My shelf is beginning to look like a car dealership, so I guess I'm overdue for another Transformers Alternators review.
And it is going to be a big one. There have been six new releases since my review of Silver Streak and Hound. The new
additions include four Autobots and the first two Decepticons for the line. The Autobots include Tracks (blue Corvette),
Meister (the white Mazda), Grimlock (silver Mustang) and Windcharger (red Honda S2000). The Decepticons are a pair of
repaints and retools of existing figures. Dead End is the Dodge Viper, a retool of Side Swipe. Swindle is a yellow repaint
of Hound, the Jeep. That's quite a pile of Transformers.
For the sake of space, I'll limit the reviews for Swindle and Dead End to comparisons of the differences from their Autobot counterpart. So you may wish to take a second look at my previous reviews for Side Swipe and Hound before proceeding.
Packaging - Dead End 10/10, others 9/10Dead End is the last Alternator to come in the original style packaging. Beginning with Tracks, There have been several significant changes. The most obvious is the change in the background color. The dark purple color is gone, replaced with grid pattern over a background that transitions from red to black similar to the original Generation 1 toys. They have also done away with the plastic across the window of the box. Most of the rest of the packaging has remained the same. The front of the box still has the Alternators logo, character and vehicle information along with a drawing of the figure's robot mode. The Alternators logo has been shrunk slightly to enlarge the window. The side panels still feature photos of the robot and vehicle modes. The bottom panel has a photo of one of the other figures shipping around the same time. The back has images of both modes with some of the features pointed out. I'm guessing that the changes were made to further tie the Alternators line to the G1 line. But the changes have some drawbacks. The first problem is that the lack of the plastic covering the window in the front of the box plus the logo which now sticks out into the enlarged opening on the top results in packaging that is easily damaged. Secondly, while the nod to the original toy line is nice, I actually prefer the purple color. It contrasts better with the colors of the cars, especially Windcharger's red color. On the plus side, the biggest positive point to the original packaging remains. NO TWIST TIES. Each figure is held in place with a plastic bubble that fits over the vehicle and is then secured to the cardboard insert with four tabs. It has been a long time since it has been this easy to open a toy.
Sculpting - Tracks & Grimlock 7/10, Meister 8/10, Dead End 9/10, Swindle & Windcharger 10/10Swindle has just three modifications from Hound: a new head sculpt and the addition of a chrome grill protector and new rims. The grill protector is a nice addition. While the head sculpt is nice as well, I'm a bit disappointed that it is so similar to Hound's.
Dead End may utilize the same basic design as Side Swipe, but it has been heavily modified. The front grill and side panels have all been replaced with racing style panels that are lower to the ground. The entire trunk has been redone as well. It has been squared off a little more and a large spoiler has been added. The rims have been replaced as well. But the biggest and most extreme change is the obvious change from a convertible to a hard top. The changes to Dead End's robot mode are not quite as drastic. There is a new head sculpt of course. But the chest has been changed significantly as well to accommodate the change to a hard top. The new chest doesn't work as well as Side Swipe's though. Where Side Swipe's windshield hooks into the upper section of the chest, Dead End's doesn't. As a result, the windshield just sort of sits there covering the lower torso.
Tracks has another strong vehicle mode which is the hallmark of the Alternators line. All of the usual attention to detail is present right down to the door handles and gas fill cap. The design of the Corvette Z06's hood which has the hinges on the front also means that tracks offers the best view of the engine compartment of any of the car Alternators. Ironically, while Tracks offers the best opening hood, the doors are probably the worst of any Alternator. The hinge design results in the doors sticking out quite a way from the body and once opened, the missiles from the robot mode are sitting along the running board. His robot mode is a mixed bag as well. Tracks' transformation is similar to Side Swipe and Dead End with the front end splitting to form the legs, the passenger cabin forming the body and the rear end becoming the arms. But unlike Side Swipe who incorporates at least some of the car body panels into his robot mode, Tracks has almost the entire car mounted to his back. In fact, they even added an extra, smaller car roof to form his chest.
Meister is yet another solid entry into the Alternators line, especially the vehicle mode. While I don't care much for the design of the Mazada RX-8 but it is quite faithfully rendered here. The Hood and engine compartment are a bit of a disappointment. As with most of the Alternators so far, the hood can be opened, but barely. Perhaps realizing this limitation, it seems that the engine area was left quite plain. There is a panel under the hood with some general sculpted detail, but unlike all of the other Alternators, there is no actual rendition of the engine itself. The good news is that the interior of the cabin more than makes up for it. The dash and front seats are done with as much detail as any of the others, but they finally figured out how to include a proper looking back seat as well! This is even more important since the suicide style rear doors make it very easy to so off the entire cabin. Meister's robot mode is almost identical to both Smokescreen's and Silverstreak's, just with Mazda car parts in place of their Subaru parts.
Grimlock has a decent vehicle mode. The detailing is excellent from the Mustang symbol on the front grill down to the mufflers. The robot mode however is not so stellar. From the front it looks fine. Like most of the Alternator figures, his chest is formed by the hood section of his vehicle mode with his head sticking out of the center. The arms are actually almost kibble free, save for a front tire on each forearm. Like Smokescreen and Silverstreak, Grimlock's legs are formed from the rear of the car. Takara and Hasbro did a better job of designing Grimlock though. Rather than having the giant feet of the Subaru mold, Grimlock's entire lower legs are formed by the backend of the car. The problem comes when you look at Grimlock from any angle other than face to face. He has no body! Under the hood section there is a panel to serve as his lower torso but from the side or rear it is plain to see that there is no substance there.
Windcharger has become hands down, my favorite Alternator to date. Both modes turned out nearly flawlessly. The robot mode is the first one which doesn't compromise any area to accommodate the vehicle parts. There are three areas where the vehicle parts are plainly visible: the shoulders which are formed from the rear end of the car, the doors that fold down on the side of each leg and the hood and windshield on the back. But the doors are slim enough to not be obtrusive. The shoulders are not unreasonable and the hood actually works well as the back. The vehicle mode has all the detail of the previous figures with a few new additions. The addition of a small rubber radio antenna is a small change, but adds a lot more character to the vehicle mode. But more importantly, Windcharger is the first Alternator that is a true convertible. By switching out the accessory, Windcharger can be displayed with the top up or down. These Alternators just keep getting better and better.
Paint - Grimlock 4/10, Meister 6/10, Windcharger 7/10, Swindle, Dead End & Tracks 8/10Windcharger comes up a bit short on paint detail in vehicle mode. The interior and the dash in particular are rather stark. The seats and door panels received some paint as did the shifter, but that is it. Still, the overall look is pretty good. And his robot mode is even better. There is a good balance of colors between the red of the car panels, the black legs and the grey and silver on the chest gives even more reason why this is a stand out figure.
Grimlock is a bit sparse in the paint department as well. Once again, the interior was left unpainted, completely unpainted. The robot mode also has some bland spots. The lower torso in particular was left almost completely plain. There is just one paint application at the waist and it is black to match the section above it. But the real problem is the paint used for the body. It scratches very easily. Before I even realized it, I had put two good sized scratches in the legs between the hood and back windows while trying to get everything lined up to transform him back into vehicle mode.
Swindle has basically the same paint as Hound, just swapping yellow for the Hound's green and black for his yellow stripes. Like Hound, the vehicle's interior is left unpainted. It may be a bit harsh to score him a point lower than Hound, but honestly, the yellow color just doesn't appeal to me.
Meister is another Alternator with a plain appearance. But there are a few nice details that were added to Meister. First off is the interior of the vehicle mode, which while not fully detailed, does have enough paint to allow the details to stand out. And the defroster on the rear window is a nice touch. But the all white body can be a bit plain and the engine compartment was left completely bare. Fortunately, once in robot mode the white and black reach a much better balance than the vehicle mode.
Tracks has a strong paint job all around. The metalic flake blue for the vehicle color turned out wonderfully, as did the various details such as the license, Corvette lettering and logo. The interior doesn't have much for paint, just the seats, but that is enough to add a little color. The robot mode has a great color scheme. The mix of blue and grey with the red, silver and chrome details works really well and is very reminescent of Tracks' G1 counterpart. The head could use some paint or possibly panel lines (painting just the cracks that are part of the sculpt) to highlight the details but is still workable as is.
Dead End's vehicle mode has the hottest paint job of any Alternator. The black with silver stripes looks great to begin with. But with the addition of painted details like the gas fill cap, racing side panels and various lettering it is a very attractive vehicle. Then add in chrome wheels and engine and there is little to say but wow. The robot mode is a bit lacking in contrast though, especially the body which has one section of silver in the center with the Decepticon symbol. There are quite a few paint apps on the legs though to break up the monochrome expanses and both the head and arms look great.
Articulation - Swindle & Dead End 7/10, others 9/10Normally I would count every point of articulation on a figure, but if I tried to do that with these figures and I would be here for weeks. Needless to say, as with the previous Alternator figures, they have a lot of articulation. Exact numbers would be deceptive anyways since the vast majority of the articulation is dedicated to the transformation process. In general, each figure has a range of motion on par with your average figure with 30+ points of articulation. But both Dead End and Swindle have some limitations in their shoulder articulation. While technically a ball joint, like Hound, Swindle's shoulders offer little range of motion beyond that of a simple rotating joint. Dead End's shoulders are not quite as restricted, but the door/side panels can get in the way easily and can only really be adjusted by positioning the arms sticking straight out to the sides.
In vehicle mode, all of the figures have opening doors and hoods. Dead End and Meister have fairly restricted hoods. Meister and Grimlock add opening trunks and Meister has the two additional opening rear doors. They all have free rolling wheels of course as well as working front steering for everyone but Swindle.
Accessories - Grimlock 8/10, Windcharger 7/10, Swindle 4/10, others 5/10Swindle follows in Hound's footsteps once again with his same weapon. The pistol isn't a bad weapon, but it is a bit undersized compared to the other Alternators and being monochrome doesn't help it either. Tracks and Dead End both have what has become the standard Alternator weapon, a gun formed from the removable engine block. Meister is a bit more original. His weapon is formed by removing his muffler which then folds out into a small rifle. Grimlock is the first Alternator to come with two weapons. His has the obligatory engine block gun of course, but Takara/Hasbro also included a translucent energy sword which can clip to the bottom of the car in vehicle mode. The sword is perhaps a bit undersized compared to the figure, but given the limitations of storing it and the fact that it is a second weapon makes it an acceptable sacrifice. Windcharger goes one better with three accessories. But that is a bit deceptive. He comes with another engine block gun, though it doesn't look much like a gun. He also comes with parts to have the top either up or down. Plus the raised top can be used as a shield.
Special NotesIf you have any of the previous Alternators, you'll be pretty comfortable with transforming these, especially Swindle, Dead End and Meister who are either reuses of existing figures or in Meister's case, just follows the same basic design and process as Smokescreen. Windcharger's design is also quite similar to Dead End's. The legs are formed roughly the same way while the arms fold into place quite naturally. Tracks takes a little more effort due to the shoulder missiles and small hood that folds down over the chest but it is still fairly easy. Grimlock is the most challenging one of the bunch. The arms in particular take quite a few minor adjustments to get them to line up correctly and the doors have a tendency to get in the way and pop off in the process.
Value - Swindle 7/10, Windcharger 9/10, others 8/10Retail for Alternators is between $19.99 and $24.99 with the bigger retailers like Walmart, Toys R Us and Target selling them for $20. While pricier than most action figures, Alternators definitely offer a lot of bang for buck. Non-completists may want to skip over Swindle though as he doesn't have a whole lot more to offer those who already have Hound.
Happy Hunting:Most stores have been carring the Alternator line, including Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Kmart. Dead End was shipping in fairly reasonable numbers through the holidays, but Tracks and Meister have been less common. Grimlock, Swindle, Windcharger are shipping now along with Meister. Online options are a bit sparse. Walmart.com has been periodically stocking the Alternator line throughout the holidays. Both Big Bad Toy Store and Entertainment Earth carry the line, though their prices will be a bit higher. But their service has always been excellent for me.