Thursday, 22 July 2010

Galaxy Force Dreadrock

Let's face it, Dreadrock is pretty weird. He's clearly some kind of military transport plane - hardly the most impressive choice of flying vehicle, though one which was revisited in the Revenge of the Fallen toyline - and his key-activated gimmick is a tail gun turret which isn't even hidden before it's activated. Tucked away, maybe, but certainly not hidden. The US/UK version of this, from the rewritten/dubbed TV series, was named Jetfire, possibly the most inappropriate application of that name in the history of TransFormers, and gave him an Australian accent...

Vehicle Mode:
What I loved most about the Galaxy Force line, aside from its many G1 references, was the combination of molded detail and excellent painted decoration. The Japanese releases were, in almost every case, far superior to the US/UK Cybertron versions. Dreadrock is a fine example of a model which made the transition mostly unscathed - there are only a few minor differences in the pointjob, and none of them stand out greatly in vehicle mode. Coming at the end of the so-called Unicron Trilogy, Galaxy Force couldn't be further from the chunky, simplistic models of Armada.

Since this is a transport plane, it's quite bulky, but still manages a decent wingspan, and looks to be in proportion for some kind of realism. He also - in common with most TransFormers of his size class in this line - has lights and sounds. Going from memory - the batteries in mine have long since expired - all he really has is engine sounds, activated by two buttons cleverly concealed on the fronts of his tail engines. There's also the requisite effect for the key-activated gimmick... gunfire, most likely. When his key is plugged in, the turret on the underside of his tail pops out, and the guns extend. That's really all there is to it.

While Dreadrock's plane mode doesn't have any landing gear, he does have a set of rollers on the underside of the plane's cargo hold, which works well enough. His spring-loaded missile launchers mount under each wing, about halfway between the outermost engings (in which his robot mode fists are sadly visible) and the point on the wing where it starts to angle upward. The missiles themselves are molded kind of like guns.

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Robot Mode:
The problem with aeroplane alternate modes is that you've always got to do something with the wings and, almost as often, the tail. Sadly, one of the main downsides to Dreadrock is that he doesn't really do anything with either. His wings stick out of his shoulders - this can be compensated for somewhat by angling the wings upward - and his tail just sticks out of his back, much like Sonic Bomber's nose.

Sadly, unlike Sonic Bomber's nose, there's no way to raise Dreadrock's tail over his head to make the turret in any way useful.

Also, Dreadrock somehow manages to be less stable that Sonic Bomber, despite having a much larger footprint. While he has 'feet' on the fronts and backs of his lower legs, they're all quite loose, and offer very little support. Considering how much weight he has hanging off his back - that's where all the electronics are housed, after all - he doesn't really like standing up much. He can be posed well enough, but always has a tendency to tip backward. I suppose it's a small mercy he uses a couple of watch batteries, rather than AAs.

I'm quite impressed by the head mold on this figure - particularly in comparison with those from Armada, which is why it's so strange that Galaxy Force was the concluding chapter of the same saga. The head is strangely reminiscent of Beast Wars Airazor, with its side crests and its central focal point on the forehead. He even seems to have 'eyes' behind that red visor.

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Transforming Dreadrock is incredibly easy, largely because so much of his robot mode is honking great chunks of aeroplane. It's interesting that, since the legs are formed from the cargo hold in the middle of the plane, they are symmetrical to the point that they could easily be switched round completely - the only thing that lets you know which side is the front and which is the back is the locations of the screws. His knees are even double-jointed.

There is a tiny amount of 'automorphing', in that a pair of blocks - they could be missile batteries - pop out of the sides of his waist when the nose of the plane is locked into his groin. You could almost count the way his hands come out of the plane engines... except that relies more on gravity and/or much fiddling around than it does on mechanical action.

Dreadrock is clearly not without flaws, and his key-activated gimmick is more than a little lame - Armada, despite being several years earlier and generally less aesthetically pleasing, offered some far more interesting gimmicks - but the fine detailing of the vehicle mode and some aspects of his robot mode balance these flaws out. Also, just the fact that he transforms from a fairly large transport plane to a comparatively large robot mode works in his favour - far too many more recent TransFormers planes have had decent-sized vehicle modes that become terribly small robots, all in the name of keeping the models within the reduced number of size classes.

It's a shame that so much of his torso is basically an empty space, but given that his legs need to go somewhere in vehicle mode, it's unavoidable. A less simplistic transformation may have been preferable, but it took until very recently, with the likes of Powerglide, to create a truly impressive robot-to-plane conversion, without excessive chunks of vehicle mode remaining evident on the robot.

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