Transformers Generations: Thunderwing by Hasbro

It’s a Transformers Generations double feature today, as I’m trying to get as much stuff cleaned out as I can before the end of 2010. Y’all know Hasbro is digging deep for their G1 fanwank homages when they start referencing the Pretenders toys. As if just to show you that Bludgeon wasn’t an isolated incident [Note to self: Get around to reviewing Bludgeon -FF], now we get Thunderwing, and even though he’s inspired by a sub-line of toys that I hated with a passion, I think he turned out absolutely awesome.


Yes, it’s the typical Generations packaging. There’s nothing new here. Thunderwing comes carded in his jet mode and there’s a bio blurb about him on the back of the card. Apparently he’s quite the badass. Cool! Thunderwing fills out the bubble very nicely, thanks to his two missile launchers. Oh yeah, I also melted off the Decepticon logo because I forgot to turn off my flash. Sorry.


Take a look back at the in-package picture and you’ll see the Level on this figure is labeled as Easy. Yes, Thunderwing has a really simple transformation and that’s reflected in his alt mode. If you turn him over in jet mode, you can pretty much see what’s going to happen and if you’re not a fan of seeing a nearly perfect robot glaring back at you from the undercarriage of a jet, this may annoy you. The only surprise in the engineering is the way his legs fold out from behind his chest piece, and honestly, I think Hasbro did that just so that he wouldn’t be even more simple. After all, they could have just had his upper legs telescope into his lower legs and it would have worked just as well. Nonetheless, Thunderwing is a perfect example of how a Transformer can be simple and still pretty damn cool. And speaking of cool, Thunderwing also features a detachable drone!


There’s something about Thunderwing’s jet mode that I absolutely love. He looks like he would fit right in flying in formation with the Seekers or Coneheads. The grey, blue and purple color scheme works really well for a Decepticon and there’s a ton of sculpted detail across the surface of the toy. Let’s face it, you can’t have too many Decepticon jets.


While the jet mode is a great looking toy, it’s not without a few blemishes. The wings have a habit of coming detached from the body a little too easily. There’s just nothing there to tab into and you can see in a few of my pictures that there’s a gap. Secondly, the robot kibble under the jet doesn’t offer any ground clearance. So, even though he has three sets of flip down landing gear, he can’t really rest on them. Finally, his robot arms don’t peg in anywhere. They don’t really flop about, but it’s pretty uncommon that Hasbro doesn’t include some way to secure all the robo-bits in alt mode. But enough nitpicks about the jet, let’s see how the robot mode fares…


Yeah, baby, check out that robot mode! I love it! It’s very reminiscent of the original G1 Thunderwing’s Pretender shell. The organic, rounded look to the arms and legs remind me of the style introduced in the 1986 movie designs, albeit not so much what was reflected in the toys at the time. Sure he’s wearing most of his jet mode on his back, but I think it folds up pretty well and I love how the Decepticon insignia on his wing tips are properly orientated for his robot mode. I’m also a big fan of the way his guns angle off of his shoulders.


Even in robot mode, you can still store his missile launchers on his wings. It’s a little bulky, but I like the fact that there’s somewhere to put them. I also really dig the fact that he can launch his drone right off his back when he’s in robot mode. That would come in handy.




Of course, the missile launchers can be removed and placed in his hands to be used as guns. And caution is advised, because these babies have hair triggers and a pretty good firing distance.


Thunderwing’s head sculpt isn’t what I would call traditional, but it certainly features a lot of personality. He has a full “helmet” with some very cross eyebrows and a beautifully painted gold face with a rather intimidating and monstrous mouth. And the light piping! Oh, the glorious light piping! It works really well on this figure.



I’ll concede that there are a few things about Thunderwing that may put people off and it’s possible that all but the most hardcore fans are likely to miss the nature of his homage. Even I had to look him up in one of my books to remind me what the original Pretender looked like, and I’m rarely stumped when it comes to my G1 references. And yes, if you’re all about clever and complex transformations, then Thunderwing probably isn’t for you. But if it sounds like I’m talking this figure down, that’s far from the case. He’s a very fun Deluxe and a welcome addition to my Decepticon Air Force.

[And that’ll do me for this year. I’m off to take a nap and then I’ve got some serious drinking to do. I will crawl out from under my bed tomorrow long enough to upload my daily post. Until then, be safe and enjoy! -FF]

Transformers Generations: War For Cybertron Cliffjumper by Hasbro

Even before Hasbro leaked the pictures, we all knew it was coming. The inevitable repaint of War For Cybertron Bumblebee as Cliffjumper. I found this guy on the pegs last week and hesitated for a bit as to whether I really needed to own a second version of this mold. Ultimately, it was the resculpted head and the fact that this mold nicely fits the Tron vibe that’s all the rage right now. Plus, I can’t help it, I love me some Cliffjumper, he was such a little prick in the G1 cartoon and he wasn’t afraid to try to kick Megatron’s ass all by himself.

Cliffjumper comes in the standard Generations packaging, but like all the War For Cybertron figures, he comes packed in his robot mode. It’s a doubly good idea here since it allows hesitant buyers like me to see the new head sculpt. The bubble has the now familiar sticker advertising Hasbro’s new network, The Hub, where you can go watch another version of Cliffjumper get shot, resurrected as a slobbering zombie, get cut in half, and then blown up at the center of a hundred megaton Energon explosion. If the ridculous rumor floating around the Intertubes aboutWar for Cybertron and TF: Prime being of the same continuity, then Cliffjumper here is better off staying on Cybertron. [BTW, Hasbro, if I don’t eventually get a Cliffjumper figure with steer horns on the hood of his alt mode, I’m going to be one unhappy little TransFan. -FF]

If you go back and read my review of WFC Bumblebee, you’ll find that I really dig this vehicle mode. I already mentioned it has that great Tron look to it, and it still looks great here, painted over in red. I definitely dig Cliffjumper’s translucent headlights over Bumblebees, and the yellow stripes on his windows really stand out nicely. Apart from those little touches, I’d rate the two versions pretty close together in terms of their aesthetic quality. As with Bumblebee, Cliffjumper’s blaster can be stowed away behind his rear bumper when he’s in vehicle mode.

One of my biggest complaints about Bumblebee was his fidgity and unforgiving transformation. Now that I’ve owned the mold for a little while, that isn’t really as big an issue with Cliffjumper. As with al shell formers, you still need to get everything just right to get him into his alt mode, but the pegs and tabs are all there to hold him together, so long as you know what you’re doing.  

In robot mode, Cliffjumper still has that Dr. Robotnix look to him on account of his somewhat spindly legs and bulbous torso. I’ve found that it’s not so bad looking when you’re viewing him from the side or an angle, but from straight on, he just looks kind of silly. Apart from that I really dig this robot mode, particularly how most of his shell just folds away neatly into a backpack, which isn’t at all obtrusive or an eyesore. The new headsculpt is excellent and very faithful to the G1 animated character design. It is, however a little on the small side, especially when he’s standing next to Bumblebee.

In addition to his little blaster, Cliffjumper has Energon blades that snap out from his wrists. I loved these things on Bumblebee and I love them here too.

Cliffjumper has good articulation, save for his shoulders, which while they are ball jointed, they hang off his torso at an angle, which really makes posing his arms a little off. Aside from that, he has a ball jointed neck, hinged elbows and swivel wrists. His legs are ball jointed at the hips and he has hinged knees.

I thought I might end up with buyer’s remorse on this figure, but I’m really glad I picked him up. I still wish the mold wasn’t so big, as Bumblebee and Cliffjumper look pretty beefy when compared to other WFC figures like Prime, Megatron and Soundwave, but I wouldn’t want to have seen these guys shrunken down to Scout sized figures, so I guess it’s all good. Honestly, though, if you already have Bumblebee, you know exactly what you’re getting with this figure, so you probably already know whether or not you need him in your collection or if he’s an easy pass.

Marvel: X-Men Origins Wolverine Comic Series Deadpool by Hasbro

Holy crap. This Deadpool figure is easily the coolest surprise I got this Christmas. I guess I’ve been gassing on about Deadpool a lot since I’ve been reading Deadpool Corps, and that’s got me going back and re-reading the original ’97 run of the Deadpool comics. I guess, a buddy of mine took it as a hint and sent me this figure and I am in love with it and totally blown away by its very existence, since I’d never seen it before. I think it’s amazingly ironic that a movie that completely butchered the Deadpool character just happened to spawn an action figure line that gave us this awesome guy under the comic series sub-line. And to think that whenever anyone mentioned the Wolverine Origins Deadpool figure, I was just thinking of the horrible movie version.

Ah, the X-Men Origins Wolverine cardback. It’s the same artwork of Hugh Jackman as Logan snarling at you on every generic card, complete with the unnecessarily long movie title, and practically screaming, “BUY THIS FIGURE, BUB!” About the only thing I can say good about this movie was that it was better than Elektra. If you think that’s really a compliment than you should know that I once spent a three hour flight opting to stare at the seat in front of me than watch the in-flight showing of Elektra. But now I can say something else better about the Wolverine movie… it gave me this figure, almost as an apology for fucking up Deadpool so badly in the film. It’s also worth noting that the back panel has one of the lamest possible bios for Deadpool that could possibly written. If i were writing that bio, I would most definitely have mentioned the time when Deadpool sucker punched 16-year-old Kitty Pryde right in the stomach. [Volume 1, Ish 27, I believe. -FF] Now, that’s classic Deadpool. Fortunately, everything on display under the bubble is pure love.

After ripping open the package, and thoroughly destroying it so that I can pretend this is indeed a Marvel Universe Deadpool and that I never actually owned a figure in any way associated with the Wolverine movie, it’s easy to see that Deadpool is indeed glorious. Deadpool is one hundred percent compatible with the Marvel Universe figures, as he uses a very similar body type. The paint apps are immaculate, which is more than I can say for a lot of the MU figures. Deadpool’s belt and harness are a separate piece of soft plastic and includes two scabbards for his swords. It would have been nice if it were easily removable to offer up some more display options, but I can’t see any easy way to remove it without disassembling the figure.

Articulation includes a ball jointed neck. His arms feature ball jointed shoulders and elbows and swivels in the wrists. His legs have ball jointed hips, double hinged knees and swivels in the ankles. His torso features the swivel/ab crunch that is common in most of Hasbro’s MU and GI JOE figures.

Deadpool comes with a nice array of weapons. He has two ninja swords, both of which fit in the scabbards criss-crossing his back. He has an automatic pistol that fits in his holster, and he’s got a si that you can tuck into his belt. He’s also got a folded-stock AK-47. Alas, there is no figure stand included.

It’s amazing to me that Hasbro hasn’t repacked this figure into a Marvel Universe card. What’s even more amazing is that when I called my friend to thank him profusely for such an awesome gift, he just shrugged it off and said that the figure cost next to nothing. So, why is it that I can’t get a MU Bullseye figure for under $35, but Deadpool here can be had on the cheap? What’s that all about?

Iron Man 2 Comic Series: Hulkbuster Iron Man by Hasbro

It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up an Iron Man 2 figure. In the beginning, I was picking up all of these figures, but little by little, I grew weary of seeing the same damn figures on the pegs over and over again. It was the Indiana Jones debacle all over again [Oh, Hasbro, when will you learn??? -FF] and so I just stopped looking. It was just by sheer happenstance that I spotted Hulkbuster Iron Man on the pegs and picking him up was a no-brainer.

The packaging hasn’t changed in this line from the last time I looked at these figures. It’s honestly bizarre to see these cards still dominating so many pegs so long after the movie has come and gone from both theaters and the DVD/Blu-Ray release. The fact that my Walmart still has about 15 pegs dedicated to Iron Man 2 and no Marvel Universe whatsoever really pisses me off to no end. But that’s another issue. The packaging is still great. The bubble is huge and shows off the figure wonderfully, which should please carded collectors to no end.

Two things to know about this figure: He’s big and he’s awesome. Considering how good the sculpting is on the regular Iron Man suits, it’s only natural that Hulkbuster’s larger canvas would be equally impressive. The figure is covered with all sorts of panel lines and plating, as well as the hydraulics for the joints in the arms and legs. The paint apps are solid, although, I do wish Hasbro had matched the colors used on the torso and the limbs and head a little better. It’s not enough to really detract from the figure, but it is noticeable. Still, I love the Hulkbuster design and even if you aren’t one of those crazies that has to own every single variation of Tony Stark’s suits, this one is a pretty distinctive one to add to your collection. Especially if you find your Hulk figure getting unruly on the shelf.

Hulkbuster’s articulation consists of ball joints in the shoulders, elbows, hips, and ankles. The wrists have swivel cuts and the knees are double hinged. He can turn his head from side to side also, and he has a ball joint in the middle of his torso so he can swivel and do an ab crunch. The only thing really missing are swivels in the biceps, which would have been appreciated.

What’s this? No giant missile firing accessory? Nope. Hulkbuster doesn’t come with any weapons at all, although considering the extra plastic that went into making him, I’m not surprised. He does come with the same style of figure stand as all the Iron Man 2 figures. Also included are the three overlay cards that can be fitted into the stand as a backdrop. It’s still a great idea, but Hulkbuster is just way too big to work very well with the stand, which is tiny by comparison. Yeah, you can still plug his foot into it, but he doesn’t need it. He stands fine on his own. Still, I suppose it’s a nice addition if you want to display all your Iron Man 2 figures with the cards in a uniform fashion.

There’s no doubt that the Iron Man 2 line is getting long in the tooth, and it doesn’t help matters that many of the late wave figure are still not showing up on the pegs because they are still clogged with Wave 2 figures. Nonetheless, Hulkbuster Iron Man is proof positive that there are still nice surprises to be found here if you look hard enough. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even stumble across Whiplash or some of the Drones. But that’s probably just crazy talk.

Transformers Hunt for the Decepticons: Highbrow by Hasbro

Some of you might remember, a couple of reviews back, that I commented on how I rarely ever have a problem finding Transformers at retail. So long as I’m patient enough, they all turn up eventually. The one recent exception to that rule was Highbrow, and low and behold, I finally found him on the shelf while making a grocery run to Walmart the other day.

At first glance, this looks like a normal Hunt for the Decepticon Voyager Class box. Highbrow comes in his robot mode and the window is scattered with stickers for The Hub, the HFTD website, and anything else Hasbro is schilling this week. They did, however, mix it up a bit on the packaging here. Instead of having all the goodies on the back panel, the bio blurb and tech specks is located on one of the side panels, leaving just the photos of the toy on the back. It’s odd and I don’t recall ever seeing them do this before. Was it like this on Seaspray? I just don’t remember. Anyway… moving on.

Highbrow’s alt mode is basically a fighter plane right out of Capcom’s Strikers 1945 game. Seriously, as far as I’m concerned this figure is like some kind of impossibly awesome unofficial Transformers-Capcom crossover, which makes me wish for all kinds of similar arcade shooter crossovers. Transformers R-Type, anyone? The aircraft is slightly reminiscent of a P-47, but with a decidedly retro sci-fi styling to it. The sculpt is fantastic, with tons of sculpted rivets and panel lines and the green, grey and blue deco is pretty much perfect. Highbrow’s machine guns are detachable and if you press the engines behind each of the props, the blades will spin. Suffice it to say, I love this alt mode. It’s easily one of my favorites from the entire year.


Highbrow has an interesting transformation. It’s not overly complicated, but it is interesting to see how the toy incorporates the tailbooms and wings into his robot mode. The results, however, are a bit of a mixed bag. For starters, Highbrow’s arms are just strange. The forearms are short, wonky and kibbletastic. I appreciate the props on his arms, as they can double as a weapon, but these are not good arms. Remember X-Brawn from Robots in Disguise with the front of the car hanging off his arm? Ok, this isn’t that bad, but it’s the first thing I think of when I look at Highbrow’s arms. He’s also got some serious child-bearing hips going on, that look completely out of place under his waist.

That’s not to say he’s all bad in bot form. I like the way his chest incorporates the folding landing gear and the missile racks on his hips is very cool and reminiscent of Energon Bulkhead/Quickstrike. You can also holster his guns on his hips by pegging them in, which is always a nice touch. The head sculpt is really cool and reminscent of a vintage aviator’s hood with goggles and the light piping in his eyes works really well. I do think the coloring on the figure works better in his alt mode, as his robot mode is mostly gray and powder blue, which isn’t all that exciting.

I know I picked on Highbrow quite a bit, but he’s not at all a bad Transformer. I think I was just really excited about finding him and my expectations were probably set a little too high. His alt mode is stellar, and his robot mode is still solid, even with the noted flaws. I can still recommend him wholeheartedly. And while Highbrow isn’t really an authentic WWII design, I hope he sells well and Hasbro decides to create some more Transformers with vintage-style alt modes. It really is a pretty vast and untapped area with loads of potential.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Buzz-Off by Mattel

Looky here, I’ve got a new MOTUC figure from Matty!!! Yeah, it wasn’t too long ago that I looked at the re-issue He-Man, but this is the first brand new MOTUC figure I’ve picked up since getting Chief Carnivus way back when. I probably would have passed on Buzz-Off if I hadn’t been re-watching so many episodes of MYP He-Man lately. Good thing, too, since he turned out to be a pretty solid figure. It also helped that he was still available when I was finally able to get to the computer several hours after the sale started. Either the production numbers really are going up, or not a lot of people were all that keen on poor Buzz-Off here.

Buzz-Off comes in the same packaging we’ve been seeing all along: A white mailer box with a Greyskull themed card. Not much else to say here, except it looks as awesome as ever. The back panel shows a bunch of other MOTUC figures, which you can’t buy anymore outside of Ebay. It also has Buzz-Off’s bio, which apparently pissed off a lot of hardocre He-Man fans because it lists his name as a bunch of buzzing sounds. Seriously? This really upset people? Wow. Is it really more offensive than Op-Tikk’s name, which is a series of blinks even when he doesn’t have an eyelid? Oooo-kay.

Since I’ve skipped a few figures here and there, it’s getting a little tougher for me to identify where some of the parts are being reused. Basically a good portion of Buzz-Off is new to me, but I’m guessing that some of these parts were used on maybe Whiplash or Webstor, two of the few figures I don’t own. Either way, Buzz-Off is refreshingly original looking and really stands out among my other figures in the collection. And any figure that can stand out in this crowd of circus freaks, well that’s really saying something.

There’s a lot of great texturing all over this figure. It’s on his feet, his shoulders and it’s on the darker segments of his torso. I love the fact that his bee-styled torso isn’t just striped with paint apps, but rather a brand new sculpt. The head sculpt is well done, again with some great texture work sculpted into the “hair” and an awesome shimmery green paint applied to the eyes. He even has little fangs protruding from his top lip. The claws were a bit of a surprise to me, but I like them as they further enhance his alien appearance. They aren’t articulated, but they still work very well in allowing him to hold his weapons.

Buzz-Off’s wings are absolutely fantastic. They’re translucent with a greenish-yellow tint and have sculpted details that resemble both the membranes in a real insect’s wings as well as circuitry. They’re attached to his back via ball joints, so they can be positioned up or down or in a variety of other ways. He also has two insect like legs coming off his back below the wings, and these are also ball jointed.

Buzz-Off comes with a nice collection of accessories. He has a pole-axe, a smaller one-handed fighting axe, and a helmet that slides over the top of his head. The pole axe is a cool trademark weapon for him, since the tip of it looks like a bees stinger. I believe the smaller hand axe may have been one of the weapons circulated in one of the weapons packs. The helmet is kind of silly looking, and I prefer to display him without it, but I think it may be growing on me.

Buzz-Off features standard MOTUC articulation, which includes: A ball jointed neck, Arms with ball jointed shoulders, swivels in the biceps and wrists, and hinged elbows. His legs feature ball jointed hips, and hinges in the knees and ankles. He can swivel at the waist, and while it doesn’t look like it, he does still have the ab crunch in his torso, just a lot lower and well disguised between his segments. He also has the aforementioned ball joints for his wings and his insect legs.

While I keep telling myself that I have most of the core characters I want, and won’t be buying as many of these figures in the next year, Matty keeps suckering me back in. Buzz-Off was certainly not on my list of must own figures in the line, and yet in the end, I couldn’t resist picking him up. He’s just a great example of everything that is fun and quirky about this toy line. Is he really worth the $30 he costs with tax and shipping? Well, let’s just say that some people’s mileage may vary.

GI JOE Rise of Cobra: The PITT Mobile Headquarters by Hasbro, Part 2

After all that fuss, it’s finally over. Hope everyone had a great Christmas. I’m looking forward to getting back to business as usual. But first… let’s dive into Part 2 of our look at The PITT Mobile Headquarters.

Converting the PITT from vehicle to HQ is fairly easy. You grab the top handle and lift up, this causes the hinged central tower to stand up and lock into the base, you then slide the roof back until the the roof drops into the top part of the tower and locks. Next up, you fold open the two top hatches, you fold down the back and then you fold out the wings. From here on, it’s all about tweaking it by placing the cardboard decor pieces into their slots, placing the ramp and ladders and then placing the storage containers and ping pong table. [You need about a three foot by two foot area to set this thing up, which is why I’ve got to shoot these pictures without a proper backdrop. -FF] I like the configuration of this thing a lot better than the tacklebox design of the old Mobile Command Center. Now you’re all set to explore the various areas of The PITT HQ. We’re going to start at the top and work our way down. Onward… to the roof!!!!

The roof in HQ mode is pretty much the roof in vehicle mode, only with the extra surface added to each side by the fold out wings. I like how this increases the play area, but the wings aren’t very stable, so any figures you put here are most definitly going to have to be pegged in. You still have your missile launcher and cannon, but all the spotlights are now hanging underneith the side flaps. There’s also an opening roof hatch that lines up with the platform elevator. The only other added play features here are a ramp that folds out of the back and a chute conealed under the handle. You need to deploy your HQ near a table or something at about equal height in order to make use of the bridge. As for the chute, just drop a figure in there and he falls down into the prison, which we’ll see in a minute. The roof is a great place to stage battles or maybe get a JOE vs Cobra soccer match going on, but aside from that there’s not much else going on up here and it ends up looking like the lobby in some kind of GI JOE MMO.

The central pillar holds the platform elevator that can go up or down and also has the chute that leads to the prison. The prison has an escape feature, but not much else to it. And that takes us down to the lower deck. The left wing features the breakaway wall gimmick, which sucks because the panels don’t hold in all that well, which means most of the time the side of The PITT’s vehicle mode looks like it’s all bashed in. I finally got mine to lock in pretty well and I’m never taking them off again. The right wing features slots to stick in the cardboard decor pieces, more on those later, and a fold down area that features some lockers and bunks. Behind the central pillar, there’s another little area that has another bunk.

At the front of the base is the little command cubicle, which features a large computer panel and all of the playset’s electronics. Press the buttons to hear all sorts of sounds and phrases, including alarms, and Joes being paged to various areas. It would have been nice if Hasbro provided a chair here, although there are two chairs off to the side. As a command center, it’s kind of disappointing, The ROCC’s was much better. Here there’s also a large opening storage area with compartments for some of the weapons that came with the set. You can also store some of the cardboard pieces in here when you close it all up.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the inclusion of cardboard parts with this set. Sure, it’s hard to deny that spending $100 for a playset made partially of cardboard is disappointing, but none of the cardboard pieces are integral to the playset. In fact, they’re all completely optional bonuses. The ping pong table is my only gripe. It’s not in any of the pictures, because it’s such a piece of garbage, I didn’t even bother keeping it assembled and FigureFeline made off with it as soon as he had the chance. The cargo containers on the other hand are pretty cool. Bottom line, if you don’t like them, just toss them.

In terms of size and play features, I think The PITT is definitely worth a look. It’s amazing how many figures you can get onto this thing. I think the box said there are 84 pegs. The set up I used for these pictures isn’t even close to filling it up. I stopped setting up figures just because my cat was beginning to take an interest and it was only a matter of time before he started stealing them or knocking them all over the damn place. On the downside, there aren’t really a lot of specific areas to stage the figures in. A lot of them are just loitering around on the roof or standing on the walls.

In terms of quality of construction, I think The PITT falls short of its original hundred dollar price point. I paid $40 for it, and I’m not dissatisfied, but then again, I got it for display and not for play. I don’t think this thing would last too long getting beaten up by kids playing with it, which seems to be the biggest complaint about it if you read any of the customer reviews on toy retailer’s websites. I suppose the electronics features could have been better implemented. The AT-AT retailed at around the same price and it included not only lights but features that were spread out all over the toy, whereas The PITT really just has a simple soundbox. I’d say if you can snag it for cheap, it’s worth adding to your collection, just make sure you have somewhere to put it, because I still have no idea where the hell I’m going to keep mine.

GI JOE Rise of Cobra: PITT Mobile Headquarters by Hasbro, Part 1

Merry Christmas, all. As a wee lad, Christmas morning was very much about playsets and the bigger toys that you couldn’t hope to talk your parents into getting you any other time of the year. These were the toys that were held over our heads like the Sword of Damacles, persuading us to not be quite so rotten in hopes that we might get them delivered to us by Santa on that special day. For me, Christmas morning was all about putting these things together with my Dad, getting them all stickered up and then introducing figures to them and having a blast playing with them amidst a landscape of crumpled paper and discarded practical gifts. Today I recreated that a bit by busting open the closest thing I could find to one of these old-style playsets… the GI JOE PITT from the Rise of Cobra toy line. In Part 1, we’ll look at the packaging, assembly and the vehicle mode and then in Part 2, we’ll open her up and see what’s inside. [Let me apologize in advance for the distracting backgrounds in the pictures, but this thing is just too damn big to shoot in my usual staging area. -FF]

The reason this sort of thing is such a nostalgia trip is because there aren’t a lot of playsets on the market these days. Why? It’s all about the way the retail landscape has changed. Gone are the days of a majority of people going to Toys R Us or KayBee for toys. Now, it’s the Walmarts and the Targets that sell the most, and therefore have a lot to say about what the big toy companies like Hasbro or Mattel make. Of course, where TRU might have six or eight aisles devoted to action figures, the Big Boxes have more like two or three, and when even the biggest lines like Star Wars or Transformers are limited to about eight or twelve feet, that retail space is at a premium and stores would rather fill that space with eight $25 boxed vehicles than one huge $100 playset. But enough with the economics…

Hasbro has been fiendishly clever these last couple years by slipping at least one big toy onto the shelves each year. These toys masquerade as vehicles, but are in reality playsets. The Millenium Falcon or the AT-AT were great examples, and so is the GI JOE PITT, a massive wheeled vehicle that folds out and transforms into a multi-level base of operations.

Yeah, that’s a big box, and no matter how much I loathed that Rise of Cobra movie, it’s hard not to get excited when holding this thing. The front has a great illustration of The PITT in action, while the back panel shows off photos of the toy itself loaded up with figures. There’s even a File Card printed on the side for the General Hawk figure that’s included in the box. Open it up and you can slide out the cardboard tray holding the toy and a bunch of baggies.

What’s inside pretty much takes up the whole interior of the box, as the bulk of the toy comes already assembled. Open up the toy and there’s more baggies inside. Then, muster your patience, because this thing requires a fair amount of assembly for the finer details and some of it can be a bumpy ride. This is also where you will first encounter this toy’s biggest failing: The plastic isn’t exactly durable. This is not the same plastic Hasbro uses for it’s smaller vehicles. I don’t know if they thinned it out to save money or to keep this thing from weighing a hundred pounds, probably both, but it is nowhere near as solid as the Millenium Falcon or the AT-AT Walker. Case in point: A few of the railings for the top deck had stress marks right out of the package. Luckily, most of the assembly is just plugging in the little stuff like the railings and the spotlights, but the fragility of the plastic made getting this thing together a bit more stressful than I would have liked. We’ll talk a lot more about The PITT’s durability in Part 2.

Do you like putting on stickers? I hope so, because there’s like seven sheets of them. I love putting on stickers, and even I couldn’t finish this beast in one sitting, and yet somehow a little patience and a lot of Rum and Eggnog got me through it. Ok, so not all of it. As much as I tried, I couldn’t get this thing one hundred percent before I had to just call it quits and start shooting the photos. But it’s mostly done. Besides, if you can tell me that you have a better way to spend Christmas morning then stickering a huge playset, I’ll curse you for being a filthy liar. The PITT also contains some cardboard parts, some of which require assembly, but we’ll get to those in Part 2, when we start looking at what’s under the hood.

Once you’re all done, you have yourself one massive military winnebego. If you remember the old Mobile Command Center, you’ll have some idea of what to expect here, as the concept is the same. Although, The PITT is an entirely new toy and far more complex than the MCC. While some parts of the playset are designed to mimic scenes in the movie, This Pitt is really not something that was in the movie, at least certainly not in its vehicle form. The top surface of the vehicle is loaded with pegs to stand figures and it has more than a few play features, including rotating spotlights, a double missile launcher, and a gunnery chair. Down in the front, there’s an opening cockpit where you can seat two figures to drive this behemoth. If you have it all locked together right, the PITT rolls along on its wheels really well and holds it’s vehicle form fairly well too, so long as you carry it carefully and support it on all sides. If you don’t, it’s likely to fall open, spill shit all over the place, and very probably break it. See that handle looking thingy on the top? That is NOT for carrying it, but rather for helping you to convert it to base mode. The only other issue here is the two removable side panels that don’t really lock in well at all due to a gimmick for the playset. But more on that in Part 2.

As you can see in the pictures, The PITT comes with a General Hawk figure. The figure looks great, but the quality is nowhere near in the same league as the regular carded figures. His arm articulation seems funky and his legs are all bendy and cheap plastic. His vest is removable, though, so you can always pilfer it for one of your other Joes.

I’ll give kudos to Hasbro for the design on this thing, as it’s definitely an improvement over the MCC’s vehicle mode, which basically looked like a giant box on wheels. Granted, The PITT is no less ridiculous in its size, and it looks more like a giant boat than a land vehicle, but at least it looks like a bit more thought went into its aesthetics than the MCC. I think my only complaint would be that it could use more armaments. It has the topside cannon and missile launcher and two rotating guns on the sides, but that’s it. In terms of relative size, just about any GI JOE vehicle is better armed than this monster.

Ok, I’m off to eat some Christmas ham now, and watch the Doctor Who Christmas special, but when I come back tomorrow, fully hung over and with a delightful case of gluttony-inspired indigestion, we’ll see how the rest of this playset plays out… see what I did there? Playset… Plays out? Ok, until then, have a Merry Christmas.

Star Wars Vintage Collection: General Grievous by Hasbro

I swore to myself I wasn’t going to buy any Vintage Collection figures based on the prequels and yet here we are. I really thought this was a stupid idea on Hasbro’s part to take such a great concept as the VC and sully it by shoehorning the prequel figures into retconned packaging. I still think it is. Nonetheless, I really wanted to own this Grievous figure as it looked simply amazing and leaps and bounds better than the old Grievous figure that I had in my collection. “So, who cares about the packaging anyway?”, says I to myself, “I’m just buying it for the figure.” And yet before I got to the register, I convinced myself that the packaging looked so damn good, I needed an extra to leave carded and pop into a clamshell. Kudos, Hasbro, you have defeated me again!

So, yeah. The original concept here was to give fans awesome figures based on vintage originals and mount them on the same cards as the old ones. Obviously we’re straying here, since the prequel figures aren’t vintage and they were never issued on this style cardback. Part of me wants to see this whole operation as part of Lucas’ plan to make us think that characters like Grievous were already part of the master plan when he sat down to pen the original Star Wars. Then the more rational part of me says, “just shut up and enjoy the damn toys.” And I certainly can’t argue with results. The card looks awesome. The figure looks awesome. The figure on the card looks awesome. Of course, these no longer come in clamshells, but Hasbro has conveniently provided us the opportunity to buy them online. The back panel of the card still shows Grievous in his original Revenge of the Sith packaging to compare it with the new stuff.

I’ll lay my tortured opinionw about the prequel films aside and say that General Grievous was my favorite character from the newer films. When I purged all the prequel stuff out of my collection a few years back, I still kept Grievous, although now I can pretty much discard them all, since this new figure is absolutely fantastic and skunks all the previous Grievouses in every possible way. Keep in mind, I’m not saying this figure is perfect, as there are still a few unfortunate elements at work here, but it is an outstanding figure. All of his armor plates are cast in soft plastic, so you can bend his chest plates out to reveal his chest. His armor also has a nice brushed finish to give it a realistic bone look.

The real softgoods cape is an excellent addition to the figure. It’s remarkably well crafted with the correct insignia on the back and a gorgeous red liner. It also has sewn in pouches for Grievous to store his trophy lightsbaers. I’m not usually a fan of using softgoods in figures this small, but in this case it not only looks great, but it eliminates all the poseability problems that the plastic cape added to previous releases. It actually looks like someone took a 1:6 scale accessory and shrunk it down for a 3 3/4″ figure. Plus he can easily remove it for when he wants to get down and start busting open caps of whoop ass on Jedi fools.

But like I said, this figure does still have a few issues worth noting. The use of soft bendy plastic for the legs, for example, is unfortunate. I’m totally amazed that Grievous can stand so well, but these legs are still prone to easy warping and they don’t always stay where you want them to. And then there’s the arms. While they will peg into each other, this severely limits their articulation. The figure was definitely designed with the assumption that we’re going to be keeping his arms separated most of the time, which is admittedly how I plan on displaying him anyway.

Grievous comes with a nice dose of accessories. He has his blaster, two activated lightsabers (one green and one blue), and two trophy light saber hilts, that can actually be tucked into pouches on his cape. Yeah, I said that already, but it’s such a cool feature, I had to say it again. Sadly, he does not come with a figure stand, but then none of the VC figures do. Even more sad is that his feet do not have pegholes, so you can’t even help him out with one of Hasbro’s generic Star Wars stands.

If you’re a fan of the Wheezing G-Man, I can’t recommend this figure enough. True, I fell in love with the packaging too, but if your will is stronger than mine, I still suggest you ignore the retconned packaging and get the figure anyway. Truth is, I dig him so much, I’m probably going to have to hunt down his starfighter too.

Androidz: Rolling Battling Robots by ToyQuest

I first caught sight of this toyline one day while perusing the action figure aisles at Toys R Us. I think what caught my eye the most was that they were brand new and already had playsets. Playsets!!! Unfortunately, I was on a mission to buy other things, so I didn’t pick up any of these at the time. I was never able to find any of them at Target or Walmart and the next thing I knew, TRU was clearancing them out in their stores and on their website. I ordered me up a bunch of figure two packs and one of the playsets, but TRU somehow screwed up the order with a processing error and by the time I got someone on the phone who was willing to fix it, I just told them to forget the whole thing. A week after the order was cancelled, these showed up at my door anyway. I’m not sure if they sent them to me to apologize for the error, or if they were shipped out by accident. It’s probably the former, since the playset didn’t get shipped with them. But hey… free toys!

The Androidz come carded in two-packs with a whole lot of information on these damn cards. You get the names of the little robots, their tech specs, and a brief backstory to the line. The robots fall into various sub-groups depending on their function and all those fall into two opposing factions of Defendbots and Strikebots. I can’t tell whether each two pack is supposed to be part of a team, or two opposing robots or what, but I guess it doesn’t really matter for our purposes here.

So what’s this line all about? They’re a lot like simple trading figures, like the old Battle Beasts or the more current line of Gormiti figures, only these are sitting on a die-cast base with wheels. Imagine a robot Battle Beast bumped uglies with a Hot Wheels car, because this is what you would get from the union. Frankly, I think it’s a pretty neat idea and overall it’s executed very well. All four of the figures I have feature rotating arms, which also have some degree of lateral movement, which is pretty impressive articulation for figures this small. The toyline also has an online interactive element, where you can input each robot’s serial number into the website to unlock content.

The first two-pack came with Big Boom and Swat Scope. Big Boom is an explosives expert and Swat Scope is a sniper. These guys have a certain urban police vibe to them. Swat Scope is blue and black, with a little bit of yellow, and really nicely sculpted. He’s holding a gun in his right hand. Big Boom is a little less exciting, as he’s mostly white with just a little blue and black and his sculpt isn’t as detailed as Swat Scope’s. Still, he’s a cool looking robot and has a blaster built into his right hand.

The next pack includes two military themed robots named Muzzle Flash and Tank. Muzzle Flash is a weapons specialist and Tank is a gunnery sargeant. Unlike the last pack, these two figures share pretty much an identical color deco, giving them a very uniform military look. The sculps on these figures are also more intricate and detailed than the last pack. Muzzle Flash has a three-barreled blaster built into his left arm and a blade on his right. Tank has tank treads, which is really cool since these guys are made to roll, the same right arm blade as Muzzle Flash, and a big cannon pointing forward off of his left shoulder. This pair is definitely my favorite of the bunch. Not only are their designs really cool, but the paint apps are applied with amazing precision, as there’s no slop at all.

The figure packs originally retailed for $6.99, which meant you were paying $3.50 a piece for the figures. It’s really not bad, considering the use of diecast. It’s a real shame that this line wasn’t successful, but I’m as much to blame for that as anyone, since I didn’t buy any until they hit clearance [technically, I didn’t buy these either! -FF] so I sure didn’t do my part to keep the line alive. Besides just being a great idea, these little figures are exceptionally well made, with sculpting and paint apps that put a lot of prominant and successful toy lines to shame. The line itself is also pretty well thought out, although I would have recommended putting faction symbols somewhere on the figures. The fact that the line had playsets and even vehicles is just plain awesome. I’m sure a big part of their problem at retail was lack of promotion. I’ve never even heard of ToyQuest and when I went on their website, I didn’t recognize a single toy they produced. Still, I can’t help to think that these guys would have really been popular back in the 80’s. Either way, I definitely plan on hunting down more of these guys.