Well, after a long delay (I hate it when life intrudes on my toy obsession) I'm finally back
with a new review, this time of the third and fourth releases in the Transformers Alternator
line: Silverstreak and Hound. Silverstreak is essentially a repaint of Smokescreen, the first
release in the line, with a few changes. Hound however is a completely new sculpt and a radical
departure from the releases thus far and from what we've seen coming up for the line.
Packaging - 10/10Since these are only the third and fourth releases in the line so far, it is not surprising that there haven't been any real packaging changes. The two panel window box is very similar to the style used for collectible cars. The Alternators logo is displayed under the window along with the character name and vehicle model information and an illustration of the figure in robot mode. Even the auto manufacturer's logo is included on the front: Subaru for Silverstreak and Jeep's logo for Hound. The inclusion of the logo as well as the make and model information do a amicable job of demonstrating the primary difference between the Alternators line and the rest of the Transformer products, realistic vehicle modes. Incredibly realistic in fact. One odd thing is the numbers on lower left hand corner of the front of the box. Previously I had assumed this was the release number. But for some reason Hound has the same number as Silverstreak. The ends and back of the box show both modes while the bottom has the legal stuff. The text for the box is tri-lingual. Since the Alternators line doesn't have a back story it isn't as congested as most trilingual packages. The interior of the packaging has vague images of each vehicle mode to appear as if it were reflecting the toy's image. There is also a partial image of the robot modes on the back panel as well. And once again, the vehicle is held in place with a simple plastic bubble and some tape; no twist ties.
Sculpting - Silverstreak 8/10, Hound 10/10As I mentioned in the introduction, Silverstreak is predominately the same sculpt as Smokescreen. But there are quite a few minor changes. The front grill is changed and a front license plate holder has been added. Silverstreak gets a new set of rims. The lower profile side mirrors have been replaced and the silver box on the roof is gone. The single biggest change is the replacement of the racing spoiler with a more typical automotive spoiler. The interior has not been changed, which is fine for the front seats and dash. But the lack of any interior detail for the back seat hurts the score quite a bit just as it did for Smokescreen. The only change to the robot mode is a new head sculpt. Sadly the new head sculpt is VERY similar to that of Smokescreen. Unfortunately there were no improvements made to the feet, which as I described them in the review of Smokescreen, are more or less just the rear end of a car twisted into the general shape of feet.
Hound is a great example of just how much potential this line has. The vehicle mode is nearly flawless. The details in the front end and hood are extremely well executed. And as a bonus, the hood can actually be opened fully. Now, all of the figures have had hoods that opened. But Hound is the first one for which the hood opens fully while in vehicle mode. Unfortunately Hound's engine consists of the two forearms sitting next to each other. I have heard of cracking an engine block, but splitting it in half is going a bit overboard. The interior is completely sculpted and nicely detailed though a bit out of scale. The robot mode rectifies the shortcomings of Smokescreen and Silverstreak's feet though they are still a bit clunky and has a lot of vehicle kibble on them.
Paint - Hound 9/10 Silverstreak 8/10The paint work on Hound is simple but perfectly done. The majority of the figure is either a metallic flake green or flat black. But there are quite a few areas with "Jeep" or "Wrangler" painted on in white. And they are all perfect. the Autobot symbols on both the hood and bumper are both painted so there shouldn't be any sticker wear. There are also four yellow stripes on each arm in robot mode. Though a small touch, it really brings out the military feel. The interior is a disappointment though. The entire dash panel was left unpainted. On Smokescreen or Silverstreak this is ok since the interior isn't very visible even in vehicle mode. But the open nature of a jeep makes the oversight very noticeable.
Silverstreak has another very simple paint scheme. As the name implies, he's silver. There are a few black details such as the grill, window trim and of course the wheels. And then of course, there are the detail paint applications that were included. The Subaru logo on the front grill and the trunk are nicely done. They appear to be transfers rather than being painted on. But given the minute size, that is understandable. There are also defroster lines painted on the back window as well. They even painted the center section of the dash silver. The robot mode is just a hair off unfortunately. Silverstreak follows the same layout as Smokescreen, but with a silver and red scheme instead of Smokescreen's blue and gray. The end effect does not work nearly as well since the red does not contrast as much with the silver as the blue and gray scheme. The hips are the best example. The top of the legs by the hips is painted silver in the front while the rest of the legs are red. But the border between the two areas is not very clearly defined. The paint scheme for the head doesn't show off the sculpt as well as it could either. Since both the helmet and face are the same tone of silver the details don't show up as well as they could.
Articulation - Silverstreak 9/10, Hound 7/10Both of these figures feature a great deal of articulation, too much to get an accurate count. Silverstreak has roughly 35 points of articulation. But it really isn't the count that hurts Hound or helps Silverstreak, it's the usefulness. For Silverstreak, you have just about every joint that you would likely need to pose the figure except for in the torso. The legs have plenty of articulation, seven joints in each leg, but about half of that is used to adjust the feet to sit flat on the ground. Plus the sheer size of the feet renders the idea of posing the legs a rather mute point. The waist rotates and the head is on a ball joint. The arms work very well. The shoulders are triple jointed. The elbows are double jointed. The wrists are a ball joint and the fingers are on two separate joints.
Hound clocks in at approximately 28 points of articulation in robot mode. Hound also has a few extra features in vehicle mode. Most notable is the addition of independent suspension for each tire. There is a good quarter inch of travel on each wheel. This feature does come at a cost, there is no steering as there was with previous Alternators figures. For the most part, Hounds articulation follows the same pattern as Silverstreak. Actually the only place they really differ is in the arms where Hound is a bit of a disappointment. The shoulders are actually ball joints, but the sculpt restricts the movement to the equivalent of a simple rotating joint. The elbows are just single joints and the wrists are a hinge and rotating joint combination. The articulation in the arms are probably the weakest point of the entire figure.
Accessories - 4/10As with the previous two Alternator figures, both Hound and Silverstreak have just one accessory, a gun. Not surprisingly, Silverstreak comes with the same gun that was included with Smokescreen. It is designed to have the barrel fold up so that it can be stored under the hood as part of the engine. The problem is that they changed the color of the gun to red and black instead of the gray and black of Smokescreen's gun. As a gun, the new color scheme makes it look like a toy gun. And the red color looks equally out of place as an engine component. Then to make a bad situation worse, since a red Autobot logo doesn't show up well on a red part, they attempted to paint the cracks of the symbol with a white paint wash that just came out sloppy. On the plus side, the peg that holds the gun in place on the engine also holds it securely in Silverstreak's hand. Hound's weapon is no more impressive: a small, unpainted, gray pistol. The barrel folds to allow the pistol to be stored in a small compartment within the spare tire. Hound's pistol has a small notch in it to help the figure hold the gun, but it still can't be held very securely.
Special NotesThe big thing with any Transformer figure is the transformation. The days of eighties style designs where you could stand a car on it's back bumper and just have a robot painted on the underside are gone. The Alternators line in particular has some fairly complex transformations in order to maintain the on model vehicle modes. Fortunately, those who have Smokescreen will obviously know how to transform Silverstreak and Hound follows the same basic pattern. The arms are removed from under the hood. For Hound they come out from the top, for Silverstreak they come out from the bottom. The head is stuck through the hood and the doors opened to form a set of wings of sorts. The roof or roll bars in Hound's case, are detached from the back section. The rear of the vehicle is then rotated 180 degrees and separated to form the feet. Fortunately, where Silverstreak and Smokescreen required a fair amount of fiddling to get all of the parts of rear end to line up, Hound's design all but eliminates the problem. Everything lines up and fits quite easily.
Value - 8/10The suggested retail price for the Alternators line seems to be $24.99 but most discount changes like Walmart and Target sell them for about $20. That isn't a cheap figure, but the higher level of detail and complexity will justify the price for most Transformer fans, especially those who remember or still have their G1 Transformers. But for those who already have Smokescreen, Silverstreak may lack enough differences to justify a second purchase. Hound is a nice figure, but the articulation in the arms keeps it from scoring as well as it should have. It should also be noted that a tan repaint named Swindle is already planned, so some people may wish for that release if they prefer a less military look.
Happy Hunting:The Alternators line is available at most toy retailers including Target, Walmart and Toys R Us. Silverstreak has been shipping for several months and Hound has been hitting shelves for at least a month so by this point they should be getting a little easier to find. They are also available online from Big Bad Toy Store.