Friday, 24 March 2017

Toy Review: Grind Rod / Masterpiece Rollbar (KO version)

I've long had a genuine unironic love of the Throttlebots; they were the only team I was able to complete as a child, the toys were good simple fun (and could zip for miles when new) and their profiles had great potential even if they tended to be "Goldbug's mates" in the various media. So the prospect of third party toys for them was salivating but at £60-80 a throw out of my reach as I try not to spend such amounts since becoming a parent. Step in the backbone of my toy collection, Chinese bootleggers (in this case Weijiang) and the inestimable Denyer, who sent me the oversized knock-off version of Grind Rod (i.e. Rollbar, the team's sort-of leader depending on what Goldbug was up to).

The original figure was designed by Toyworld, who took rough cues from the original figures overall but gave them new alternate modes and revised layouts while also adding a combining gimmick. Of the six designs Rollbar is by far the most traditional looking in both modes. His vehicle form is all but the same as the 1987 original, just with a little 21st century styling - though your basic 4x4 hasn't exactly evolved considerably over the past 30 years. It's an incredibly compact, solid design, albeit at the cost of anything like opening doors or clear windows as everything's packed tightly inside. The green is perhaps a shade too bright and metallic (I'd personally had gone for a flatter green more in line with the original) but it's nice looking and instantly recognisable.

The transformation is well-worked, broadly following the same pattern as the original but naturally much more complex. At the same time it's not complex and most of the little bells and whistles serve a purpose; there are some smart little touches like the radiator grill forming the front of the feet and while Toyworld have been influenced by the original they're plainly not bound by it, with the window panels on the shins being an especially welcome touch.

The knockoff version is somewhere between a standard Masterpiece car and Masterpiece Ironhide in height and thus perhaps a bit too big; the original was I believe scaled to be a little shorter than the likes of Sideswipe to befit the Throttlebots' smaller stature. However, it's not so big as to be a problem. There's a strong resemblance to the character's animation model especially in the head cast (even if the knockoff has a silver face rather than yellow) but also in the layout, which includes even an attempt at the familiar car boot around the back of the lead. The turning waist and big blocky feet allied to the usual joints give him a decent range of poses even if the neck only turns rather than being fully mobile, which means some can look unnatural.

There's only a single real fault - the gun. Weapons that could be stored in the vehicle mode were novel around the turn of the century but from the decision to make it a central feature for Binaltech the results have been spotty - for ever figure whose accessories have folded away neatly there have been three that had crap little things because the available space was so tiny. One of the many great things about the Masterpiece line as basically junking it (in favour of optional vehicle mode mounting points) but not all 3P manufacturers have followed. Sadly, Toyworld aren't one of them and someone had the bright idea to turn Rollbar's rear tyre into a gun, in an even less satisfactory fashion than the similar arrangement for Binaltech Hound. It means Rollbar in robot mode is armed with a tyre with two prongs sticking out of it.

Generally though this is an excellent figure - solid in both modes with a decent transformation and a solid resemblance to the original. Is it worth it? The original is probably long out of production and probably commands a high aftermarket price; no 3rd Party toy is value for money, it's entirely down to how much you like the character, how impatient you are and whether you won't miss triple figures on a small robot. However, if you can find the knock-off for around £20 or less it's well worth a look for a solid toy that holds its' own among other Masterpiece Autobots.

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