By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online reviewed Portal 2 in 2011, describing it as “one of the greatest video game sequels ever made.” Valve Corporation has now teamed up with small record label Ipecac Recordings to release Portal 2: Songs To Test By (Collector’s Edition), a physical 4-CD collection of the award-winning music of Portal 2 (with previously unavailable music from the original Portal featured as an added bonus).
In AMO’s original review of Portal 2 on PlayStation 3, it was noted that the fantastic musical score knew “when to lurk in the background or spring to the forefront.” In short, it matched the onscreen action step by step, portal to portal. Listening to the Mike Morasky’s score separate from the game itself often causes great disparity – by no means does the music suddenly sound terrible of course, but out of context it can come across like a very basic collections of bleeps and bloops, and even become rather annoying at times – take Disc 2’s ‘Die Cut Laser Dance’, for example.
Thankfully, tracks such as ‘I AM NOT A MORON!’, ‘The Reunion’ and ‘Machiavellian Bach’ do plenty to turn those bleeps and bloops into something more than just a jumble. It probably won’t sound like much of anything to non-gamers the majority of the time, but the score will definitely cause fans to stop and remember the various great moments liberally dotted throughout Portal 2. (Who can forget ‘The Part Where He Kills You’?)
The score steps up a gear whenever American opera singer and voice actor Ellen McClain – who voiced the evil GLaDOS in both Portal games – is featured. ‘PotatOS Lament’ is eerie and beautiful, the wordless robotic-tinged singing truly captivating. The main Portal 2 theme, ‘Want You Gone’, is even better – GLaDOS actually sings (in English this time) about the events of the game… she’s a bitchy, lonely, psychotic robot with attitude. This song was a delight during the end credits and it’s even better now that you can listen to it whenever you want.
It’s beaten only by the theme song from Portal (both theme songs were written by Jonathan Coulton), Still Alive, which is present on Disc 4 along with 12 other previously unavailable tracks from the original game. These bonus tracks are actually worth the purchase price alone – they’re much more listenable outside of the gaming experience from which they were taken than the Portal 2 tracks are (slower paced, less electronic) and unlike the other three discs (which feature music Valve already offers for free download online), this music hasn’t until this point been readily available.
In the end, it’s hard to fault Portal 2: Songs To Test By (Collector’s Edition) too much. The music isn’t quite as enjoyable on its own as it was when leaping through blue and orange portals way back in 2011, but there are still enough gems to make this complete set well worth a listen for fans. As previously mentioned the Portal 2 MP3 soundtrack has been available for free online for a while (it still is): this physical soundtrack, which features an exclusive mini-comic and two Steam codes (a Team Fortress 2 Product Key and a DOTA 2 Invite Key), is strictly for collectors only. It’s a handsomely packaged 4-CD set that offers great value for money – a solid soundtrack that sounds much better when played in context.
8 OUT OF 10