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.
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.