Editor's Note: Today, I am so happy to welcome Darren Love to our CatholicMom.com family of contributors. Darren is a Catholic dad and active gamer who shares his take on the latest gaming trends from a Catholic perspective at his blog www.CatholicGamer.com. He'll join us here to share reviews, news and helpful information to help parents make great decisions about gaming. LMH

I’ll put my conclusion up front to save you from scrolling all the way down. The co-op experience in Portal 2 is probably the best co-op experience I have had the pleasure the play. More to the point, the Portal 2 provides a new standard in co-operative play for two players. The very nature of the game requires the players to work together towards the common goal of solving the puzzle. If you don’t cooperate, you don’t move forward…simple as that.

Unlike the single player experience; which I haven’t finished yet, the two players take on the role of two robots: Atlas and P-Body. Despite not being human, these two little guys have plenty of personality. The goal is very much like the single player experience, except this time you have a partner to help you. Solve the puzzles using the portals and other tools that you have at your disposal. Now, since you have two portals each, the puzzles are usually twice as big and twice as complex…but hey, you have twice the brainpower, so piece of cake ;) . There were many occasions where my partner in crime and I were stumped and were conversing over Skype for what seemed like 20-30 minutes trying to figure out some of the more complex levels. Don’t let that scare you away though as the reward for solving these puzzles is immensely satisfying.

I want to get a bit into the atmosphere of the co-op experience of Portal 2 for a second. For those that are not familiar with Portal at all, the main protagonist of the world is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) named Glados. I highly recommend going on Youtube and just listening to some of what she says. Actually, hereis a “Top 10″ list of some of her more famous quotes. She has such sweet voice, but there is an edge to her that just brings her to life. Think of a female version on HAL…but with attitude, and you’ll be spot on. So, as you are moving along solving these puzzles with your partner, you’ll start to notice that Glados is saying things like, ”We remind you that this is not a contest, but if it was orange would be winning, but you’re not.” Every once and a while, you’ll here something and your partner won’t. We noticed that once when I heard my friend seemingly laughing at nothing. When I asked what was so funny he said, “Didn’t you hear that?”. I clearly didn’t. Apparently Glados was telling him how much of a failure I was and how he was her favorite. From then on, we started to compare notes on what we were hearing and sure enough sometimes each player is given a different message from Glados. Usually, these differing messages were about the inadequacy of your partner and how great you are doing. It just added that special touch that Valve is so famous for in its games.

The puzzles themselves range from the extremely difficult to introductory/easy. Now, when I say “extremely difficult”, I mean that in the context of having two brains looking at it. Probably the most difficult part of the puzzles is just trying to figure out what you need to do with all of the buttons and surfaces that are given to you on a specific level. Once you figure out all of the moving parts, it’s usually wise to find the exit and then work backwards from there. At times, you do feel like that guy who assembled a BBQ and had one extra piece left over from the assembly. There are no such things as extra pieces in Portal 2. In the co-op experience, everything is there for a reason and needs to be used in some way. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t multiple ways to solve each puzzle, but just know that if…at some point…you’re not using every surface for a portal, then you’re probably on the wrong track. The amount of time for the co-op experience seems to be in the 6-8 hour range, which is perfect as it is a completely separate game from the single player experience. Add that to the 8-10 hours of single player puzzles and you’ve got yourself about a 20 hour experience….which is not bad at all.

Now, for the bad. The only thing I’ve noticed about the co-op that could be improved is the variety of puzzles. Yes, there is a lot of puzzles but sometimes they do start to show a bit of a pattern on how they are solved. This clearly comes down to the fact that there are only so many tools to use, e.g. four portals, blocks, tractor beams, and various colors of goo. Given the tools, solving the puzzles becomes an effort to overcome the geography of the level itself. Sure, it does seem clever, but no real curve balls are there. Probably one of the more frustrating parts are the few puzzles that require timing. Now, after about five or six tries we did eventually get it, but I can see how this would be a turn-off for kids or others who aren’t familiar with co-op games, like Portal. So, be warned, there are some frustrations, but hang in there because overall the experience of Portal 2 co-op is just fantastic.

So, that’s it for the co-op experience of Portal 2. I can easily say that this is a must-buy for any gamer out there. If you are a gamer and you haven’t bought it yet…shame on you. If you’re new the genre of “puzzle shooters” (..I use “shooter” lightly..) then I see no reason why you shouldn’t give this one a try along with your closest friend. It’s full of those memory making moments that can last a lifetime.

D out.

Order Portal 2 and support CatholicMom.com with your purchase.

Copyright 2011 Darren Love