It's safe to assume that Valve's groundbreaking first-person puzzler Portal will be burned into the memories of many gamers for years to come. For some, it will be the game's particularly tricky puzzles that are remembered for their ingenuity, and others will recall the game's nuanced and subtle story.
But for some out there, the lasting memory has been one of frustration, knowing the solution to a certain puzzle, but being unable to complete it due to controls or a lack of reflexes. Valve understands the problem was one faced by many, and has confirmed that Portal 2 will be far less frustrating.
The most difficult aspects of puzzle games these days is challenging players to do the impossible, or at the very least, complete tasks which are extremely challenging. Portal managed to put players to the test in a very different way, by giving them all the tools they needed to complete a specific challenge, and expanding on that pool of knowledge one room at a time.
Finding the solution to a particular puzzle wasn't impossible, and actually somewhat obvious after it was fully grasped.
But at a few points in the game, players ran into the wall of knowing exactly what had to be accomplished to proceed, but lacking the skill to do it.
That is anything but a satisfying game experience, and more than enough to have players abandoning the game out of frustration. With the addition of gravity beams, repulsion gels and lasers, Portal 2 seems to be including even more ways to end up banging your head against the wall.
Luckily, the game's writer Erik Wolpaw has explained that while Portal 2's trailers exhibited some seriously intense gameplay, Valve won't be throwing players into the deep end right off the bat. The developer is more than aware of the difficulties some fans found with a few puzzles in particular, and told Joystiq that they've taken some precautionary steps to make Portal 2 much less frustrating:
"We're going to train you...At no point are we going to ask you do something that we haven't prepared you to do.
"One of the things we learned after releasing Portal 1 was that there were a couple puzzles in Portal 1 that required some sort of twitchy ninja skills to actually execute the solution... If you then struggle with the controller for twenty minutes to execute the solution that you already know, almost universally we found that it was frustrating people."
Wolpaw also explained that while most players will make their way through Portal 2 in much the same way as the first, footage of a room being slowly examined through trial and error doesn't exactly make for an entertaining trailer. Nobody would disagree, but it's nice to hear that the developers are putting their time into getting players to understand the puzzles, not constantly fail in the execution.
The various gameplay videos we've seen so far seem to imply that many of Portal 2's puzzles will be segmented, built around the idea of stages rather than single rooms. If that's the case, then giving players the chance to solve a puzzle in steps may help to eliminate potential stress.
If impossible missions are your personal pleasure, then the more seasoned fans will have some achievements to tackle when the game launches, and DLC soon after in case they require even more of a challenge.
And while confirming that Valve would be happy to see more properties receive the same Steam/PS3 integration as Portal 2, Wolpaw once again put rumors of Move functionality to rest, confirming that the only motion controls for the game will be the Razer Hydra PC peripherals.
What system will you be playing Portal 2 on? Will you be trying out the PS3 version, Xbox 360, or try your hand at motion controls on the PC?
Portal 2 will be released on April 20 for the Xbxo 360, PS3, PC and Mac.