I don’t always buy Transformers toys, but when I do, they’re often movie-based. Judge me if you will, but I’m very fond of the fact that the alt modes tend to be super-clean while the robot form is highly detailed. I’m particularly fond of the (seemingly discontinued) Human Alliance line, as one of my biggest issues as a kid was that most Transformers couldn’t fit figures inside (the Headmasters that could were my favorites).
The new movie toys were the first toys I’ve ever been sent under an embargo – I was not allowed to even say I had them until yesterday. But I’ve been playing around with them all week, and I even subjected them to a fate potentially worse than Michael Bay and Shia LaBeouf…
…I gave them to women who had never played with Transformers before – my wife and our friend Jillian. So how’d they do? Let’s see.
Julia’s reaction when I told her I got new Transformers in the mail: “You’re such a six year-old boy.”
Julia’s reaction when I told her one of them turns into a dinosaur: “MINE! MINE! MINE!
That right there is how I know Hasbro and Michael Bay have hits on their hands. The appeal of dinosaurs is, pardon the pun, primal. As is the sheer terror a toy collector feels when someone who has never transformed an Autobot before starts playing with it and small pieces go flying off everywhere. Voyager Class Grimlock’s tiny T-rex arms are not long for the toybox if you give him to a small kid.
Girls like renaming stuff, too. Julia insisted Grimlock’s name was “Fred,” and Slug’s “Matilda.”
While Jillian had some issues with the transition from robot to dinosaur, she did come up with an unofficial “Pegasus” alt-mode.
It is easier when you know many of the basic Transformer tricks – the way feet tend to fold out of legs, or waists rotate 180 degrees, or how to look for slots and tabs on parts that may not otherwise fit smoothly next to each other. Grimlock’s arms become his legs, his legs become his tail, and his shoulder pads close in to make a head. He even has an action feature – push a button and his spring-loaded rex jaws chomp together.
Scalewise, he’s a similar height to past Voyagers, but with less bulk. Here he is with ROTF Ironhide.
A smidgen of plot is suggested on his packaging – whose side will he be on? Well, spoiler alert, anybody who knows anything about Transformers knows that one…
…but just in case you didn’t, the toy itself gives it away.
I wasn’t massively fond of the Optimus at first, which differs from the early-bird “first edition” by having less chrome and a smaller shield. He is a bit of a shellformer, and out of the package, a side shot of the toy pretty much gives away the transformation.
I was all set to make jokes about how, if this is a transformer, then any time I carry a tent in my backpack, then set up the tent and get inside I have “transformed” into it. But then a funny thing happened – he grew on me. Especially once I figured out how to make some of those back panels into a samurai-style “skirt.” Grimlock has similar fashion sense; I get the feeling “samurai” is the default look in the new movie.
I have a feeling this was a tougher-than-usual Optimus to design: with the last movie essentially jettisoning – via Laserbeak’s improbable transformations – the idea that the robots have to look at all like reassembled car parts, the new Optimus looks less like a vehicle than ever, and the figure bears this out – if you want an actual action figure of Optimus, it works very well as such. Only because he has to have a transforming element are these other parts (sometimes clumsily) stuck to him.
Unlike prior versions, there are no light or sound components. He’s not a patch on ROTF Optimus, who is a near-perfect replica of both robot and alt-mode from that film, and he’s a bit smaller. But he’s nicely detailed, and more playable – as a figure he;s articulated where a figure should be, and as a vehicle he snaps tightly together, with little danger of panels suddenly popping out of place.
Compare/contrast (note that Ironhide looks a bit taller for being in the foreground, and ROTF Optimus a bit shorter for being the furthest back):
Optimus was the only figure I needed to consult the directions on – I could not figure out where his robot arms were meant to go, as there seemed to be a variety of options. But before I got it right, I did leave him in this cool “robot busting out of a truck” pose.
The Deluxes are less likely to be controversial. First up we have Drift, a samurai robot who used to be a Decepticon but switched sides, probably when he realized he was a car rather than a plane.
Drift is a bit of a shellformer, but the obligatory side panels look a bit more like samurai armor on him than most.
Flip up the head, tuck the arms, rotate the feet and you’re pretty much done – also, you can stow his two long swords, though he has two short ones as well.
Look closely and you’ll basically see his body under the car.
Now, the last Deluxe Transformer Hasbro had sent me a while back was a white car from the Prime cartoon, and I could never transform that sumbitch, because his joints were loose and his limbs kept falling off. Drift is tight, and snaps together into his drift car mode. As a robot, his ankles are at an angle so you can’t really balance him on one foot like I was hoping. You can get him in some expressive action poses, though.
Slug, or as Julia calls him, Matilda, was very quickly made the recipient of a little hat.
I expected the Dinobots to be challenging since they don’t have to look like actual dinosaurs, but robotic, exposed-panel approximations. I was surprised how easy it was to figure them out.
Slug is a weird combo of styracosaurus and stegosaurus, and I’m guessing the purple isn’t film-accurate. He is also an Autobot; it seems as though there are no Decepticons at all in the first wave.
Slug’s two swords can be stowed in dino mode, but in very strange places.
Unlike the Leaders and Voyagers, this scale is pretty consistent with prior versions. They’re good basic bots.
Jillian had better luck with Drift, though Julia absolutely refused to have the dinosaurs be anything but dinosaurs.
I feel like I want a bigger Grimlock, and while this Optimus isn’t maybe up to the previous versions, I’m glad to have him. But then, I like chrome. Many of you seem not to.
To put it in Sheik terms, these figures are the real but they know shooting-wise the ROTF toys beat the fuck out of them any day.