This article is about the Panels. For the robotic arms, see Aperture Science Multitasking Arm.
This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!
It might spoil your gaming experience when first playing the related games.
In Portal 2, it often functions as the successor to the Victory Lift introduced in Portal, being able to form many structures, including stairs, when activated.
Panels form the walls and floors of test chambers, observation rooms, and offices in the Enrichment Center. They are generally either black or white tiled, indicating non-portalable and portalable surfaces respectively.
Whilst they are seemingly static, serving only as the bounds of a test chamber, they can also become dynamic, reconfigurable surfaces. Operated by hidden robotic arms or pistons, they can quickly form a new test chamber or adjust their configuration depending on player activity (for instance, the player can trap themselves in an area and a panel will open to allow them to escape).
Eventually in Test Chamber 16, Chell discovers the backstage of a test chamber where she is first introduced to the murals by Doug Rattmann stating that "The Cake Is A Lie". The room revealed that the back frames of the panels were supported by pistons and that the pistons would need to be deployed by GLaDOS if she is to reconfigure these walls.
Many areas within the Escape chapter reveals more of a test chamber's exterior, where the back frames are in their position but often lacking a piston to be configured, while the other back frames are held.
The panels play a much larger role in the sequel than it did in the first game. The panels are now supported by robotic arms, which were retconned into the game as a common variety and replacement of the pistons, which were still used within the cooperative campaign.
Unlike in Portal, the backstage of a test chamber contains robotic arms and holds the back frames of the walls and floors of the testing area, with the mechanics and structures of the test chambers revealed. For instance, when a panel moves around before Chell's eyes, or panels blocking her way moving into its position on a grid to allow the Test Subject to continue.
Many Multitasking Arms holding the panels appear to have a mind of their own, as they will juggle Weighted Storage Cubes, or slam against their frames out of frustration, even trying to get into their proper position by sliding back like snakes.
The reconfigurable features of the panels makes them the ideal as puzzle elements. They often act as the successor to elements in Portal, such as the Victory Lift and the Unstationary Scaffold, being able to move when activated to transport Test Subjects or act as further puzzle elements.
Another form of retcon was put into Portal 2, where all offices and departments within the Enrichment Center are held together as panels, as the grids commonly associated with a panel are seen throughout. These offices, like the test chambers, are held on a large conveyor belt. Even the Neurotoxin Generator chamber consisted entirely of panels that lack any surface plating to hide it.
Apart from the departments, the Central AI Chamber has been upgraded and rebuilt entirely by GLaDOS herself, completely utilizing the panels to allow configurable access that she lacked in her chamber from Portal.
Within a Test Chamber, panels are accessible via the Core Input Receptacles, as Wheatley was seen moving wall panels apart at least twice, in which the second time was to help Chell escape Test Chamber 21 of the chapter, The Surprise.
The panels are contained within frames on their walls, however the robotic arms can move in any way once they have been placed into their respective positions by a piston. The panels will then lift these tiles into place and can then remain stationary until they are needed again.
Behind the scenes
- The panels were formally introduced in the first of four informational videos leading up to Portal 2's release, Cave Johnson. , narrated by
- The panels in Portal were originally suspended from pistons and have been retconned in Portal 2, where the pistons are often replaced by robotic arms instead.
- Although the cooperative campaign of Portal 2 often utilizes pistons as panel supports, the robotic panel arms were seen scattered around a ruined Test Chamber 19, attempting to arrange themselves back onto their grids. This suggests that most of Portal's test chambers were retconned to the robotic arms instead.