Transformers Kre-O: Optimus Prime by Hasbro, Part 2

And we’re back for the second half of a Kre-O Optimus Prime feature that is rapidly wearing on my patience. I say “second half” but this is going to go a lot quicker than yesterday. Having built Prime into his truck and trailer mode and shooting some pictures, last night I poured myself a generous glass of Jameson and set about to pulling him apart. I took the time to separate the parts by color, poured another glass, and dove in to rebuilding him as robot and battlestation. Having the parts separated was a huge help and overall this build went smoother and faster, but there were a lot more parts left over, so that might explain why. With a little perseverance, and two more glasses of Jamie, I was able to wrap up the build before turning in for the night. It would have been helpful to use the box as a tray for the parts, but after two days the cat has still not relinquished it.

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Ok, so let’s start with Prime’s robot mode.

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I like it a lot! I do wish I still had my Kre-O Bumblebee built so that I could compare the two in size, but after two days of wrestling with Kre-O, I would rather scrape my tongue with a cheese grater than build another one. So, sorry, but no comparison pictures. Prime strikes me as being about the same size, but a little less beefy and less complex. There are some really cool design features to him, like the way his chest is constructed, his smokestack backpack is neat, and oddly enough I really dig the construction of his feet. He’s very well proportioned and the head sculpt is particularly nice and a lot more evocative of G1 Prime than the Bayformer version. Only six of his wheels actually transfer to his robot mode, this may bother some people, but I’m ok with it. Still, he does look a tad skimpy in the arms and legs. Not bad, mind you, just like he could have used a little extra oomf.

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Prime features ball joints in the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles, and his fists rotate. He has pretty good poseability and he holds together fairly well while I’m fiddling about with him. I know some people complain Kre-O doesn’t hold together, but that hasn’t been my experience.

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The other part of this build is the “battlestation” which is really more of a little base for the human Kreons to hang out and do maintenance on their motorcycles. There aren’t any guns or anything else to suggest it is a station for battle. Keep in mind, I tried to use as many parts as I could to build this, so mine’s a bit of an enhanced custom job over the suggested model. It’s not bad for what it is. You get a control center, a maintenance area with a rack for the tools. I added a place for them to keep their helmets, and both bikes can fit in the base. You also get a pair of barricades. The whole ensemble sort of looks like something that Prime’s trailer can transform into. I’m vaguely reminded of other trailer base modes. I’m fairly certain, the base is built only from parts using the trailer, but since I already pulled everything apart, I won’t swear on that.

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And that’s Kre-O Optimus Prime. He’s a cool set, but he definitely taxed my enthusiasm for building these things. All the modes are fairly well designed, and everything fit together pretty well, but building it still made me appreciate Lego all the more. Even the most complex Lego sets are still fun to build, because they’re carefully thought out with that purpose in mind. This Kre-O set felt like it was working against me and at times it plunged below my tolerances. It was originally around $60, which isn’t too bad considering all the parts and the play potential, but I picked up mine a while back on clearance for about $25, which is certainly a more appetizing price. Now, he’ll stand on a shelf for a couple of days before I can get the nerve up to break him down again and file him away with my other Kre-O, Lego, and Megabloks sets. I do know, that unless I can find some of the GI JOE sets, I’m going to be done with Kre-O for a while.

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Transformers Kre-O: Optimus Prime by Hasbro, Part 1

I’ve had this beauty sitting in my closet for months waiting for the right time to build it, well I was on vacation last week and it seemed like a good time. While I have been more or less impressed with the three or four Transformers Kre-O kits that I have built, Prime here was the last one that I plan to pick up. The direction the new stuff has taken doesn’t interest me as much and I just think my brick-monies are better spent if I kept channeling them into Lego. Anyway, this thing is a beast of a set and, like all Kre-O Transformers, it needs to be built twice, so I’m doing this guy in two parts because considering the amount of time I had to spend on him, I’m damn well going to get two features out of him. Today I’ll kick it off with the packaging, Kreons, and the vehicle mode, and tomorrow I’ll be back to check out the robot and the battle station!

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Holy hell, this box is HUGE. I guess that’s to be expected since I’m pretty sure this set is the largest Transformers Kre-O kit to date. Prime comes in the same briefcase style case that is designed to close up and store the pieces. The front shows off an illustration of the toy, while the back shows actual pictures of what you’re building. Keep in mind, if you want to put the stickers on as they are in the picture, you won’t be able to take the cab apart. Also, I’m not sure how their “3-in-1” math works out. You can build it as a vehicle or as the robot and battlestation. That’s more like “2-in1” in my book. Anyway, I’ve kept the boxes for all my other Kre-O sets, but I doubt I’ll keep this one. It’s been leaning up against the wall in one of my toy closets for a while now and I’m kind of anxious to get rid of it. Besides, once I break this set down again and put the pieces into baggies, it’ll take up a lot less space.

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On second thought, I may have to keep it, as the cat has adopted it as his new bed… right in the middle of my attempt to build it. Here’s another illustration of why cats and Lego (or even imitation Lego) don’t mix. He may have thought he was helping because he did actually chew some of the parts off their sprues.

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Inside the box (cat not included) you get two large color instruction books and like a thousand baggies of bricks. Ok, it’s probably not a thousand bags. It’s probably more like six or seven bags. They weren’t numbered so I can’t be sure. And therein is the true fun or torture of this set. Since the bags aren’t numbered, or even grouped in any special way, you have to dump them all together and that leads to a ton of sorting and searching and hunting. I actually kind of enjoyed the added challenge on the 200-300 piece sets, but Optimus is nearly 550 pieces and to be honest, it got to be a real pain in the ass after a while. The color coding in the instructions is also a bitch. It’s tough to tell what’s supposed to be black, grey, dark grey, or metallic grey, and since a lot of times you’re dealing with the same piece in multiple colors, you need to just go with your gut and hope for the best. There were times when I realized I probably used a dark grey 2×2 when I was supposed to use a light grey 2×2, because that’s all I had left. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but it’s worth pointing out that building this was more challenging than any Lego set I’ve ever done. The recommended age group is 8 to 14, which I believe actually means that if an 8 year old starts it, he can be expected to finish it by the time he hits 14. Anyway, when you’re all done with the first build, you get five Kreons, two motorcycles, and Prime’s cab and trailer. Let’s start with the Kreons…

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The set includes three Transformer Kreons and two human Kreons. The Transformers are the ones I really care about. They’re the original kind that are just cute little collectible figures and cannot transform. I adore these stupid little things and I think they lost a lot of their charm when Hasbro started making them with crappy alt modes. The set has Optimus Prime, Smokescreen, and Skywarp. It’s an eclectic mix, but I love them all. They’re all excellent, but I think Skywarp is my favorite. I like the way they did the wings and the doors on him and Smokescreen. Prime also has little clip-on smokestacks on his arms. All three of these little guys are excellent.

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The humans are the same Kreon with their colors changed around. You get motorcycle helmets and hats for each, so they can be used to work in the battle station or drive the motorcycles. They’re ok. I’ll confess while I’m not a big fan of the human Kreon styles, it is nice to have some human figures in scale with the robots. The motorcycles are kind of shitty. They’re each made up of two ill-fitting halves with wheels popped on. I guess they’re ok for what they are, but I don’t have much use for them.

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Generally, I find the vehicle modes of the past Kre-O sets I built to be a bit wanting. Prime’s cab, on the other hand, is excellent and took me the bulk of the time to build. It’s very involved and the end result is well worth the effort. The instructions get rather silly with the placement of Autobot stickers, suggesting that I put two on the hood and three on the roof. I opted for just one on the roof. For a Lego-style vehicle, I think this thing looks great.

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The doors open and there’s room for one Kreon to sit at the wheel and yes, if you’re feeling wacky you can actually have Prime drive himself. The back portion of the cab can pull off to reveal a little workstation for the Kreons. I actually thought this would be part of the battlestation, so I didn’t shoot any pictures and then found that I had to cannibalize it for the second build. Oops!

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The trailer is scaled just a little shorter than I would have liked, but it still looks really nice when hitched up to the cab. It holds together pretty well for what is basically a shell. The Autobot symbols and striping on the sides are printed on, which is a welcome treat since the Kre-O stickers don’t stay on for shit. The back door can drop down to form a ramp and you can put both motorcycles inside. You can also break it apart at the top and swing both halves apart to give you access inside. There’s not much going on in there and it seems like Hasbro could have delivered a little more, but it’s cool nonetheless. I’m tempted to cannibalize my Lego City Police Mobile Crime Lab for parts and load this thing out with equipment.

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So far, this Kre-O Prime doesn’t disappoint. Yes, the build got on my nerves, and I definitely recommend doing a proper color-coded sort of the parts before tackling his build. It won’t eradicate all the frustration, because you’ll still spend some time guessing which color part to use next, but it will help. Once built, however, Prime is the best looking Kre-O vehicle I own, and I can’t deny that getting Kreons of Prime, Smokescreen, and Skywarp makes me very happy. Tomorrow, we’ll tear this bastard down and start all over again with his robot mode and his battlestation!

Kre-O Transformers: Autobot Ratchet by Hasbro

Among some of the stuff piling up this last month are some of Hasbro’s “Not-Lego” Kre-O sets. I had this last weekend off, so I took the time to build a couple more and today we’re going to check out one of those… it’s everybody’s favorite Autobot Medic, Ratchet.

As always, the set comes in a nifty cardboard briefcase that you can use for convenient storage. I really like the concept, especially since the Kre-O sets usually have extra pieces left over, depending on whether or not you’re building the robot or the alt form. I can usually fit the built robot into the box by only taking a few pieces off, and I can store the sets in their original boxes on one of my book shelves. Inside the box you get an instruction booklet, a sticker sheet, two individually bagged Kreons, and three un-numbered bags of parts. The set includes a total of 187 pieces; making this one the smallest Kre-O set I’ve built. Let’s go ahead and look at the Kreons first.

Ok, so I’m not terribly impressed with these guys. You get an ambulance driver and you get Ratchet. The ambulance driver is ok for what he is, and gives you someone to sit in Ratchet while he’s in ambulance mode. He also comes with a stretcher that fits in the back of Ratchet. Ratchet, on the other hand, is pretty flawed, since his helmet and the printed face on his head don’t line up very well. If you put the helmet on so that you can see his face, it pops off really easy. If you put the helmet on all the way, it covers his eyes. Ratchet also comes with a tiny gun.

As always, I built the alt mode first. Ratchet is a pretty decent looking ambulance for a Lego style construct of this size. The build is comprised mostly of red and white bricks and there are some well thought out stickers to help it along. It’s not terribly large, with room in the cab for only one Kreon. There’s no steering wheel or dashboard inside, and there are no doors on the sides either, so you need to take the roof off to get him in there. There are, however, working doors on the back of the ambulance, and there’s room inside for the stretcher. Ratchet also has clips on the sides and back to hold the bevy of tools that come in the set. If you compare this build to a Lego vehicle that you might get in a $20 set, it stacks up pretty well, and overall it was a fun little build. There are a bunch of parts left over for the robot build. I can usually find someplace to stick these, but in Ratchet’s case, I just tossed them all into the back of the ambulance.

While I do enjoy getting two builds out of each of these Kre-O sets, I really hate tearing them apart. It’s also a pain to keep track of the bricks with stickers on them, as you need to use them at specific points of the robot build to make him look right. This time, I had the foresight to set them aside, rather than have to root through all the pieces to find the one I need.

In robot mode, Ratchet is a cool enough looking guy. He’s kind of on the lanky side, which sets him apart from the G1 Ratchet design that I identify with the most. His windshield and front bumper are positioned on his chest, but it looks like he needs a little more oompf in his torso to make the proportions work. He’s mostly arms and legs and his head is a tad too small. On the other hand, he’s a nice clean looking design, I like the way his wheels are positioned on his legs and shoulders and the front wheel wells are on his feet. Once again, you wind up with some left over pieces, most of which I was able to attach to the figure and still make it look good.

Ratchet features good articulation, with ball joints for his head, shoulders, hips, and ankles, and hinges for his elbows and knees. He also feels a lot more stable than my Sideswipe, and he can hold his poses better without flopping over or doing the splits.

I have no idea how much this set went for when it was originally released. I seem to remember getting this one on special for around $12, which is quite a steal considering you get close to 200 pieces. I know that Kre-O gets a bad rap by Lego purists as being inferior and all that, but I don’t have a lot of issues with these sets, and I certainly build my share of Lego. The quality has been overall good, the designs are solid and the builds are plenty of fun. Ratchet is probably my least favorite of the sets I own, but he’s still not a bad set by any means. I just wish his Kreon was a little better.

Kre-O Transformers: Sideswipe by Hasbro

Oh look, its more Kre-O!! I can’t get enough of these sets. This time around its Sideswipe, another Autobot and another Sportscar to boot. I was really curious to see whether this one is designed differently than Bumbebee and I was happy to see that Sideswipe’s car and robot mode are significantly unique from his Autobot brother. Unlike Megatron and Bumblebee, I’m going to do my best to get through this set in just one part…

Kre-O boxes equals awesome. The set comes in the same style of box-slash-carry case we saw with the last two sets. Inside you get an instruction booklet, a sticker sheet, a bunch of unnumbered baggies of bricks, and two bagged Kreon figures. The set includes 220 pieces, which makes it the smallest of all the Kre-O sets I’ve looked at so far, but it still pretty sizeable.

The Kreons include a generic human Driver and Sideswipe. The Driver is a repaint of the one that came with Bumblebee and is basically just someone to sit in the car. Kreon Red Alert is just as adorable as the other Transformer Kreons we’ve seen. He comes with a big gun.
Sideswipe’s sportscar mode is a satisfying build and while in prinicipal its similar to Bumblebee’s there are more than enough differences to make it fun and unique. Its a little smaller than Bumblebee, but not as much as you might think considering this set has about a hundred less pieces. Overall I think this car mode looks better than Bumblebees, but the boxy slab of a roof is still a sticking point for me. Once again, you can leave the roof off and Sideswipe looks much better as a convertible. In retrospect, I should have left the door stickers off, as I think they look like crap, but I can always peel them off if they bother me too much. For some reason, Sideswipe only has a drivers seat, which is odd since there is plenty of room for a passenger seat, it just isn’t part of the build. The only thing I’m not too keen on with the car mode is the grey wheel well pieces. I really wish these parts were painted red.
And then there’s the robot mode and it is pretty sweet. He’s cetainly very distinct from Bumblebee and surprisingly enough the build for his arms and legs are particularly complex. I wasn’t sure about the zig-zag configuration on his legs, but they work really well in person and I really dig the hinged armor on his forearms. About my only complaint here is that his head should have been black instead of red. As it is, its giving me more of a Red Alert vibe than Sideswipe. He stands just a bit shorter than Bumblebee, but for a 220 piece set he’s plenty big. Once again there were a number of pieces left off of his robot mode so I tried to find some places to stick them. I like the way his windshield pieces look behind his head. I was a little disappointed that Hasbro didn’t throw in a missile for his gun, it doesn’t seem like it would have broken the bank and it would have helped the gun look more convincing.
As an action figure, Sideswipe is really solid and features a great level of articulation. You get ball joints in the head, shoulders, elbows, and hips. The knees are hinged, and the wrists swivel. As always with these sets, you get some bits falling off as you play around with him, but he’s still fun to pose.
I believe the suggested retail on Sideswipe is about $20. I got my set for sixteen and change. Once again, I’ll point out that you couldn’t touch a Lego set with this number of pieces at the same price, once again proving these Kre-O’s are an awesome value. Seriously, 220 pieces, two toys to build and two minifigs all for under $20. You can’t beat that, folks! In the end, I like Sideswipe’s car mode better than Bumblebees, and while his robot mode is still excellent, Bumblebee is still my favorite.

[Just a heads up, I’ll be taking tomorrow off. Its been a crazy couple of weeks at work and trying to juggle that and keeping up with Figurefan and my excessive drinking other lifestyle commitments has really tuckered me out. I’ll be back on Thursday with some more goodies. -FF]