Sunday, 1 August 2010

Energon Highwire (& Kicker)

Love them or loathe them, each part of the Unicron Trilogy brought something new-ish to the TransFormers mix. Armada introduced Mini-Cons, and used them to activate features on the larger robots, Galaxy Force adapted this functionality for use with 'keys'... and, wedged in between, Energon did virtually nothing with the Mini-Cons other than, in cases like Armada's High Wire, upgrade them.

Thus, High Wire became Highwire, a Scout Class (or equivalent) figure that came with an action figure of Kicker, one of the human characters from the show. But while the Japanese version of Kicker was based on the Microman figures, the US/UK release was closer to a GI Joe figure. They make for a strange set, not least because they're not quite in scale, but they do work well enough together.


Vehicle Mode:
Armada High Wire was a bicycle... and among the strangest Mini-Cons in that series. He wasn't very impressive in either mode, but did combine with the other members of his 3-strong team to form Perceptor (known as Bumble in Micron Legend - G1 Bumblebee's Japanese name). For Energon, he was upgraded into a motorbike - the off-road, 'scrambler' type, by the looks of things, losing the space in the middle of his name to become Highwire. Considering the strange look of so many TransFormers motorbikes, it's amazing to see one that looks this good in vehicle form - you can't quite see how it could possibly become a robot, even though some of the seams are quite obvious. It's actually an excellent mold, in this form... only really let down by a very basic paint job.

By comparison, it's one functional part is a fair bit better than average - its kick-stand actually works... unlike the original live action movie Arcee bike and several others. Naturally, it's front wheel doesn't steer but, overall, this makes for a decent alternate mode and, coupled with the human rider, even if he's not quite tall enough, Highwire is a fun toy.
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Robot Mode:
Of course, once you transform him, it's easy to see how they managed to make such a good vehicle mode - the mold is entirely geared in that direction, leaving a robot that looks like a scrapmetal sculpture. He has one arm made out of the exhaust pipe - which ends in a small hand protruding from a large gun - and one which ends in the front wheel of the bike, while the rear wheel sticks out of the opposite shoulder. The legs are startlingly flimsy and, despite being very lightweight, the joints are loose enough that he's quite tricky to pose adequately.

All that said, this robot mode is still a huge improvement on the Armada Mini-Con and, in some ways, comes close to looking like a movie figure... or would do with a bit more molded detail and a better paint job.
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Transformation is simplicity itself, the whole thing folding up quite neatly, and the legs becoming the entire top of the bike. For such a small, simple figure, it's still quite satisfying, simply because Highwire's alternate mode perfectly illustrates the concept of 'robots in disguise'... if only it were a more convincing robot.

The real disappointment with this toy is that the Kicker figure is so basic compared to the Japanese version. I can understand Hasbro using the GI Joe type mold, since Microman figures are notoriously brittle and use such small parts, but in this one instance, it would have improved the package immeasureably.

Highwire has plenty of articulation, but the loose knee and hip joints let him down, and the 'feet', such as they are, don't offer much of a footprint for any firm stance. Also, having one arm ending in a wheel doesn't exactly make him seem like the most functional of robots... but this is from several years before the movie line and, by the standards of the rest of the Energon line, it's not half bad.

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