The race is on to unlock 'Portal 2' early

After two weeks' worth of puzzle-solving and community code-breaking, another twist emerges in the
Portal 2 publicity campaign: play any of 13 selected games and help unlock
Portal 2's computer game version early.

The devious puzzle game comes from Valve, the makers of the Half-Life and Left 4 Dead series.

They also run the Steam service, an online store selling Mac and PC games, with a dedicated social network system attached that allows friends to play games together with ease.

April 1 saw a series of mysterious game updates issued, injecting games with befuddling potato-related content. Web users poked around inside the updates and started making sense of coded images and messages.

The hunt for information eventually led to a countdown timer on ApertureScience.com - Aperture being the  fictional research firm featured in Portal and Portal 2.

When the countdown expired at 9am PST, April 15, a new message was revealed.

"We need raw computational power to speed up the reboot process," wrote Portal's antagonist GLaDOS in a spoof of real-world scientific projects.

The upshot is that playing the Steam versions of those 13 titles, including Super Meat Boy, Amnesia and Bit.Trip Beat, and finding the potato secrets hidden within hastens the release of Portal 2 for Steam users.

On the other hand, GLaDOS has a reputation for being a manipulative liar. So, who knows?

Either way, Portal 2 will be at retail stores for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac and PC on April 19 in North America and April 21 in Europe.

Until then there's a new countdown charting progress towards the early unlock at http://www.aperturescience.com/glados@home.

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