Cliffbee.com: Armada Optimus Prime Toy Review

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Individual Review




Name: Optimus Prime
Series: Armada
Allegiance: Autobot
Alternate Mode: Semi Trailer



TRUCK MODE
Height: 9.5cm Length: 35cm Width: 14cm

   A semi trailer with a red cab, blue hitch and grey trailer with blue stripes down the side, this toy is a clear and deliberate attempt to copy the G1 toy of the same name. Which isn't a bad thing in itself, mind you - just that we've had a lot of G1 Prime rehashes through the years. Armada Prime is a completely new character and I appreciate that, even if the toy is a reworking of an old concept. There are six black plastic tyres on the cab and moulded treads at the black of the trailer while the headlights, grille and bumper are a mix of silver and grey (two very close shades). The windows and smokestacks are colourless plastic - which works much better on the windows, for obvious reasons. There's a fairly simple paint mask which compliments the mould - details such as strobes on the roof are painted. There's a gold block on the roof which sports a stamped Autobot symbol, and Prime also sports two large raised Autobot symbols on either side of the trailer.

   The cab is a pretty good effort, and while I doubt it's based on an actual truck mode, the detailing is pretty good and he looks real enough, save for two blocks on either side of the back (the robot forearms). While it's not quite the standard of the G1 Prime (lacking die cast metal and rubber tyres doesn't help the comparison), this is a better truck than many other Optimus Prime toys down the years.

   The trailer isn't anywhere near as good as the cab - it's not much more than a box designed to open up to form a base. Which is fine except the trailer itself clearly comes second, with some bits hanging out the front and two saddlebag-like boxes on either side. There's no reason why the trailer couldn't have had wheels in place of treads, mind you - they appear to be a stylistic decision only. There's no door at the back, since the rear of the trailer is the fulcrum around which everything else moves around during transformation.

   The cab rolls quite well well on its own, about as well a you could ask of a vehicle with plastic tyres and no axles. The trailer has four small wheels underneath and can roll, although it's quite heavy (especially for such small wheels), so doesn't roll as easily as the cabin. The hitch, which is just off being a Minicon port, attaches fairly firmly and can swing through about 60. Speaking of Minicon ports, There are four accessible here - on small grey tabs which stick out on the sides of the trailer and on the roof of the trailer itself (which is a bit of a mess - the ports are inside sunken panels). One on the ports on the roof is live but doesn't activate anything in truck mode.

   OK, so the trailer is really just scraping by - it's somewhere to hide the base mode but doesn't work so well as a trailer. The cab is pretty good mind you and the colours really evoke the G1 toy which is kinda cool (and this truck does a better job of a few toys that represent the G1 Prime character). The trailer dampens my enthusiasm somewhat, and the truck mode doesn't really _do_ a lot, but this is really just a storage mode.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Unclip the grille and fold it underneath to form his chest, Split the sides of the nose to form shoulders, which will detach the blue blocks, forming arms. Slide the blocks to reveal the fists. You can detach the smokestacks and join them together to form a handgun or leave them as wrist-guns. Extend the hitch, split to form legs and flip down the feet.

   The transformation is simple - especially the legs - since this figure needs to incorporate a second set of shoulders. The compensation for this - if you have batteries installed in the trailer it transforms to base on on its own thanks to an IR signal (triggered as you split the shoulders). Batteries included for Prime but not his trailer.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 17.5cm Width: 13cm

   The colours are again similar to G1, with red upper arms and shoulders, blue head, forearms and boots while his torso is grey. There's some gold paint on his forearms, chest, eyes and the crest on his head. The face is classic Optimus Prime, with a silver mouthplate. OK, it's not a perfect match to G1 but the colours are instantly recognisable. The thighs are actually painted silver, which is kinda strange (it would have been cheaper to just do 'em in grey), but I'm not complaining. Overall it's a decent colour scheme and one that works for the G1 imitation they went for on this Optimus Prime.

   The shoulders attach just above the neck - Prime has shoulderjoints that sit up to either side, which is quite distinct but not necessarily bad - it gives this toy some personality of its own. The arms and legs are both quite bulky anyway, so the beefy shoulders fit into a rugged look. The torso plate, which is mostly the grille, reminds us of G1 without simply trying to rip it off, even if the legs aren't much of a departure from that formula.

   There's not as much play value here as we'd expect. The shoulders swing, the head turns, the elbows are hinged while both the knees and hips are hinged. There are rotators above the knees but you can only access them with the legs up, since the thighs are surrounded by blue panels normally. The lack of articulation is related to the simple transformation - this toy is restricted by the fact it needs to turn into the upper half of a larger toy. The gun options are kinda cool, but the smokestacks fall off very easily and being clear, they're not always easy to find. The legs don't really separate properly unless you split the groin (which will result in an Autobot Leader who looks like he's in labour). There's a little button on top of his head, which is designed as part of the transformation into giant robot, but when you press it here the mouthplate moves, simulating talking - one of the few aspects of the engineering specifically aimed at making this mode better. There's a grand total of zero Minicon ports here. Craptacular.

   A letdown of a robot mode. Sure, it looks okay, but he's nothing special when you consider how many Optimus Prime themed Transformers we've seen down the years. The poseability is rubbish for a showpiece toy, really - yes I know there's a lot more to the set, but the hips should have (and could have) been done better. A Minicon port or two would have gone a long way - even if they don't activate anything.



TRANSFORMATION TO BASE MODE

   Assuming you're not using the IR thing. Flip the top, sides and bottom of the trailer out 90, lay it on what was the back of he trailer. A dual-level battle platform lifts out into place, more or less completing the transformation. From here all you have to do is lift up a control screen in the centre. I should mention that most of the hinges are tight, ratcheting things, since they're linked to a mechanism.

BASE MODE
Height: 18cm Depth: 41cm Width: 43cm

   A giant grey cross with some blue here and there with a two-level platform. One arm of the cross is split into two (the giant robot legs) and there are various tech sculpts on the side arms (which aren't really prevalent in trailer or robot modes). This cross is more or less X-shaped, other than the split on one arm.

   This base is just the right size to work as a Minicon base - and there are many places you can put your Minicons. There's a little red seat that pops out from the top platform at the push of a button, garages with opening doors underneath the side arms (these are those saddlebags in trailer mode), the central console and two gun positions. One gun simply lifts up from one of the legs, and is a working missile launcher. The second one, which is on a sidearm, is released by a live port. There's a matching (dead) port on the other arm, and while two might seem a little underdone for a large base like this, Prime's base has lots for Minicons to do - why would they wanna just sit plugged in? There's a button in the middle of the central section which causes a red LED underneath the clear console to light up and a crashing sound to play. This isn't especially impressive but since the batteries are already there, I don't mind too much.

   This is the highlight of the set for me, and the main reason I got Optimus Prime. There's seven meaningful places to position Minicons and lots of room for more on flat surfaces. It's not Metroplex, rather a flattened out trailer - but as they go I really like this base mode - I'm glad the designer scaled everything here for Minicons.



TRANSFORMATION TO LARGE ROBOT MODE

   In theory the base will fold into the legs when you transform the small robot, but if that fails (or you haven't got AA batteries), you simply keep folding the arms down and clip them together. The groin splits out to the side to form arms (this activates the base transform), while the front of the truck basically re-forms so that the top becomes the larger robot's chest. The arms rotate and swing down while the feet fold up to reveal the fists. When you plug the chest into the waist, an internal mechanism (remember that button on top of the small robot head?) should cause the head to pop out. If it fails (which has a tendency to happen), you can reach around and release it yourself. Lastly, fold out the antennae and give Optimus Prime his gun.

LARGE ROBOT MODE
Height: 29cm Width: 20cm

   The same colours we've seen so far continue here. Prime's boots, arms, groin and head are blue while his chest is red. The thighs are grey while his fists and knees are gold, along with the antennae (which, unlike the other gold aspects, are gold plastic rather than paint). His mouthplate is gold and his eyes red - this face is completely new and looks nothing like the quintessential Optimus Prime face. There's a smallish gold panel on his chest which sports an Autobot symbol.

   This thing is a giant brick, really. We're talking Powermaster Prime, not the dynamic and poseable Magnaboss. There's a huge gap behind the head and shoulders, big enough for a deluxe to slot in and get a shoulder ride. The legs are a giant A-Frame, and don't move at all. The arms do move, the shoulders rotate while the elbows bend and swing out to the sides. His head can rotate 360 but it looks a little odd when you do, since there's so much gap around it. I wonder if this mode would have come off better without electronics and the automated transformation.

   There are two electronic gimmicks specific to this mode, although on mine only two work. There's a button on his right shoulder which lights an LED in his fist - if you attach either the large gun or small smokestack-gun, they'll light up. The other gimmick is activated by pressing that gold panel on his chest, which causes a firing sound. The (now internal) button that triggers this effect is actually exposed on base mode - and it'll work in that mode, so I suspect mine just doesn't line up perfectly.

   There are two dead Minicon ports - one on each shoulder, and while more would have been nice, it's a great spot to stick two car Minicons (and Sparkplug, the one supplied, fits well). There aren't any Minicon activated gimmicks, although you can attach Minicons to the ports now on his hips - and the left hip will cause a gun to pop up (these ports are for the base mode). Maybe just the right side port here.

  




Name: Sparkplug
Allegiance: Minicon
Alternate Mode: Lamborghini Diablo

CAR MODE
Height: 1.5cm Length: 5.5cm Width: 2.5cm

   A small yellow Diablo that really reminds of Bumblebee - who is the same shade of yellow. Sparkplug has black plastic tyres and matte purple windows. Whilst much of his detailing is lost in the yellow, Sparkplug has headlights, an engine cover on the back, doors and air intakes on the sides. There's a Minicon logo moulded on his roof, rounding out a simple yet attractive car mode.

   Sparkplug doesn't much other than roll here - the port underneath makes his a great arm-mounted (shoulder in Prime's case) Minicon.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Fold down the fenders to form feet, lift up the top of the car, detach the sides and swing down to form arms. Fold the cabin down to form the chest, flipping the centre of his hood up to form the head. It's a clever transform that works really well

ROBOT MODE
Height: 5.5cm Width: 4.5cm

   A yellow robot with a silver face, grey thighs and shoulder struts and some purple windows on his torso. Sparkplug looks nifty and while the layout kinda reminds me of a Tonka Gobot robot mode (Stinger, to be specific), there's an elegance to the layout. That layout is actually close to G1 Wheeljack's, although the the transform is more like Stinger's.

   Sparkplug's shoulders lift out to the sides while the struts anchor to the arms via ball joints, so he gets great arm poseability. The ankles are on hinges, but they don't do a lot - the heelspurs make him stable which is nice.


VARIATIONS

   There's the obligatory Powerlinx repaint, which swaps red for cobalt blue, royal blue for mid blue and gold for red. The Powerlinx version has a vastly different paint mask and looks pretty good - the blue cab robot I especially like. Perhaps the most notable change made for the Powerlinx version was to Sparkplug, who was remoulded and doused in chrome gold paint as Corona Sparkplug (who I've included in some of the pics accompanying this review).

   There's a broadly similar K-Mart USA exclusive version which isn't much more a swapping out of red with gold, and a rather garish navy, red and yellow Costco Exclusive repaint.

COMBINATION

   Prime's cab can clip into Armada Jetfire, who forms an alternate set of legs - this combination is often referred to in the fandom as Jetpants Prime. Overload can clip into the gap behind his shoulders as a weapons pack. Similarly, you can use Powerlinx Prime, Armada Jetfire and Energon Magnus for a similar effect.

   In vehicle modes, Prime can drag Overload along as a second trailer, with Overload acting as a transport deck for Jetfire.

OVERALL

   A fun playset without being an especially good Transformer. The cab of the truck is quite nice but the trailer's a letdown and neither robot mode is really what you'd expect of a flagship toy. Sparkplug is a really good little Minicon and the base mode is great if you have a few Minicons to man it. If you have Jetfire and Overload (or variants) you get some pretty decent added value, but whether or not you ant to spend the money to grab all three depends on how much you like the trio rather than the combination. Optimus Prime's play value as a set is pretty good, but if you're after him simply as a Transformer, I'd recommend the Deluxe version of the character instead. I actually prefer the colours of the Powerlinx version, since it feels more like a distinct character (rather than a G1 wannabee), but both commons version look nice - 6/10, 7 if you have Jetfire (and Overload)

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