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P-Body

Portal 2
by yo go re

Okay, where's Sherman and the Wayback Machine?

Fact: the key to any successful collaborative test is trust. And as Aperture's tireless decades of extra-voluntary human testing show, humans cannot be trusted. The solution? Robots like the one you have just purchased. Unlike humans, the P-Body model does not know pride. It does not know fear. Teach it both in the safety of your collaborative testing environment.

At some point during the development of Portal 2's multiplayer campaign, the two player-robots were planned to be identical, but that caused a problem: rather than feeling like characters, they felt like machines; two identical, interchangeable machines, straight off the assembly line and programmed to run through a course. Changing their designs made them two individuals, a mechanized Laurel and Hardy, ready to bumble their way through adventures. And in order to underscore the fact that the game was co-operative, not competitive, the early promo art showed them holding hands, because they're friends. Aww!

While ATLAS's central body was a Personality Core, P-Body's is something even more readily recognizable: a Sentry Turret. Those bastard things are pretty much inescapable (unless you knock them over), and now you're just expected to trust one of them? It's the same problem the Clone Troopers in Episode II faced - except P-Body can't stand helpfully behind any Jedi to make us feel better about her.

P-Body seems to get her name (yes, the robots have gender, and yes, P-Body's gender is female) from the fact that the Sentry Turret at her core resembles a pea pod. In the game, the back of the robot identifies the robotic suit carrying the Turret around as "Frame Type-P," but that's just a skin and could easily have been designed after the robot was named (in the game files, ATLAS and P-Body are just called "ballbot" and "eggbot").

Like ATLAS, P-Body's body is a mixture of a smooth white plastic casing, gray support struts, and black pistons to move the pieces around. And unlike ATLAS, none of those black pistons have broken! Maybe because they're less in the actual movement. There are a few areas of mustard-yellow paint - on the right leg, a little on the arms, and a dot on the face - to break up all the black and white. An antenna rises off her back, and for some reason there's a single red dot on her shoulder. As far as her femininity is concerned, it's mostly a product of the big white panels at the top of the legs - they form large, rounded hips, and if Shakira has taught us anything, it's that hips don't lie.

It's possible that the reason P-Body's pistons haven't broken is that they're less involved in her articulation than ATLAS's were. For instance, the shoulders swivel where the white plastic paddle meets the black torso frame, instead of making the pistons carry the load. And similarly, the hips are mounted on balljoints, with the piston there just providing a decorative accent. Other than those four joints, she has hinged elbows, balljointed wrists and thumbs, and hinges for the torso, knees, ankles and toes. Her eye can't move around in place the way ATLAS's can, but so it goes.

P-Body comes with her portal gun - you can tell it's hers by the yellow stripes on the top. It's the same sculpt as Chell's, which is fine, but NECA differentiated it by putting a different color of LED inside it! Rather than pale blue, it shines a vibrant red. Because P-Body is a robot, she also lights up: a button on the back of the egg ignites a strong yellow light shining straight out of the center of her face. Shining for glory!

P-Body is a rather fun toy, and if you enjoy the whole Half-Life Universe, you'll probably want to get one, whether you've played Portal 2 or not. And if it bothers you that there might be some breakage on these $25 toys, you could always buy the versions from Ashley Wood's 3A Toys: they're 1/6-scale (so about 5" taller), and will "only" cost you $189.99. Apiece. Yeah, suddenly putting a drop of glue on these guys doesn't seem so bad.

(Add me on Steam, we'll play sometime.)

-- 08/17/14


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