Hasbro’s new line of Transformers continues to hit retail and I’ve just about completed picking up the first wave of Deluxe Class figures. Today I’m opening my second of the bunch and while he’s called Skytread on the package, I’ll happily re-name him Flywheels, because he’s a modern update to my favorite Duocon.
The new Siege packaging abandons the traditional card and bubble for a collector friendly box with some bitchin’ artwork. Of course, the Duocons were a new breed of Transformers gimmick that Hasbro introduced in 1987. These Decepticons could split in half, with each half transforming into its own independent vehicle. It was hardly a sub-group, as we only ever got two of these guys. The other was Battletrap, and Hasbro gave him an update as part of Power of the Primes, but he’s not really a proper Duocon. It’s too much to get into here, but maybe now I’ll get around to opening and reviewing those figures. But I digress… Skytread’s alt modes consist of a jet and a tank, so not entirely unlike Big Daddy Overlord, but these vehicles are pretty small and very simple. They’re also very similar to the original G1 toys, and some collectors will love that, others maybe not so much. Let’s first look at his jet mode…
Awww, who’s a cute little Decepticon attack jet? You ARE! Flywheels’ jet mode was an adorable super-deformed attack craft and this modern update really stuck to its guns on that account. It’s actually a pretty nice mold, with plenty of panel lines, sculpted rivets, flaps, and vents, but it still looks a bit like a chibi Harrier Jump Jet to me, even though the proportions probably aren’t that off. The coloring is mostly confined to the maroon plastic with painted blue cockpit and some gold painted trim, while there’s some brown showing on the obvious robot arms that make up his undercarriage. I would have liked to see a little in the way of paint detail, but as it stands, it sure beats the one color of plastic that passed for Flywheels’ jet deco. All in all, this is a frightfully simple little toy jet, but it begrudgingly gets my seal of approval because it serves up some major nostalgia for a toy that I really loved. Moving on to the tank mode…
This is the half that even nostalgia cannot save. It’s not too dissimilar from Flywheel’s tank mode, but even so, there’s just nothing at all appealing to me about this little piece of rolling armor. The brown body features some sculpted panel lines, decently sculpted treads, some gold paint hits and some silver weathering along the sides. The two guns are maroon plastic with some gold paint. The design isn’t very exciting at all, the back is hollow and ugly, the main gun barely stays put, and the top pieces are very difficult to keep tabbed in, despite this being a frightfully simple transformation. You can mount the smaller gun on either side of the main cannon or even on the sides, and while options are nice, it just isn’t enough to save this tank for me. The last time I was this disappointed with a Transformers tank mode had to be the Titans Return Cassette Tanks, and those were pretty damn bad. I will, however, allow this one to squeak by because he’s part of a bigger picture.
And because that’s one heck of a cool looking robot mode. As with Flywheels, Skytread’s tank mode forms the lower half of the robot with the jet forming the upper half. OK, it’s not exactly like the Duocon that inspired him, but it’s pretty close. And what deviation there is just serves to modernize the figure beautifully. There’s nothing terribly exciting or inventive about the engineering here, but it’s hard to argue with the end result. All those panel lines on the vehicle modes add some wonderful detail to the robot mode, and the two-tone brown and maroon deco works well for a Decepticon soldier. Besides, the blue cockpit and hits of gold paint do their parts to make him pop a little. The proportions are great and it holy hell, he actually has functional legs, which is a boast that the old toy couldn’t make.
From the back Skytread looks fairly clean and tidy. He wears the back half of the jet plane on his back, complete with an adorable little tail and you can even use the peg on his back to store one of his guns, or both if you want to combine them. My only real complaint here is that his torso is hollow, but unless you’re scrutinizing him from the sides, it isn’t really a big deal. And no, I’m not going to gripe about his big feet, because that’s just another loving nod to G1 Flywheels.
I can rarely find much fault in Hasbro’s bot-noggins, and that’s not going to change here. Skytread’s head sculpt is fantastic and a perfect homage to his predecessor.
Obviously, Skytread’s two tank guns also serve as weapons for his robot mode, and while the designs are pretty generic, he looks good holding them. The smaller gun is my favorite of the two, just because it’s compact.
The longer gun is fine, but it’s design is even more generic than the smaller one. Fortunately, you can peg them together…
To make one big rifle. I really dig this feature as well as the fact that there are two pegs for him to grab.
Skytread is so much fun in robot mode, that I’m not willing to let the crappy tank and mediocre jet modes tear him down. But then I’m a real sucker for modern updates and as far as I know, this is the first time Hasbro’s revisited this character. There’s just something so cool about taking that old design and doing it over with proper proportions and useful articulation. And yeah, there’s also a good deal of nostalgia at work here. As it happens, Flywheels was one of the last Transformers figures I ever bought before I got away from toys, and that was pushing it because I was 14 when he originally came out. He lacks a bit of the polish and premium feel that oozed out of Hound, but in the end I’m still smitten with how this modern Duocon turned out.