Hasbro couldn't have a line of Transformers where combining together (powerlinx) was a central theme without producing some old school
combiner teams. And they have delivered three such teams since Christmas, all themed around one of the original Generation One combiner
teams: the Aerialbots, Constructicons and Combaticons. Since each team consists of five bots, one deluxe and four basic Transformers. That's
a lot of new Transformer goodness. And it is sure to pique the interest of old school fans.
Hasbro did something quite interesting with these teams, each uses only two different molds for the four basic figures. So the completed teams consist of one deluxe figure, two basic figures and two repaints of those figures. I'm sure this is going to turn off a lot of customers who won't want to buy what is essentially two of the same figure to complete the team, and then have to do this twice! The worst thing is the fact that, as with the G1 combiner teams, all of the molds for the basic figures use the same connectors. So there is really no reason why Hasbro couldn't have mixed them up a little. They certainly could have used one of the helicopters from the military team with the aerialbot team and one of the planes as a replacement.
Packaging - 7/10Each of the five figures that make up the teams comes on their own card. The four smaller Transformers come on a slight variation of the basic cards while Barricade is packaged as a deluxe figure. There is only one major difference between the two styles, the basic figures are packaged on a traditional card layout while the deluxes' cards are turned on their side in a landscape style layout with the bubble off to the right side. Both styles of cards have the Transformers Energon logo along with an illustration of the character's robot mode on the front. The toys themselves are packaged in their vehicle modes with any weapons and accessories displayed around them. The combiner teams do differ from the standard figures with the addition of a symbol showing which team they belong to; with the figures to form Bruticus Maximus are labeled D1 through D5. The usual image of the figure's robot mode is missing from the side of the basic figure's package, replaced with an illustration of their combined form. The backs of the cards are dedicated primarily to the team aspect of the figures. There is a smaller photo of the toy in both modes, but most of the card is occupied by a large photo of the combined team with the portion formed by the individual toy highlighted while the others are semitransparent. (My guess is that Hasbro didn't want it to be immediately obvious that the limbs reused the same molds. While a tad bit deceptive for my tastes, it was probably a good idea on their part.)
Sculpting - Blight/Kickback 3/10, Stormcloud/Blackout 6/10, Barricade 7/10Blight and Kickback are a bit of a disappointment for me. I was really hoping for a more traditional tank design for their vehicle mode. While the body is alright, the turret is easily recognizable as the arms stuck together. And the cannons don't seem very prominent since they are mounted so far back on the turret. But it is the robot mode that is the biggest turn off. The treads just hang off the back like a poor excuse for a cape or wings. The legs seem spindly compared to the size of the feet and body. The head is fairly small as well, particularly since it is flanked by smaller guns.
Stormcloud and Blackout have a really nice vehicle mode, but their robot mode lacks imagination. Their chopper mode is sleek and well designed. But their robot mode looks too much like a folded up helicopter. The body becomes far too bulky with the combined thickness of the cockpit and the helicopter body. It makes the head look tiny in comparison.
Barricade is the most unique yet realistic vehicle form I've seen on a Transformer since Snowcat. The use of darkly tinted windows for the cab was a great touch. The only thing I don't care for is the fact that Barricade's head is still visible behind the cab section despite being covered. His robot mode is nice except that the cab section hangs off of his back.
Paint - Barricade & Kickback 7/10, Stormcloud 5/10, others 4/10As usual, the paint work on Transformers is well executed. Barricade in particular turned out well. An efficient use of the paint that was used does a great job of bringing out the details of the sculpt. Kickback doesn't have as much paint work as Barricade, but the tone of green used for the plastic has a extremely military feel and is complemented nicely by the silvers and grays. But the icing on the cake is the addition of lettering on the sides of the treads. While not much different, the somewhat sickly shade of green and lack of lettering on Blight makes a huge, and sadly negative, difference. Stormcloud and Blackout have very simple paint schemes, Blackout in particular. But the gray and purple combination on Blackout works well. The same isn't as true for the bright orange on Stormcloud.
Articulation - 7/10Stormcloud, Blackout, Blight and Kickback all have twelve points of articulation: ankles, knees, hips, waist, neck, shoulders, and elbows. But the fact that half of those are ball joints means that they have a great range of motion. Blight and Kickback also have joints for the tread/wings and guns on each arm. Barricade has twenty points of articulation: ankles, knees, thighs, double jointed hips, waist, double jointed shoulders, biceps, elbows and neck. He has a good range of motion. But the size of the cab hanging off his back means that he isn't very stable in most poses. Folding the small panels on the back of the legs out will help that greatly.
Accessories - Barricade 0/10, Stormcloud/Blackout 5/10, Blight/Kickback 3/10Once again, the leader of the powerlinx combiner team is left unarmed. The basic figures fair better. As usual, they each have an energon chip that can be clipped onto their spark crystals. Blight and Kickback also have a large double barreled cannon. It is too wide to work well for their robot mode. It is superfluous in vehicle mode. It make a poor imitation of a hand. It really is only good as the sole of one of Bruticus' feet. The weapon included with Stormcloud and Blackout is better. It works with their vehicle mode even if it doesn't blend in with the lines of the helicopters well. It is too large to look good in robot mode. While narrow, it provides a reasonable base for use as one of Bruticus Maximus' feet. It also works reasonably well as a hand, though it can't hold anything. (Of course, Bruticus doesn't have any weapons to hold any ways.)
Special Notes - transformationThe transformations for the basic figures are simple, Blackout and Stormcloud's in particular. Even Barricade isn't terribly complex beyond learning how to position the cab. The basic figures are quite stable in both modes, though a way to lock Stormcloud and Blackout's blades in place in robot mode would have been nice. But the cab on Barricade tends to flop loose if bumped.
Bruticus Maximus is the second best of the three powerlinx combiner teams after Constructicon Maximus. He is quite stable, unlike Superion Maximus. But he still suffers from several problems. The biggest one is that once again the figures which form the limbs are too wide as the legs. As a result, the legs must either be positioned slightly apart or one slightly behind the other. (And even then they still have to be spread slightly.) Bruticus also lacks a decent set of hands. The weapons for Stormcloud and Blackout come close, but look more like hand shaped guns. The weapons for Blight and Kickback are a truly sorry excuse for a hand. Finally, once more Hasbro neglected to include a weapon for the combined form. This is less of a problem for Bruticus than for Superion and Constructicon though. There are already quite a few guns on Blight and Kickback and Stormcloud's hand.
Value - Stormcloud/Blackout 7/10, others 6/10The basic figures sell for around $7 while Barricade will run you $10 to $11. While a nice figure, Barricade really needs a weapon for that price. The basic figures are a decent value individually, but the added option of forming Bruticus Maximus is enough to give them a bump of at least one point in value.
Happy Hunting:All five figures are shipping now. Unfortunately a glut of the earlier combiners has made these five a bit harder to track down since many pegs are still clogged with the first wave of combiner figures. I have found them at both Target and Toys R Us. Wal-mart may be a long shot. All of the Wal-mart stores I have seen were flooded with the first six figures (Storm Jet, Steamhammer, Duststorm, Sledge, Treadshot and Sky Shadow) after they received a pallet of just those figures during the holiday season.