Cliffbee.com: Binaltech Prowl Toy Review

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Name: Prowl
Series: Binaltech
Allegiance: Autobot
Function: Military Strategist
Alternate Mode: Honda Integra Police Car



INTEGRA MODE
Height: 6.5cm Length: 18cm Width: 8cm

   A very detailed white Integra with black trim around the bottom, red stroberack on the roof and the words "Highway Patrol" in Japanese on the doors. I won't call it a realistic car simply because the Integra is not a vehicle used by the Japanese highway patrol - but assuming they were to use it, Prowl would be very accurate. There is also a blue, non-police version, for aimed at those buy the toy from a motor enthusiasts viewpoint (which I acquired later). As we've come to expect from Binaltech, the windows are transparent plastic, along with the head and taillights - the later done in red and the former including orange indicators. The hubcaps are silver but not chromed while the tyres are of course rubberised. The tailpipe and muffler assembly is chromed, while there's a gold chrome Highway Patrol badge on the grille, along with a "Type R" badge. There's a red Honda badge above the rear license plate, which sports an Autobot logo and the word "PROWL". The majority of the shell is die cast, with the roof, rear bumper and windows the main exceptions.

   There's an elegant simplicity here - Prowl doesn't have a flashy paint job, but it's simple and appropriate for both the highway patrol theme and the character - the black and white pattern corresponds closely to the colour layout on G1 Prowl, even if the car model doesn't.

   The right hand drive cockpit inside has the excellent detail typical of the BT line. It's mostly grey with a soft black plastic steering wheel (that's noticeably softer than on previous BTs), the speedo and other dials are done in silver against a black background. The stickshift and airvents on the dash are also done in silver. Unusually for Binaltech, the insides of the doors are not realistically sculpted. There's a dividing wall behind the seats, on the other side is robot kibble - specifically the feet - which are visible through the rear windows.

   All the standard Binaltech movements are here - the steering wheel turns, the doors open and the boot lifts up (so you can touch the kibble). The bonnet lifts to reveal Prowl's engineblock, and the front wheels move using a magnetic rack and pinion system (which is configured differently to previous BT toys). The wheels spin and have the now standard brakediscs with moulded callipers inside. Of course, while these aspects are all "standard", the fact is they're well and truly above what most Transformers cars offer.

   There's not really anything new in Prowl's vehicle mode compared to previous Binaltechs, although in Prowl's defence he represents the eighth design in the series so a lot of the new ground has been covered already. Everything works well with one exception - the very visible feet in the back window (more obvious than the window kibble of Smokescreen/Bluestreak). While it's easy to become blasť about the line, Prowl is otherwise a very well done Integra. I wont hold the Highway Patrol Integra thing against him, since Takara have given us the option of picking up the G1 themed police or street themed blue versions.

   Later update: I've head stories that the rear vision mirrors snap off very easily, suggesting that the glue that holds them in place is inadequate (at least on some batches). Since you have to grip these to open his doors, this is a significant flaw. Luckily I've had no such problems, but it still troubles me.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Using many of the previous tricks of Binaltech, Prowl's transform isn't really like G1 Prowl's at all - in fact there's a much stronger resemblance to Red Alert. The doors form wings rather than shoulderpads, a concept we first saw on Grimlock. There's an added twist in transforming the arms that caught me out initially - you rotate the arms out _before_ touching the shoulders, which once you get the hang of it makes his arms far less likely to pop out in transformation than those of other BTs. It's nice to see the designers are still thinking about the engineering, even if the finer details of the car modes seem to have reached a plateau. The fact that Prowl has no horribly awkward aspects here (in fact he's far less fidgety than most BTs) is probably the single best "new" aspect of the toy.

   The engineblock of course comes to form his gun, and there's a red baton underneath the rear bumper that also detaches as a weapon.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 16.5cm Width: 6cm
exact height depends on pose, width is his wingspan

   A white, grey and black robot with a colour scheme that's clearly designed to copy that of the original. The chest is the white car bonnet, the head is white with a silver face, silver eyes and red crest. The upper arms and fists are white while the forearms are black, along with the waist. The boots are silver and black with black feet, and this is the main departure from G1 - the white that was on the back of the Nissan is gone. The front wheels sit on top of his shoulders in like those on G1 while the rear wheels are on the outsides of his boots.

   While the colour layout is clearly designed to evoke Prowl, the layout of car parts does not. The bonnet lies flat on his chest rather, not the front facade. The boots I've already covered and the back of the car sits on the back of his boots. They really missed the boat here actually - this design just _screams_ Red Alert. Yes, it works as Prowl in these colours but it would have worked so much better as Red Alert (we're obviously not going to see another BT Sideswipe). The only significant departure from the original layout of Red Alert is the placement of the car's doors - the stroberack even sits on Prowl's back (mind you, this is also the case on G1 Prowl). Oddly there _will_ be a Red Alert in the Binaltech Asterisk line, but it's going to be a retool of Smokescreen/Bluestreak. While the Prowl theme works here, the potential this design had for Red Alert has ruined any desire I had for the BTA Subaru.

   There are small stamped Autobot logos on either shoulder, Prowl has no Diaclone logos anywhere. The gun works quite nicely although it's a little flat. The red baton is made from the same transparent plastic of the stroberack - it's a laser baton apparently. The boots are the underside of the car, as I've already mentioned. This represents a different approach to previous BTs, which have tended to retain visible car parts where they featured on the original Diaclone car. I don't mind this - it does keep things interesting, although the shins might be considered somewhat uninteresting.

   Prowl is quite poseable - almost by definition really for this line. The head is ball jointed and the waist rotates. The shoulders are ball jointed, the elbows have both ball joints and hinges, the wrists are ball jointed and his index fingers are jointed with the other three fingers jointed as one. His hips swing and lift out to the sides while the knees both bend and rotate. The feet are on ball joints with heelspurs that fold out, can can be partly folded in if your posing requires. The effective arm poseability is fantastic with those three ball joints, but the leg poseability is quite hampered by the giant car shells on the back of the boots, they especially get in the way of his knee hinges. The feet are a little hampered, but you won't really find this a problem because the knees will run out of room before the feet do.

   Other than the restricted knees I have no real complaints about the design of this mode. The colours fit fairly well (and this also seems the case for the blue version, although it's not quite as unified, since the white chest is not blue but the arms are still white). The limited knee movement _is_ an issue but there's still enough movement for some nifty poses. My main complaint about this mode is that would have served Red Alert a _lot_ better, all it needs is a colour tweak and different head sculpt.

   Later update: I've read of a fan modification which involves swapping the boots, which gives Prowl car-back shins. It makes this robot mode far more credible as Prowl, and gives him functional knee joints. The calves panels (the former shin panels) wont quite sit flush in car mode, but leave ground clearance. I'd recommend trying this modification yourself if you get Prowl - it only requires undoing one screw per leg.

VARIATIONS

   As mentioned, there are both black and white highway patrol and blue street versions of this toy, as well as a plastic Alternators version. The Alternator version features quasi-Diaclone badges on the shoulders and bonnet, along with a prominent Autobot sign on the bonnet (which I'm not so keen on). The wording on the doors is in English, obviously. The groin, feet and shinpanels on the Alternator are in baby blue.

OVERALL

   Two detailed modes and a well-executed if slightly misplaced Highway Patrol theme make Prowl another worthwhile Binaltech toy. His two main flaws are the visible feet in car mode and restricted knees in robot mode. The laser baton is a nice addition and the transformation is unusually fluid for a BT (without being simplified). Definitely another worthwhile design in the BT stable, but I really feel they missed the boat on making this toy into Red Alert. I suppose one could consider the white version Clampdown and the blue version Deep Cover, but the head really is Prowl's (which means the design still works well as Prowl). The weak mirrors and weak homage make this one of the weakest Binaltechs, while the boot swapping trick fixes his knee problems and make this a good fit for the character. He still loses some marks for the visible feet and weak mirrors, though - 8.5/10

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