Best Gameplay: Portal 2
It’s no secret that our classification of Portal 2 as an adventure game has garnered some controversy: some consider it “merely” a puzzle game or believe that the portal “shooting” mechanics and a few timed jumps preclude the game from being considered anything but an action game. Certainly it doesn’t fit neatly into previously defined categories, but we believe its focus on space-bending, brain-teasing gameplay perfectly integrated into an extraordinary game world to explore more than qualifies it for inclusion in our hallowed halls. No matter what genre you think it is, there’s one thing that few dispute: it’s really, really, really good. One of the best games ever made good, in no small part thanks to its innovative, utterly immersive approach to puzzle-solving, which is more than enough to earn it this year’s Best Gameplay Aggie.
For a title that really only includes two ways to interact with the environment (pushing buttons and shooting portals), Portal 2 has a remarkable depth of gameplay. That’s because you’ll use those portals for everything from teleporting yourself to transporting crates through tractor beams to destroying turrets to splattering gels that help you slap the laws of physics right in the kisser. Test chambers may be simple in their grey and white tiled appearance, but each one is packed with scintillating possibilities and challenges, and as you branch out into the massive, crumbling ruins of Aperture Science, Valve managed to add exponentially to the formula without breaking the sublime, almost magical balance and pacing. At first your brain my ache as you try to work out a solution to the latest environmental obstacle, but before long things that seemed physically impossible become second nature as you adapt to the game’s bizarre but comprehensible internal logic. And then the impressive co-op mode adds still another layer of complexity as you and a buddy fling each other across gaps and through walls to reach the end together. All told, even if you don’t consider it an “adventure game”, its brilliant gameplay ensures that Portal 2 is a thoroughly unforgettable adventure, period.
Runners-Up: The Book of Unwritten Tales, Stacking, L.A. Noire, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Readers’ Choice: Portal 2
So we’re agreed then. No more inventory and logic puzzles! Okay, no, we all love the genre’s tried-and-true conventions, but for a welcome change of pace, there was no topping the ability to defy gravity in a series of mind-bending, physics-altering puzzles set amidst the colossal mechanical maze that is Aperture Science, caught like a lab rat between duelling computer A.I.’s. An old-school epic fantasy adventure sure gave it a run for its money, though, in a close finish for the readers' best gameplay selection.
Runners-Up: The Book of Unwritten Tales, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, L.A. Noire, Gray Matter
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Next up: Best Concept... the envelope, please!