Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lego #3177 Small Car

QUICK INFO:
Name: Small Car #3177
Line: Lego - City
Year: January 2010

Price: $6.99

For the last day of 2009 we'll take a look at one of the first Lego City sets in the 2010 line up. This set may be one of the lower price points, but it has a lot to offer in this small box. Read on and discover that small packages can contain lots of fun.


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Set #3177 is simply labeled as "Small Car" and has 43 pieces. This is a very small and simple set, but a nice addition to the City subgroup.

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When they labeled this set simply as "Small Car" they weren't lying! The car measures 2 1/2 inches long and only 1 inch wide. The majority of the pieces are black and white and a splash of gray used on the front's grill and the wheels. The window is a translucent smoke color which fits in nicely with the monotone color scheme. One of the thing I like most about the car is the smooth tires. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall past sets using smooth tires. It almost gives the set a go-kart feel as the rubber tires grip a smooth surface really well. In typical Lego fashion there are some odd color pieces used in the construction of the set. There are 2 flat green pieces that elevate the blue steering column to the correct height for the mini-figure. The same green piece was used in the front bumper. Most of the pieces can't be seen very well, but I often wondered why not use a different color that blends in better?

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After taking a look at the mini-figure I'm surprised they didn't label this set as "Doctor's Car" or something similar. You can see the blue mask hanging down around the guy's neck and the green pants do look like hospital scrubs. Regardless of what the figure's occupation is the figure is done well. I don't recall seeing the top half of the figure used in the past. Hair piece shows some good sculpting and resembles hair much better than the older "helmet" sculpt.

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Remove the top of the car to insert the mini-figure. It is a snug fit, but there is even plenty of room for his luggage behind his seat. This is a very nice touch as you can fit everything included in the set securely inside the vehicle.

This is a great little Lego set. While it may not offer anything innovative or new or does do a good job at giving the buyer a new compact car to work into your own Lego city. The set is small enough and easy to construct that it won't give smaller hands trouble. Even at 32 I enjoyed putting the set together! The $6.99 price point also makes this set an impulse buy for a lot of people. I can happily say that I recommend this set on all fronts. If this isn't on your local retail shelves already it should be within the coming days/weeks.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Machine Robo: MRR Rock Commander

QUICK INFO:
Name: Rock Commander (MRR)
Line: Machine Robo (Japan)
Company: Bandai
Year: 1986

Price: unknown (yen)

Time time around we'll take a look at a toy that is even new to me, the Rock Commander vehicle from the Machine Robo line. First off you may recognize this vehicle as the Stone Wing from the Rock Lords line. As you may or may not know, Tonka Toys brought this sub line from Bandai's Machine Robo over to the U.S. and branded it as Rock Lords...which was a sub line of sorts of Go-Bots. So give me a few minutes of your time and we'll take a look at this toy together.

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The toy comes packaged in the same style as the rest of the "Rock Lords". The front of the package depicts both modes while the back shows almost a blue print like diagram of the toy. Since all the language is printed in Japanese I can't read anything, but it looks as if the back of the box is pointing out unique features of the vehicle.

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This is the top of the box. I love how it shows a step by step transformation of the vehicle from ground based to fighter jet. I was lucky that all the vibrant colors on the box were not faded as the packaging presentation is very beautiful.

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I have to admit that the ground mode of the vehicle is very odd looking. I'm guessing the best way to describe it is call it how I see it. It looks like a large rock shaped dune buggy. I'm not a fan of this mode at all, but it does have some redeeming qualities. First off the swirl in the plastic is beautiful. I don't recall seeing this much swirl in the plastic used on the Rock Lord action figures themselves. The main color is brown, but you can see shades of red and gold swirled in. There is a bit of chrome plating used as well. The exhaust intakes on the sides of the nose are a bright silver while the seat in the cockpit is a bright gold. The roll bars around the cockpit are painted a duller gold color. The other chrome used is for the wheels as they are a bright gold as well. Usually with older toys it is quite common to see chrome plating flaking off or it has a real dull sheen (common w/ the Rock Lord figures Nuggit or Slimestone). I have to say however my specimen does not appear to suffer from this. Either the toy was not played with much by the original owner or this thing was built better than I expected. The vehicle measures 10 inches long. All 4 wheels roll freely and the way the toy transforms it gives the suspension a little play in how low or high the toy can ride above the wheels. Not sure if this was intentional, but it makes sense when you stop to think this vehicle may be traversing rather rocky terrain.

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Now this is what I'm talking about! I love this mode. This is why you should buy this toy if you are fan of the series. Yeah sure, it still looks like a rock just with wings. Pictures just can't do this toy justice. First let me describe the super simple transformation process. From the ground mode, you simply pull down on the wheel assembly and rotate it 90 degrees. Along each side of the nose are the wings that fold out and back into place. The tips of the wings are articulated if you so choose to pose them. Take the silver canister on each side of the cockpit and fold down onto the top of the wings. Then take each wheel and fold them up further, connecting the tabs on each end of the canister to the back side of the wheel. There is a panel in the back of the jet that when folded out turns into a rear mounted twin gun. You can also press down on the small gray gun on the nose of the vehicle to activate it's battering ram. In this mode the vehicle has a wingspan of approximately 10 1/2 inches! I forgot to fold down the landing gear in this mode before taking the pictures. Underneath the nose and each wing is retractable landing gear with free rolling wheels.

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The cockpit is rather roomy and large, but of all the Rock Lord figures I own only a few would actually fit and look good in the vehicle. You'll notice on the packaging it depicts Boulder as piloting the vehicle so he was the first figure I grabbed to stick in the cockpit. I was a little surprised to see how odd he looked in the vehicle. Because that particular toy's legs don't fold forward into a sitting form the figure was basically standing in the seat! After taking a second look at the box I figured out how they got Boulder in the seat...they basically half transformed him! (see my pic above). I thought this was rather lame on Bandai's behalf that you couldn't put the action figure in robot form in the cockpit. Almost all of the Rock Lord's designs don't allow the figure to sit so this is a major design flaw in my eyes.

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I started to think about Tonka's version of this toy and I remembered that the packaging depicted this as Magmar's vehicle and the action figure was used prominetly all over. I'm wondering if this move was made because Magmar could actually sit in the vehicle? I have no idea why the vehicle basically switched factions when it came from over seas, but it does seem to blend in better with Magmar as it's pilot.

In closing I have to say I was rather pleased with this toy. Not only did I get the awesome Japanese Machine Robo packaging, but my specimen seems brand new. All the pieces are super tight and there is no apparent wear to any of the chrome. I should add too that this vehicle is surprisingly heavy. The majority of the suspension underneath is composed of die-cast metal. I guess that should not surprise me too much as a lot of toys from the 80's used die-cast metal, but it's a nice touch and seems to hold this vehicle together really well. I don't own the Rock Lords Stong Wing version of the vehicle so I'm not able to compare the two, but from the photos I've seen the two toys seem to be identical. Is this worth your money you ask? I say yes for the jet mode alone. As far as the Machine Robo line goes this is the only vehicle released. Tonka did release one more vehicle for the U.S. line of Rock Lords called the Rock Pot, but it looks cheaply made when compared to this toy. No matter which version of the toy you track down I don't think you'll be disappointed. If only this line had lasted a little longer I believe we would have seen more toys and vehicles built as well as the Rock Commander.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Transformers Henkei! / Gentei!: Ghost Starscream


QUICK INFO:
Name: Ghost Starscream
Line: Transformers Henkei! (Japan)
Company: Takara Tomy
Year: November 2009

Price: $79.00 USD & up
Info: Transformers Generations 2009, Vol. 2 mail-away exclusive

Today we have the latest mail-away exclusive from the 2nd volume of the Transformers Generations book. In order to obtain this toy in Japan you had to buy the book and fill out an included order form to send away. If you didn't live in Japan you had to go through a 2nd party re-seller and it wasn't cheap as I've seen it being offer for as much as $120.00 USD! Is it worth your hard earned money? Hard for me to say, but let's take a look at one of the most iconic Generation One characters, Starscream.

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Starscream comes packaged in the standard Henkei! style blister card, however as you can see the package is done in blue monochrome. I was a little surprised to see that the image used of Starscream is actually the translucent version and not simply a monochromed shot of the regular toy. The included tech spec trading card features the same product shot as the front packaging, only a full body shot with the power ratings on the reverse side.

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I normally don't care for translucent toys, Transformers or not. The use of the translucent plastic this time around makes sense though and it works really, really well. Ever since Megatron returned as Galvatron and obliterated Starscream in the classic cartoon fans have wanted a ghost version of Starscream in toy form. Granted this is not the first version of Starscream in his ghost form (e-Hobby did a translucent version of the original G1 toy a few years back), this is argubaly the best version to date. I don't have many complaints about the toy in jet mode. I was a little disappointed that the Decepticon emblem is not tampographed on the underside of the wings. Small gripe granted, but it doesn't really take anything away from the rest of the toy.

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The toy looks great under regular lighting, but it really shines (no pun intended) when exposed to natural light. I used a little sunlight in these pictures to show just how ghostly the figure can look. The only solid plastic used are the thighs and the silver chrome around the tips of his missile launchers. The rest of the body is fully translucent, even his head!

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Here is good comparison shot of the toy in natural light (sunlight) and regular lighting (florescent).

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This toy is wonderfully done and would make a great addition to any Transformers Henkei! or Classics collection. Because of it's exclusive nature and price it isn't for everybody. If the price tag scares you away then I highly recommend you track down the regular Henkei! version of Starscream as you see in this last comparison picture. It is much more G1 accurate than Hasbro versions. A fellow collector friend of mine brought to my attention that this mold surprisingly doesn't appear to be suffering any mold degradation. Seeing how Takara Tomy has used this mold approx. 11 times (Classics, Henkei!, Botcon uses) prior to this release one would think the mold would start to show some signs of where. All the joints are very tight which is really nice since there are a lot of points of articulation in the figure. Of the 4 Gentei! figures released thus far (the other 3 being Mirage, Wildrider, Strafe) I have to say Starscream is tied for being my favorite. Takara Tomy hit a home run with this release and I can see it being very popular with the fandom for years to come.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lego Atlantis Monster Crab Clash #8056

QUICK INFO:
Name: Monster Crab Clash #8056
Line: Lego - Atlantis
Year: January 2010

Price: $6.99

I picked this up while doing a little Christmas shopping a few weeks back while @ Toys R Us. I was surprised to see it on the shelf since it is part of Lego's 2010 line-up, but since I had a coupon I thought why not. Is the new Atlantis theme going to be a worthy addition to the Lego family? Let's take a quick look at one of the first sets released.

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The packaging is very nicely laid out. I can definitely see kids getting excited about the whole under water theme and action shots depicted on the packaging. The back of the box does highlight some of the play aspects of the toy. The front pair of claws can be opened and closed and the crab legs are fully articulated.

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The front claws are rather large when compared to the rest of the crab's body. The lower section of the claws have what appears to be little gray "teeth". I love the orange used in this set. You don't see much of it however except the little horns on each leg. Continuing the trend with newer Lego sets is the inclusion of a few stickers to apply. This time around you have a small sticker that forms the crabs eyes as well as 3 triangle shaped stickers that give the abdomen some detail.

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Where this set really shines in my opinion is with the mini-figure. I usually stick to the City themed sets so I'm not sure if the breathing harness / helmet is a new piece, but I don't recall seeing this piece used in previous sets. All of the Atlantis sets come with their own unique colored disc. I'm not sure what they are or what their purpose is, but it fits firmly in the diver's hands. You also get a standard issue spear gun and flippers.

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The diver comes with a double sided head. One side the standard face and on the flip side a frightened face. I chose this face since he's going up against a monster crab. The detail on the mini-figure's body is top notch. From the breathing tubes on his chest to the waist belt to the small round red "patch" on the leg there is no shortage of detail. The arms and flippers are a light olive color. Odd choice in my opinion, but it works.

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All in all this is a good little set for the money. The crab has a lot of play value with all the moving parts and the mini-figure is pure gold. If the rest of the Atlantis sets deliver as well as this set I believe this new theme will have plenty of fans for a long time to come.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Transformers G1: Octopunch (Pretender)


QUICK INFO:
Name: Octopunch
Line: Transformers - Generation One (Hasbro)
Subgroup: Pretenders
Function: Salvage
Motto: "Anything that can sink is worth sinking."
Year: 1989

Price: $14.99 (approximately)

Bio:
The terror of the deep. If he's not stealing sunken treasure or ancient artifacts, he amuses himself by smashing holes in submarines and cruise ships. Electrically-charged, razor-tipped harpoon gun momentarily short-circuits on contact. Also armed with vice-like tentacles that stick to any surface. So strong underwater, he can wrestle a whale to a standstill. Inner robot converts to metal-rending, deep-sea radar and acetylene torch gun.

What? Two reviews in the same day? Well I had so much fun reviewing Bludgeon that I decided why stop? Why not review one of his toy assortment cohorts? This time around we will take a look at probably my favorite of the 3 smaller Decepticon Pretenders, Octopunch.

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Octopunch comes with the outer Pretender shell, diving helmet, white harpoon gun, pair of purple crab legs, small maroon gun and inner robot.

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Now I can see why Octopunch wears a diving helmet...that is one ugly mug he's sporting! On the right side of the head is a large metal plate that has been welded together. It's a shame this piece was not painted as it is easy to overlook. I'm not sure what a octopus would look like if it had a humanoid head, but I'm guessing this is pretty close. Just like Bludgeon a lot of care and detail was put into the design of Octopunch's head.

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If you flip the back shell portion over you'll see there is a set of small round holes that allow you to clip on the purple crab legs...almost making a back pack if you will. The inner robot fits inside the shell very similar to the larger Pretenders. There is plenty of room in either leg to fit the smaller gun as well. I have to hand it to the designers for making all of the accessories self contained on the toy. The crab legs and gun are rather small and I can see how these pieces are easily lost. The ability to store all the parts on or inside the shell is a very nice feature.

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Like just about all of the Pretenders Octopunch has very little articulation. Both arms can rotate a full 360 degrees. It would have been nice if the tentacles on the arms had some sort of articulation, but as they are they are in a fixed position. The plastic is a little softer however so they are slightly bendable. If you are a video gamer as myself you can't help but to think of a Big Daddy from the game BioShock. I love the whole diving suit and the helmet. The large unpainted skull on the belt buckle is a nice feature. I should also mention that Octopunch has a slightly hunched stance.

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Octopunch's inner robot stands about 2 1/2 inches tall. As part of the beast mode design, the robot arms are in a fixed bent position. The arms still rotate a full 360 degrees though. On the sides of the arms is a small hole that allows the robot to wield the small maroon gun. There are no peg holes in the robot's fists. I find it rather interesting that Octopunch's inner robot shares the same basic color scheme as Bludgeon. Coincidence? Transformation from robot to crab is rather easy. Slide the lever on the chest down to hide the robot head. Fold the arms down by the robot's side. Flip the figure over and attach the crab legs to the peg holes on the side of each arm. Pose the legs/pinchers as you wish. You can open and close the pinchers by pulling on the small tabs on the side.

I love the crab mode. It's small and rather simple, but different and fun to play with. The only paint apps on the figure is the red used for the crabs eyes. There is also a small hole on the top of the crab so it can wield the small maroon gun.

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Of all 3 smaller Decepticon Pretenders, Octopunch stands out as my favorite. I can't say that he's my favorite because I never had him in my childhood (I didn't have any of the Pretenders). There is just this unique charm about the toy that sets it apart from other Transformers. This is an easy toy for me to recommend, but like Bludgeon and many of the other smaller 1989 Pretenders he doesn't come cheap. I don't actively track G1 prices, but expect to pay $65.00 plus for a loose complete toy.

Transformers Generation 1: Bludgeon (Pretender)


QUICK INFO:
Name: Bludgeon
Line: Transformers - Generation One (Hasbro)
Subgroup: Pretenders
Function: Electric Warrior
Motto: "To know your own limits, you must first know your foe's limits."
Year: 1989

Price: $14.99 (approximately)

Bio:
A merciless, emotionless master of Metallikato, the deadly Cybertronian martial art. Attacks his enemies' fracture points while remaining outside their line of fire. High-powered antennas produce electrical fireballs with a range of over 400 yards. Battle armor secretes ordorous, mucus slime. Smoke generators in legs produce billowing clouds of black smoke that disorient the enemy. Inner robot armed with high-voltage electric cannon.

I decided to go old school today and pull out one of my favorite Transformers from the Generation 1 (G1) era, Bludgeon. I also thought it was appropriate that this toy gets a proper review since a new iteration of the character is being released under the current Universe banner this year. So sit back and join me on a journey as we take a look at a toy that truly is "more than meets the eye".

First off, I have to admit that I was not into Transformers when Bludgeon was released in 1989. Somewhere around 1986 or 1987 I decided I was "too cool" to play with toys. I left most of what I had at my grandmothers to basically rot until the Generation 2 & Beast Wars lines got me interested in the Transformers brand again. When I got back into collecting Transformers again I put an early focus on collecting the Pretenders sub-line. I always liked the concept and at the time not many fans/collectors seemed to care about them so they were relatively easy and inexpensive purchases. Enough of my stroll down memory lane, let's take a look at this Master of Metallikato.

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Unfortunately I don't have his original packaging, but here are the contents. You get the Bludgeon Pretender shell, samurai helmet, white rifle, Bludgeon Pretender robot, green tank turret / shield and small purple gun.

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We'll start by taking a look at the outer Pretender shell. Before we jump to the accessories and such I wanted to take a second to look at the awesome head sculpt. For a toy released 10 years ago the level of design given to the head is quite impressive. I feel that Hasbro and Takara did an excellent job giving this a very human looking skull. The eye sockets are just sunken in enough to capture that eerie feel. On the sides, top and back you can see the lines in the skull that divide it up into separate plates. On my particular figure you can see small paint blemishes that have rubbed off onto the skull. The paint application to the armor was also a tad messy as you can see just below the chin.

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The outer Pretender shell obviously splits into to reveal the inner robot. The top photo gives you a good look at the samurai type armor that adorns the shell. Bludgeon is a master of Metallikato which is a form of Cybertronian martial arts. I wanted to include the picture on the bottom because I've heard a lot of people have had trouble getting the inner robot to fit properly in the shell. The inner robot has to be folded up into tank mode and placed face down point down in order for both outer shell halves to snap together. There is a little room in either leg to place the small purple gun, but more times than not it hinders the halves from snapping together.

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Finally we have Bludgeon all geared up for battle. If you are familiar with the character from the Marvel comics run you would expect the toy to come with a large samurai sword. Sadly his only weapon is a large white rifle. You can use the inner robot's tank turret as a shield. On the side of the arms is a small round peg that allows you to place the shield on either arm. Since this is a Pretender this part of the toy offers very little articulation. The arms do rotate 360 degrees, but that is it. The level of detail however makes up for the lack of movement in my opinion.

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Bludgeon's inner robot is also a fantastic toy in it's own right. Mostly green with maroon on the chest and a splash of yellow for the face. The robot is slightly larger than the standard Transformer Micromaster. Very simple transformation from tank to robot. Simply remove the turret, fold down the rear portion which forms the legs. Pull out and pose the arms as you wish. On the chest is a small flat lever that when slid up reveals the robot's head. The robot can then wield the small purple gun in either hand.

In tank mode there isn't much to say. For whatever reason Hasbro did not include any free rolling wheels on the underside of the tank treads. At least the turret can rotate a full 360 degrees. The purple gun simply snaps onto the turret so unfortunately it can be elevated any more than as you see here.

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So there you have it, G1 Bludgeon in all his glory. I highly recommend this toy...even if you could care less for Pretenders. If nothing else the toy just oozes the character. I will forewarn any potential buyers that this toy does not come cheap. A quick eBay search will show that this little gem on average commands $75.00 plus. For such a simple Pretender toy that price will be hard for a lot of people to swallow (myself included), but if you can afford him I highly recommend this toy.