Portal 2 Review: Our First Perfect 10

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Easily the most anticipated release this year, Portal 2 follows publisher Valve’s physics-puzzler Portal, the 2007 game that instantly leapt onto Game of the Year lists and into the Best Games Ever pantheon. You played as Chell, a hapless human female made to test a teleportation gun in the Aperture Science research facility, hounded by a bitchy AI named GLaDOS. The Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System herded players through a series of test chambers where you bent the rules of physics, and didn’t give a damn if you lived through the process. What made Portal so beloved was the ingenuity of its brain-bending, physics-based puzzles, GLaDOS’ snarky antagonism and the singularly well-executed gimmick of on-demand teleportation. Furthermore, the game’s perpetual tease of dessert-as-reward and its poignant, musical aftermath all became memes that extended beyond hardcore gamers.

(More on TIME.com: What We’re Looking Forward to in 2011: Video Games)

When rumors swirled that Portal 2 might release early, fan desire hit fever pitch. What actually came about was a bit different but only fueled the fervor. No pressure, right Valve? Thankfully all the Portal trademarks return in spades and with perks. The single-player portion is much longer than the first game’s amuse-bouche length, and Portal 2 extends things with a cooperative play campaign that lets two people control robot partners for double the teleportational madness.

In single-player, you play as Chell again and find her/yourself waking up after centuries of sleepy stasis. The time between games hasn’t been kind to Aperture Science. Its spotless white halls have been busted up and rusted over, victim to some nameless catastrophe. GLaDOS returns–even bitchier after being dispatched in the first game–and plots to torment Chell with a lifetime of testing her way through a never-ending series of deathtraps.

(More on TIME.com: Rapture Match #2: GlaDOS (Portal) vs The Reapers (Mass Effect))

Portal 2′s biggest risk comes from changing its formula. The first game was a gleaming exemplar of minimalism, super-spare even down to its play mechanics. Create an entrance and exit with your portal gun, pressing buttons and placing cubes to exit various death-dealing rooms. Portal 2 adds additional gimmicks like catapults and lasers as well as other characters.

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