Hasbro has really gotten me hooked with their Alternators line. Even when they are just releasing slight retools of existing figures I still
can't pass them up. The two latest offerings are just that, a modified version of the Mazda RX-8 that transforms into Shockblast (Shockwave)
and another Mustang GT, this time as Wheeljack.
Packaging - 9/10Both new Alternators come in the newer style packaging. The rectangular box with a cut out window across the front and top offers a great view of the toys, but is quite prone to damage with even minor handling. The white grid on a red background is an obvious tribute to the original 1980's toy line. No doubt Hasbro wants to push this line heavily towards collectors. The front of the box also has a small illustration of the toy's robot form done in the style of the recent Dreamwave comics. The ends of the boxes have either a photo of the robot or vehicle mode. The bottom of the box has all the standard legal stuff as well as photo of the prior figure. (#13, Wheeljack, has photos of #12, Shockblast. While Shockblast has photos of Battle Ravage who was #11.) It is a nice use of the space, but information and photos of the next figure would seem to make more sense. That would wet people's appetite for Hasbro's next release and avoid the situation they have now where they advertise a figure that may not be in production any more. The back of the boxes have photos of both modes and points out the weapons and features. The new style packaging is quite attractive and does a great job of showing off the vehicle form of each Alternator, right down to the faux reflection of the car in the background of the interior. If not for its tendency to tear along the window it would be a perfect 10.
Sculpting - Wheeljack 7/10, Shockblast 8/10Wheeljack has a great vehicle form, but his robot form leaves me a bit flat compared to the other Alternators. The legs are ill defined. The rear end of the car which is supposed to form the lower legs extends all the way up to the middle of the thighs. The arms are well designed except for the front tires which just hang limply off the sides of the forearms. The rear has the windshield hanging off his back which is certainly not unusual for an Alternator, but it also has a large panel that forms the underside of the center of the car hanging off the waist as well. The head sculpt doesn't thrill me either. It follows the basic design of the G1 Wheeljack, with the large mouth plate and fins on the sides as well as the three points on the forehead. But the proportions have been completely reversed. The mouth plate no longer covers the entire bottom of the face. The fins on the sides are much smaller. And the points on top of the head are now so pronounced that they almost seem to form a crown. The differences to the vehicle mode from the previous Mustang, Grimlock, are slight. The most evident one is the more pronounced spoiler. But there are also minor changes to the front bumper and grill and of course, new rims. It is a very nice looking vehicle, but getting everything lined up correctly after the transformation can be tiresome.
Shockblast is the best example yet of Hasbro and Takara incorporating the designs of the original G1 characters into this new line. In robot mode it is unmistakable that this is supposed to be Shockwave. The six sided head, mono-eye and fins on the sides are all taken almost directly from the G1 design. They even replaced the right hand with a gun. The rear of the car turned feet could use some improvement in providing a stable base and looking less clunky. His vehicle mode is a very realistic representation of a Mazda RX-8, but isn't very different from Meister. The one obvious change is the addition of a spoiler. The front and rear bumpers have also been redesigned. They are racing style ones which hang lower to the ground as do the running boards. And of course, he sports new mag rims. As with Meister before, the engine compartment seems lacking in detail. There is no distinct engine visible. But that may be the way the real vehicle is.
Paint - Shockblast 6/10, Wheeljack 8/10Shockblast paint job is pretty easy to describe, purple! Almost everything on him is purple. Even the highlight colors are just a lighter shade of purple. It works surprisingly well for the robot since there are a few other colors visible such as the black of the lower torso and some gray on the shoulders. But in vehicle mode he is extremely dark, and effect which is magnified by the all black wheels and rims. Wheeljack has a nice clean design of white with blue racing stripes. It is reminecent of his G1 counterpart, but more realistic. It works equally well for his robot mode. The two tone paint scheme for the face is too simple though. Quality is not a concern here. All of the paint work, right down to the labels for the auto makers is extremely well executed. And unlike Grimlock, neither figure seems prone to scratching.
Articulation - 8/10Both figures have enough articulation to provide an impressive range of motion. They are just slightly less nimble than your average Marvel Legends figure. Wheeljack has somewhat limited range of motion in his legs though due to the size of the lower legs and the panel that hangs down in the back. In vehicle mode they have opening doors and hoods. Like Meister before him, Shockblast has suicide style rear doors which make viewing the interior detals quite easy. His trunk can be opened to about forty five degrees which is an improvement over some of the other Alternator designs. (Of course, there isn't actually an empty trunk inside.) His hood barely opens though which is a disappointment. Wheeljack doesn't have the problems with the hood that Shockblast does. His opens fully and then some. But every time the hood is opened, the narrow panel in the center where the neck comes through in robot mode needs to be manually adjusted. Like most of the Alternator designs before, both figures' wheels are all free spinning and the front wheels are linked to turn together.
Accessories - Grimlock 8/10, Shockblast 5/10One of the things I like the best about the Alternator figures is the fact that their weapons transform as well and can be stored on the figure in vehicle mode. Shockblast's weapon is a departure from previous Alternators. Like Meister, his muffler can be removed and unfolds to form a rifle. It is a little on the puny side though. Of course, with his laser arm, he really has no need of another weapon. Since he shares Grimlock's mold, Wheeljack also has the same two weapons: a sword and a double barreled gun. The sword is far too small to be much of a weapon. It's probably good for opening large packages from CPS (Cybertronian Postal Service). His gun is formed from the top section of the engine. The handle folds out from underneath and the barrels flip out from the sides. The barrels are a bit small compared to the size of the rest of the gun, but it is nice to see some variety. Unfortunately neither weapon seems to fit into the peg holes in the hands as well as they should and Grimlock's did. I don't know whether this is a common problem or just an issue with my figure though.
Special NotesBoth of these figures are reused molds, so their transformations should be familiar to those who own Meister and Grimlock. Actually, Shockblast's transformation is quite similar to that of Smokescreen and Silverstreak. You do have to be careful that the hood doesn't pop off though. (It does pop back on.) Wheeljack is a bit more complicated. Rearranging the shoulders in particular can be a challenge the first couple of times. His design also has the draw back of having doors which are extremely prone to coming off during the transformation. In fact, I often find it easier to just take them off right away and put them back on once the transformation is complete.
Value - 8/10These are great toys for any Transformer fan, especially G1 fans. The $20 to $25 price tag may seem a bit high at first, but the complexity of the transformation and the level of detail of the vehicle modes make up for it. There is also some sentimental value in seeing the characters of the original line back on the shelves. The only thing missing is a good dose of die cast metal. Of course, if you really need that extra heft, there is always the option of buying the Japanese versions, called Binaltech. They have die cast parts and some sport more realistic paint, but they carry a price tag to match, anywhere from $50 to $75.
Happy Hunting:Shockblast and Wheeljack are the newest Alternators to be released here in the US. They are currently shipping along with Battle Ravage and Windcharger. I found mine at Target which is the only brick and mortar store in which I've heard reports of them showing up so far. There are a few online options. Big Bad Toy Store has both the domestic and import versions listed. Their price for the Alternators version is a bit steep. But the Binaltech versions are a decent price at just $55 each. Plus, their service is second to none. Wal-mart's web site has also been a good source for the Alternators line at a decent price. They currently have both Wheeljack and Shockblast listed, but out of stock. However, they tend to change availability often so it may be worth checking back every couple of days.