This is my Portal 2 post. ;) I'm going to put most of it behind a cut for the sake of avoiding spoilers, particularly of the single-player campaign. I'm nice like that. Orange wouldn't do that for you, and Blue and I both know it.
I honestly have to just make a big fat bullet list, because there are so many things we can all talk about.
- Wheatley's comments on how "some guy" took down GLaDOS, right before you wake her up, fascinated me. It's a throw-away line but it's a great example of how so many things default to male -- because you the player, you the character, and GLaDOS all know that Portal the first was an all-female cast.
- Speaking of female casting, in Portal 2 you get to see Chell a lot because of where the rooms require portal placement. You also have GLaDOS and Wheatley referring to "she" and "her" a lot. In short, despite being a classic Valve mute first-person character (and self-referentially called out on it), the game does a good job of reminding you you're a girl. And even though there are now male sidekicks and antagonists -- in the form of Wheatley and Cave Johnson, mainly -- the voice that carries the game is still GLaDOS.
- And lest we ever, ever forget -- it's good writing that sells a game. Snappy dialogue is worth its weight in gold.
- In writing -- I loved the way they told the history of Aperture Science. The line from, "Welcome, Olympians!" to, "You may remember us from the missing astronaut hearings" through Cave Johnson's last recordings was just brilliant.
- In that vein, my favorite room was the 1976 one, the deconstructed, abstract, essence-of-chamber room where the cube, button, and you were on three different platforms in space (not to mention a fourth platform and, finally, the exit). That was the room that made the game for me, because it forced me to stop and think: "What problem is it that I need to solve?" and then to break down everything into its logical, component steps. That was a vital piece of training, without which I would not have made it through the rest of the game.
- Speaking of the rest of the game, I thought in general the learning curve was quite good. I was grateful to avoid the reflex-action, shoot-while-moving-and-nausea-be-damned puzzles that the later test chambers of the first game were full of. I'm actually good at speedy-thing-goes-in, speedy-thing-comes-out thinking (and had a lot of fun with it once the gels were involved) but not that good at avoiding motion sickness while hurtling through space at a 90 degree angle to reality.
- I am good at orange and blue gel puzzles. My brain deals well with that particular application of physics.
- I am really, really bad at light bridge and excursion funnel puzzles. My brain just doesn't deal well with that particular application of physics.
- I loved the use of achievement / trophy names as non-spoiler spoilers, particularly: "The Part Where He Kills You -- This Is That Part" and "Lunacy -- That Just Happened..."
And then there are the turrets.
Oh, turrets. I don't even know where to begin with you. The ascent out of Aperture Science at the end (p.s. where the hell was my deer, I was expecting a deer, even the cake was real eventually, where is my deer in the grass) might just have been the creepiest part of the game. What a ... serenade?
Except it's the second-creepiest, because when I switched the turret production quality scanner, the last turret I saw tossed into the bin called, "But I did everything riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight..."
Also speaking of turrets, I guess it's just not a video game if Nolan North isn't in it somewhere.
So, in short: I loved it and could quote Cave Johnson and GLaDOS lines all day.