Steamhammer and the Constructicons

Originally posted at Hippopotami on the Lam on Dec 10, 2010

You'd think that my review of Grimstone an the Dinobots would mean that I'd decided to drop the Power Core Combiners from my pull list of Transformer toys, but I'm you'd be wrong.

Though I really was disappointed by that first wave 4 set, the second one was enough to keep me on the hook.

Steamhammer and the Constructicons is the second of 2 5-packs in this fourth wave of figures. Unlike the last wave of figures which was entirely made up of re-purposed figures from the first 2 waves, this series is completely new. Both the 5 and 2-packs are molds that we haven't seen before with new drones and new mini-cons. Sadly, you have to enjoy it while it lasts because wave 5 has only 1 new figure, Undertow with Waterlog. Yet Steamhammer has a whole lot of awesome to tide you over until that new set comes around.

He comes packaged in his robot form (or the Commander) with the 4 drones surrounding him. It's a blessedly easy to open pack, with only one paper tie for each toy (or accessory depending on your perception). Once you get through them, it's easy scheezy. Just pop them out of the plastic bubble.
Jump after the cut for further details...

The Commander form is where we'll start, because:

  1. That's what he comes packaged as, and...
  2. It's my LEAST favorite mode on the toy.

Why you ask? Because you can't really do anything with him. The huge backpack formed by the bulldozer blade and the power-up form's head make it almost impossible for him to stand. The only way to do it is to move the blue power-up pegs in his feet down and off-set the weight of that monstrosity. It doesn't change the look at all, but damned if it isn't annoying.

To make matters worse, you can't really move his thighs any where. The way it's constructed means that it has almost no range of motion at all. He can kick sideways, but movement front of back? Not a chance.

It would have been nice if they had just let the blade detach so he could use it as a riot sheild or something, but since the gestalt head is attached to the back of the thing, I guess that that wasn't an option.
You'll also notice those two big, black things sticking out of the blade. Those are the front ends of his tank treads. Don't know what they're supposed to be in his robot mode.

His arm articulation is much better than that below his waist. He's got the same balljointed shoulders as most Scout Class robots, plus a bicep swivel and elbow hinge, which allows him to do pretty much whatever you need him to do.

I also like the fact that you can twist his left hand around and pretend the mini-con port on his left elbow is another gun. Pew pew pew! He's also got those Wolverine claws to fool around with.
Commander Steamhammer converts to a relatively big bulldozer. The transformation is one of the good points about him. Compared to some of the others (Like Sledge below) it feels well thought out and leaves a minimum of kibble (if you don't count that big ass backpack and those annoying blue pegs). If he didn't have so much trouble standing...

But we were talking about the bulldozer. It's an excellent looking example of a bulldozer, though I don't know if it's actually based on some real design out there. It feels more like someone's IDEA of a COOL-LOOKING bulldozer.

It's got one mini-port on the top of his cab.

The drones are shaped like other heavy construction equipment. There is a drilling rig (right arm), a wedge-plow (right leg), a scoop loader (left arm), and a steamroller (left leg). They're all smaller than Steamhammer, which is odd, but just go with it.

The sculpt of each looks nice, less cartoony than the previous releases which had proportions that were slightly round and stubby. I kind of felt that the drones with Crankcase felt like the chibi versions of military vehicles, caricatures. There are some interesting paint applications that you'll see on the wedge-plow's and Steamhammer's blades, and the steamrollers roller. Tiny little streaks of silver that make it look like they've been scratched right down to the naked metal. I don't know about you guys, but little touches like that really sell a toy to me and increase my perception of its value.

While I love the vehicle modes, I like the gestalt mode the best.

I said that Steamhammer was the best of the Power Core Combiners so far and I meant it. He's the one that has limbs that are recognizable as actual hands and feet! Yay Hasbro! You finally came to your senses!

No as a Fine Arts graduate, I know that asymmetry is graphically interesting. It draws the eye, creates imbalance, makes you queasy. But there's a reason that nature decided to make most animals symmetrical. Even a race of robots would be subject to the laws of survival of the fittest. All other things being equal, as the Power Core Commander with the most balanced looking body, Steamhammer would most likely kill the competition.

Really, I can't understand why the rest of the drones can't look this good.


His articulation as a gestalt is just as limited as the rest though, limited mainly to shoulders, hips, and knees. He's got a neck, but the construction around the head limits the movement to a tiny angle that might as well not exist. He makes up for it with antennae equipped with swivel joints.

He's also got the requisite mini-con ports on his person. His are placed more logically then some of the sets, so go nuts.

Really, this set turned me completely around and brought me back to the place I was before Grimstone. I was on the verge of really enjoying this line after getting Crankcase and Bombshock, but now I'm totally sold. I don't think I'll be getting the other 5-packs, because I can't stand the puny and malformed limbs, but if they keep making new ones with the same attributes of this set, I'll keep buying them.

Grimstone and the Dinobots

Review originally posted on Hippopotami on the Lam on Dec 9, 2010

It sounds like one of those cartoons from the 80's they liked to show on Saturday mornings. Either that or a rock band. It's neither, however. Grimstone and the Dinobots is a boxset of Transformers available at toystores now. It's part the new Transformer subline called the "Power Core combiners". If you're old enough to remember the gestalt (a group of 5 or 6 Transformers who could join together to form one big bot), then you already know what you're in for.
Or you'd think you'd know.

They've gone and changed some things around. For one, it's no longer 5 robots with different personalities. It's just the one robot, in this case Grimstone. The robot, called the Power Core Commander, can control "drones" which are basically power up items, not individuals. These drones don't transform into a robot; they go straight from vehicle (or in this case dinosaur) to their respective limb once they've connected to the Commander.
Jump after the cut for further details...

It's an intriguing concept, but it hasn't been very well executed. Grimstone is part of the 3rd wave of figures in the line. We've already gotten several 5-packs (each with a Commander and 4 drones) and 2-packs (a Commander and a mini-con, which is sort of like a target master/power master weapon). I was looking at Grimstone as the one that would provide proof of concept to me, prove that the Power Core Combiners could really be something great.

Sorry, Hasbro, but no cigar.

There are a few things that the Power Core Combiners have against them. The biggest is the fact that calling them "5-packs" is misleading. You're not getting 5 toys. You're getting 1 toy with 5 accessories.

The drones really aren't anything to write home about. They've only got the two forms, vehicle (or dinosaur) and limb. You'd think that would mean Hasbro would be able to design some nice looking limbs, not those stick figure gestalts that could only goose step. No such luck. They've mostly got knees now, but you're still stuck with a lack of elbows, and many of the other joints are blocked by various kibble.

Most of the drones transform into misshappen claws, or club feet; forms unrecognizable as a hand or a boot. Sure we could argue that "it's an alien robot, it doesn't need to look humanoid", but do we really mean that? We want our robots to look like us, not like Quasimodo.

I also can't believe that they thought the fact that these toys are gestalts wasn't enough of a gimmick. Hasbro (or the designers) decided to make the conversion process of the drones spring-loaded. The blurbs on the box look great to an 8-year old in the toy store, but it's as annoying as fuck to play with. Because of the spring loaded mechanism, the arms and legs tend to fall off constantly, popping out if you touch the parts wrong. Some of the other limbs are also hard to put on, because the parts connected to the machine don't want to drop properly. What really kills me is the fact that if they hadn't been limited to this asinine idea, Hasbro's designers could have come up with more complicated conversion schemes that would have likely netted us more traditional looking mecha that looked more like the concept art on the box.

The third thing is the size of the toys. The Commanders are really just Scout Class toys, which means they stand about 5" tall. When combined with the drones, you get a figure about 8" tall. Original price for the 5-packs was Php 1,500.00; too much for this. Even at the marked down Php 1,000.00, I thought a long time before jumping in.

And have I mentioned those ugly blue nubs that stick out like Superman at a cosplay event?
But wait. Let me start over. The box. It's big, which is weird, considering I just got done telling you the toys were small.


Let's start with the Commander mode.


Really, I can't stand this toy. Its body parts are disproportionate, the dino head doesn't seem to be integrated at all, its got those annoying feet that won't hold him up, and the articulation is awful. Just awful. The less time I spend her the better.


Next up, we've go the dinosaur forms which, quite frankly, is where I'll keep them from now on. The 4 drones scale nicely with the Styracosaurus (Grimstone) and with the Classics Grimlock if you have him. The color scheme also mirrors the old Dinobot silver, gold and red, which is a nice nod to G1.

The other dinos, the drones, have less articulation than Grimstone, mostly just a hinged jaw here, a tail wag there, maybe a bit of a wiggle in the arms. There's the Ankylosaurus (left leg), the Dimetrodon (left arm - it's a Dimetrodon, even if the guys at Hasbro want to name it a "Spinosaurus"), the Pachycephalosaurus (right leg), and the Parasaurolophus (right arm). The Pachycephalosaurus has the best articulation; it's head goes down as his tail goes up, making it look like it's ready to ram it's bonedome into something, which is what it does in real life, so... cool.

The dinosaur modes are really the reason I can't completely hate this set. Having new Dinobots is just so awesome, it somewhat negates the suck that is the rest of the set.

Speaking of which, the big suck. The gestalt.
This isn't my first Power Core Combiner. When the discounts hit, I went out and bought several of them and I got to say that my initial fanboy impressions of them were well on the way to turning when this monstrosity came out. Both Crankcase with the Destrons and Bombshock with Combaticons were pretty great. I also got the 2-packs Huffer and Caliburst, Icepick and Chainclaw, Leadfoot and Pinpoint, and Sledge with Throttle, all of which were fun.
That perception dropped considerably when I got this thing home.



It's like the designers didn't even try to change the dinos into robot parts. The Pachycephalosaurus is just squatting, the Ankylosaurus looks as if someone just kicked it in the ass. Don't get me started on the Parasaurolophus claw. I can live with the Dimetrodon jaw hand, but they didn't even bother to do something with the sail or the tail.

And did I mention that none of the guns actually pivot? Ankylosaurus' cannons point at the ground, and Parasaurolophus ' weapons fire right over Grimstones head.
Really, what is this?

Or this?

Hasbro, please!

Now there are bound to be people who like this toy that are going to try and convince me that it is the shit. That since Hasbro is taking a chance on a new property that isn't supported by a cartoon or a comic or a movie, I should cut them some slack. That it's the greatest thing since comic book superhero movie porn parodies.

However, after seeing all the things that Hasbro IS capable of, this set is just a disappointment to me. I'll keep it because I do love dinosaurs, but it is by no means a must own Transformer.

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