This article contains spoilers.
For the first few hours, I was absolutely loving this game. The dialogue was witty, the puzzles were engaging and it was all good fun. I was thinking “this is going to be my favourite game of 2012” (played, not released). Alas it all went a little wayward, which is why I’ve only completed it recently.
After defeating GLaDOS fairly early on things went outside and there was no longer set test centres. On one hand, more variety is good but on the other the levels lacked any clear sense of direction. Rather than trying to think “how do I achieve my objective?” you had to ponder “what is the objective?”. This often led to a more ad-hoc approach, such as “I see there’s a diagonal white bit, so I need to fall down so i can propel myself out there”. At times this was a little frustrating and dull but the real killer was when you didn’t play for a short while. Coming back into a game with no clear sense of objective or direction can make it much more challenging to get back into the “groove”, possibly leading to you not bothering any more.
The lack of other characters during this time probably didn’t help either. Previously you had a nice injection of humour to perk you up if the pace was a little too slow but this very long section of the game was oh so dry. In fact it took me a hell of a long time to complete. The different paints did add a bit more fun by adding a huge dollop of variety to the puzzles but all too often I found myself getting bored and/or frustrated.
It took a while for me to get back into the game and once I did, it turned out I was right near the final section where I went through more test chambers and going after Wheatly. Great fun!
In all I did enjoy the game but that middle chunk was just too dry and too long. Should there ever be a Portal 3 (Valve’s inability to count that high says “no”) then I hope it sticks to more enclosed environments where you can see where you are meant to be going. It also needs to keep the banter coming throughout the game as that period without it left a huge void.