (which features a standalone story) also gets high marks, leaving the one consistent source of criticism aimed toward the game's somewhat slower second act. "The pacing sags and the story becomes more concerned with the past than anything else," says IGN.

But when you're scoring 95% across over 20 critics, there's really, truly not much wrong with you. Take it away, GamePro.

"Valve's latest is an absolute must-own, plain and simple," gushes the site in a 5/5 review, noting that it was "more than worth the wait."

And that, it seems, is no lie.

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