Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ultimate Spiderman 'Ultra Strike Spiderman' action figure review

There's a new Spiderman series out called Ultimate Spiderman which has different scales of figures including a 6" one. Be warned however that this is a kid-targeted line which features incorporated gimmicks and far less articulation than even past children's lines had. I was however surprised to find a "super poseable" Spiderman in this assortment and decided to see if he was worth the $12.99 price tag. However I needed to find one with a head first....

Whoops, someone on Hasbro's packaging design team is getting fired. Open-packaging may get kids to interact with the figure in stores leading towards a higher pitched scream and product-clutching-fingers when mom says no, but it's a nightmare for retailers. Sticky fingers, scratched paint, and in this case missing heads. Yes the ball jointed heads of these figures pop right off and you'll be seeing quite a few looking like this in Walmarts or other low security retail giants. That is except for Target which sends a shock troop of employees down the aisle if a child sneezes on a product. With only one paper twisty to hold them in I've seen two packages sans figures entirely.

Sculpting on Spiderman is simple, nostalgically classic which isn't to say it's without detail. The web lines are sharply defined and there's plenty of muscle detail. Spidey's eyes are perfect and there's no soft sculpts like we've seen in the line before this one. It's not a Marvel Legends style sculpt but rather looking like the cartoon character on which it's based and surprisingly like the old Animated Spiderman series which is why I picked up the figure in the first place.

Articulation isn't truly as 'super-poseable' as the package states but it does have more joints than the other figures in the assortment which have T-crotches and no elbows. This particular Spiderman has ball shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and those great 45 deg ball ankles. The lack of waist or ab crunch hurts the figure's posability and you'll have to carve away some of the crotch plastic to get him into a full 90 deg sitting position. The same can be done to the back of his legs to improve the range of motion there as the ball-in-cup joints don't have the greatest of range. Still he has better movement than the last Spiderman Classics series which you can still find in stores. He also has surprisingly good balance and can be posed on one foot like in the picture to the left. No wires or stand here folks.

Most of the paint work is done using the new plastic-layering technique. The red on his body, forearms, and legs is actually bonded to the blue plastic instead of being painted. The only part painted is the blue of his biceps, black lines, and eyes. While this doesn't give you any washes or highlights (this is a kid's line remember) the plastic layering is super precise and there's 0 bleed with the colors touching. I could get use to this technique if it was refined enough to do minute detail like a figure's eyes or symbols. Here it's used well but overall the figure is basically cast in color.

Accessories include a dart shooter that clips on to his arm but will instantly find itself in the fodder bin. Pull back on the dart and it weakly leaps from the shooter. Eh, at least it wasn't built into his arm right? The dart has a hole in it which I suppose was suppose to have a web-string tied on there but was ditched at the last moment. Most 'super-poseable' figures lack weapons to budget in the extra joints. Perhaps we could have gotten a waist cut or hinges if that dart shooter had been left on the design table.

So what's the verdict with Ultimate super-poseable Spidey here? He's not a terrible Spiderman but he's not Amazing Spiderman either. The $12.99 price tag is lower than the $20 we're used to paying. For the price cut you get cut paint apps and so-so articulation. He's scaled just fine to fit in with your Marvel legends and a customizer could get his joints working much better, maybe even give him that waist he's sorely lacking. He has a solid heasculpt as does the Nova in the series but you'll have to find one that hasn't been pilfered. You can find this Spiderman line everywhere and fiddle with his limbs to see if he's a fitting Animated Spiderman stand-in for your collection.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Transformers Beast Hunters Deluxe Bulkhead action figure review

Transformers Beast Hunters is an interesting concept although the premise of the show seems to be the Autobots being the hunted, not doing the hunting. We have all sorts of new designs (or new parts on old characters) which aren't actually going to be featured in the show but ended up as toys. Bulkhead gets his first deluxe class treatment here in the newest Beast Hunters assortment along with Starscream, Ripclaw, and Smokescreen. Before we continue I'll ask you to go in with an open mind about this figure...but most importantly don't think of him as Bulkhead. An odd request I know but you'll figure out why soon enough.

Sculpt is, well, rather unique. Bulkhead gets an armored knight look here with a chest protector, layered armoring on his limbs, and a bumper spikes. Only the jawline hints that Bulkhead is under all this armor as his visor and blue horn-lights conceal any other identifying features. The front waist guard looks great and overall his sculpt is really nicely detailed with all sorts of tech/armor/panel work. But overall you really can't tell this is Bulkhead from first glance, especially with his Roadbuster-esq colors...which I think may be the point.

Paint work is clean and smooth where applied. The knight-like chest piece is done sharply with black grate lines in the silver. His windows, tech detail, and waist-grille is also nicely colored with more than the usual single paint application. The base plastic however is a little lacking. Again they went with a swirl of pigment for a 'marble effect' but there just wasn't enough swirl and it ends up looking like trash got melted in with the plastic. Only his doors, forearms, and thighs have this swirl, well more like molded-in-debris effect. Yeah it's kinda funky but let's keep reviewing.

Articulation is AMAZING. The range of motion for his arms, legs, and feet are perfect and his ball jointed toes give him great stability in all sorts of poses. The head guard can be lowered and the shoulder guards raised up and locked in place. The back wings can fold in somewhat like a protective shell as well. Bulkhead can kneel, run, uppercut, aim, you name it and I was totally thrown off guard as to how much his articulation plays a part in turning the figure to my favor. My only nitpick is that his wrists don't turn but that's it. Everything else is spot on.

Bulkhead's accessory is a spinning dragonsaw which works quite well and looks pretty neat. Depress the trigger and the blade spins quickly. He can hold it in his hand, on his forearm, pegged on the roof, or on the doors. Holding it he looks like some sort of buzzsaw wielding Space Marine. Transformation is simple and very satisfying. Flip, fold, tuck, and you're done! I can't really find any fault in transformation and that's another plus for the figure. Alt mode is an armored car, somewhat reminiscent of Bulkhead's vehicle mode but not really as the colors and knight like scale armor lead you towards a different feel. It looks great, pegs together securely, and is larger/stands taller than most deluxe vehicles.

So what's the verdict? I'm going to deck him out with weapons and will now have my Transformers Prime Roadbuster. I really expected to hate this figure and passed him over many times. The whole spikey-armor-Bulkhead theme is silly until I looked at him as being something else. A customizer could swap heads and make all sorts of different characters from this mold. The articulation and cool design (not being Bulkhead) was enough to instantly win me over and he makes for a solid deluxe figure (that isn't Bulkhead!). Our sponsors Big Bad Toy Store and Past Generation Toys have him as well as the rest of the series. So what is this guy? An armored Autotrooper? Roadbuster? Space Knight? It's up to you, or perhaps he's just Bulkhead with a whole bunch of armor on him. But either way he's definitely worth picking up!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Transformers Beast Hunters Ripclaw and Smokescreen Deluxe action figure review

Transformers Prime introduces us to some new Predacon characters that don't exist in previous incarnations such as Lazerback, Ripclaw, and Twinstrike. We're familiar with Smokescreen as a character and he appears in the assortment along with Ripclaw, these two deluxe class figures being covered in the review today. The advent of new characters and specific gender (Ripclaw is referred to as a 'she' in her bio) has thrown some fans for a loop and created a whole new mess of arguments for figures in a canon and non-canon sense. Here we'll be taking a look at the action figures Ripclaw and Smokescreen in an unbiased review of their qualities as toys, not characters.

Packaging is the same for the whole line of figures with Predaking prominently displayed in the upper left corner. There are a LOT of paper ties this time wrapped around almost every main part and making the figures fairly difficult to remove as they need to be cut or their double knots untied. Out of the package the figures begin to shine in their design and sculpt. Ripclaw's dragon mode is slightly mis-transformed out of the package with her dragon legs in bot-mode the same way Smokescreen's arm kibble is positioned outwards so check the instructions before you pass judgement upon seeing them in package.

Out of the package Ripclaw is really nice looking, a green/red/copper colored dragon with large wings and a wicked looking claw-tail. Her sculpt is really well done with scaley panels and nice detail. The spikes on her forearms are a little too rounded looking more like pegs but can be sharpened up with an X-acto knife. Her tail is weighty and looks great in both coiled and lashing mode, more on that later. Ripclaw's robot head looks awesome and is bat-like in appearance with great inner eye/mouth detail, tho not light-piped which could have made it far cooler.

What's paint doing on my Transformers? Right off the bat you'll notice a lot of paint apps and colors here. There's grey, yellow, copper, yellow, red, two shades of metallic green, and it's all done very nicely too. I like the use of the swirly metallic green plastic that gives her a dragon-ish look but the black swirls in her wings just look like trash got caught up in the plastic and injected in. They're more splotches and specks than swirls unfortunately.

Articulation for Ripclaw is extensive with just two faults, her lack of bicep swivels and almost no range to turn her head to the side as her tall collar restricts it. Great ball jointed ankles allow for wide stances, there's an ab crunch due to the transformation, and her waist swivels. Ripclaw's wings are hinged enough to spread out or fold back and her tail can be positioned two ways. A large rubber cord runs through the sections and when tightened with a flip-down lever, curls up behind her. Flip the lever up and it straightens out and can be whipped around.

Ripclaw's accessory is a tri-claw that can be attached to her tail or held. It springs closed when the inner gold tip touches against something and looks pretty cool open or closed, like a mini Omega Supreme claw. I like this removable gimmick approach to Transformers where you can decide how you want them to look instead of having them integrated. Transformation is simple but pleasing. Her back legs have a cool folding mechanism that gives them an animal look. The koiji-like shoulder armor become the neck and her dragon head flips up from her back where it just kind of sits in robot mode unfortunately.

Smokescreen is an entirely different beast. His sculpt for both modes is nice but the front of his robot chest is a fake hood and kind of flat and not very accurate to the show model. His headsculpt looks familiar but with the completely wrong paint apps many people may be confused who it is initially. More on that later. I'm not a huge fan of his curved feet as it makes Smokescreen look like he's on high heels. Sculpt in car mode is sleek with tight seams and nice curves once you get it all pegged together...which may be an issue. He has some strange arm kibble but the rest is forgivable.

Smokescreen's paint...where to begin. Everything has been painted the wrong color from his head down to his toes. Here is what he should look like. The paint is cleanly applied I'll give them that but there's blue where there should be red on his head, red where there should be white on his arms, his kneepads should be black, there should be no stripes on his legs...the list goes on even for his car mode that's missing the checkered doors. And that's what's painted, there's even more missing. ReproLabels is going to have a field day here. I'll admit that I MISSED Smokescreen looking through the Transformers when I bought Ripclaw the day before. I only noticed him when I went back to Walmart to get Bulkhead and saw what I originally thought was Wheeljack. It's inexcusable when the paint is so bad you can't recognize the character.

Articulation is extensive here with ball jointed everything, swivel waist, great range of motion on his limbs, and swivel biceps. Smokescreen's ball jointed head is reduced to a swivel unfortunately unless you carve away a large chunk of the yellow light piping, uh, that should have been blue. Transformation is a jumbled mess of ball hinges that pop off and panels that don't want to peg together. In robot mode his shoulders fall unpegged from his chest unless you coat the tabs that peg into the wheels with superglue to bulk them up. The same with his loose hips and shoulder balls. Once you get him into either mode you'll want to leave him like that.

Smokescreen's accessories include a rubbery 'shadow quill armor' that looks ok on the car but silly on the robot. This is the same rubber that certain Bionicle/Hero Factory parts are made from. He also comes with a blaster that fires a missile and looks normal enough until you attach the rubbery net thing to it. The net has a tab and slot that lets you tab it together or perhaps you're suppose to attach additional ones together to form a larger net? I'm not quite sure. Thank goodness all the armor is removable, it will be easily tossed aside in the parts bin.

So what's the verdict on these figures? Ripclaw is a neat addition even with her lack of bicep articulation and neck movement. I didn't think I'd like her but she's instantly one of my favorite figures whereas Smokescreen whom I was looking forward too falls short in almost every category. It's bizarre passing over an action figure because it's so unrecognizable and I can't honestly recommend him unless you're willing to do some serious paint work or wait for a label set to come out. Our sponsor Big Bad Toy Store has both figures in sets or singles along with the others in the assortment like Bulkknight and Starroach. The Beast Hunters designs aren't for everyone but can still be a cool addition to your collection, check them out!