As promised, I’m back to finish up my look at the TFC’s latest release in their Project Uranos, “Not-Aerialbots” line of figures. We already checked out their alt modes, so let’s jump right into transformation and their bot modes.
You might think that since Blackbird is basically just an aircraft with a robot under him that his transformation would be pretty easy. Well, you’d be more or less right. The most difficult thing is digging the tabs out from either side of his head and figuring out the right way to fold up his legs, and that’s going from robot to jet. Going from jet to robot is easy-peasy and totally intuitive. It’s just a matter of folding up the plates on his backpack and positioning his arms and legs. Although it does bring us to the one thing that I really do not like about this figure… ARR MATEYS, THERE BE PARTSFORMING AHEAD!
I really don’t know why I went all pirate there… but yes, there is indeed some partsforming here. The very first step of transforming Blackbird involves pulling the entire front nose and cockpit section out and changing it into his gun. I knew about this going in, so it wasn’t a surprise or anything that gave me buyer’s remorse, but I consider this sort of thing a cheat, because it really is a fairly good sized piece of the jet. The resulting gun mode isn’t all that great either, because… well, it looks a lot like the cockpit section of a jet. It’s also way too big for Blackbird. If you don’t extend the barrel all the way, I guess it works ok, but turning a third of the aircraft into a gun is definitely not a selling point for me. The gun is also used for Uranos’ gestalt mode, but we’re not getting into any of that until I have a complete set.
As for Blackbird’s robot mode, I really dig it, although it definitely has some opportunities. Yes, he’s a robot wearing half of a jet as a backpack, but so were most of the original Aerialbot designs. It never bothered me then, and it doesn’t now. Besides, a lot of Blackbird’s backpack can fold up or be tweaked so that it really doesn’t get in the way. This is by no means the worst kibble I’ve seen. I do wish it pegged together better, and that’s one of those big opportunities I was talking about. The two engines don’t peg into anything and that leaves them to just flop around. It seems like a frighteningly obvious design flaw that could have been easily fixed with a couple of tabs and sockets. It’s not a critical flaw, but certainly one that should have been addressed on a $130 toy.
Another issue, I have are the stubby little wings that protrude off his chest and in front of his shoulders. I like them, as they are one of the more identifiable characteristics of Silverbolt’s design. Unfortunately they get in the way of his shoulder articulation. Yes, they’re hinged, they rotate, and that allows for full arm articulation, but having to fiddle with those when posing him is annoying. The last issue I have is his lack of heel spurs. A robot with a huge backpack needs heel spurs. It’s another one of those little design oversights, which could have been easily fixed by adding a couple of hinged plates.
With all that having been said, I still find a lot to love in this guy. The sculpt is wonderfully detailed and packed with panel lines. The configuration of the chest really evokes the G1 character design, and while I don’t think the head sculpt is a slam dunk, I am still pretty happy with it. Even the backpack looks like a serviceable design as a jetpack. The quality of the plastic is very satisfying and makes for a sturdy figure with tight joints.
The deco carries over from the jet mode with a lot of white, but the addition of the red and yellow help tie the homage together. I really dig the red plastic that TFC uses, it’s a great vibrant shade and the yellow is pretty good too. Unfortunately, the paint on this figure isn’t quite on par with the past two releases. There’s some sloppy silver brushwork on his left shoulder and some brush strokes on the yellow bar on his chest. It’s nothing terrible, but hey… $130 toy… it’s worth mentioning.
Moving on to Phantom Ray… Um… Yeah. I want to say people are either going to love this guy or hate him, but then I’m kind of ambivalent. I can’t hate on him, but he’s just nothing special. Imagine what kind of Minicon you might get with a $130 Transformer and this would be it. That’s really it, he feels like a Minicon on steroids to me. Is that a bad thing? I love Minicons, and yet strangely I don’t love Phantom Ray. But I don’t hate him, and I guess that’s a start.
I was on board for TFC using a separate robot drone for Uranos’ chest plate. I still think it’s a cool idea. Remember, I like when these guys bring some originality to the table. But I think if they were going to sell this idea, they needed to really deliver a great robot design for the drone, and Phantom Ray isn’t it.
Blackbird was $140 with shipping. The higher retail comes through in the impressive size of the figure and the fact that he comes with a little bot-buddy. What’s not reflected in the higher retail are the nagging little QC flubs. It’s ironic that the most expensive of the Project Uranos figures that I have so far is the one to have some paint issues, albeit minor ones, and required me to do a little plastic shaving to make him work right. I’m hoping that I just got a little unlucky with him, because the alternative is that TFC is allowing their QC to slip as the team progresses. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and I’m still overall pretty happy with the way this guy turned out.