Sunday, 10 November 2013

TransFormers: Prime Cliffjumper

Cliffjumper was an interesting if contentious addition to the first wave of TF Prime Robots In Disguise. The character was the first to appear in the TV series, joking with Arcee as they patrolled their sectors, but gets killed off before the end of the first episode, returning only briefly as a Dark Energon zombie and, thereafter, only in flashbacks. That he deserved a toy I don't argue - particularly since this is the first time since Generation 1 that a toyline has had both Bumblebee and Cliffjumper as unique molds - but putting him in the first wave - and in such great numbers - clearly left most fans cold, and he was sitting on shelves for months. In fact, even now, approximately twenty months after the toyline made its début in the UK, it's still possible to find Cliffjumper in some shops.

Making it all the more infuriating, there was a First Edition version of Cliffjumper as well. The character may have warranted one toy, but two?

But enough about Hasbro doing everything wrong... What's the Cliffjumper toy like?

Vehicle Mode:
As mentioned, Cliffjumper is a wholly unique mold rather than a straight repaint of Bumblebee. He's also a muscle car, but he looks like something from the 70's rather than a contemporary/futuristic muscle car. According to TFWiki.net, it's a cross between a Plymouth Barracuda and a Dodge Challenger, and has amusing optional extras like a set of bull horns on the front of the bonnet and exhaust pipes protruding from each side, just in front of the rear wheels.

One of the weirdest things about Cliffjumper's inclusion in the first wave of TF Prime toys is that, despite not even surviving the first episode, he's one of the most impressive toys in terms of his paintwork. Pretty much everything that needed painting has some paintwork - the front grille and headlights are in two different colours, the hubcaps, exhaust pipes and rear bumper are nicely silvered. Even the tail lights are picked out... albeit in black. The the horned crest on the bonnet isn't painted... but that's made of rubber, which explains everything. Other than that, the only details missing paint are the indicator lights in front of the front wheels. The red plastic is certainly far richer than Hasbro's average red, but it's neither as rich nor as bright as it should be. Then again, the ideal colour is probably hard to achieve in plastic.

It is an awesome vehicle mode - far more character than Bumblebee's - so it's a real shame that he's just about the smallest Deluxe car in the TF Prime range. It's natural enough that a car like this would be quite low to the ground, but Cliffjumper is actually tiny. For the most part, the quality of the model makes up for this - aside from transformation seams (some of which are cleverly places, some are not), the only blemishes on vehicle mode are the 5mm sockets on the roof and the righthand side of the car, just above the rear wheel. The latter could pretend to be the input for the petrol tank, but the one on the roof is a bit of an eyesore, especially considering the included weapon - a combined club/rifle that, from some angles, looks vaguely like an engine. It's not something Cliffjumper ever used in the series, and doesn't suite either mounting position. I can understand that recreating his handcannons was tricky on this model, but something better than this random piece of junk should have been included, or they should have done without a weapon entirely.
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Robot Mode:
Whatever complaints one might have about the First Edition, this model has problems all of its own. It tries very hard to look accurate to the CGI from the series as far as the head, torso and legs are concerned, but the arms are a bit of a mess. The most contentious point, for me, is their length. Cliffjumper in the TV series is stocky with short, powerful arms. The toy has great long monkey arms that just look untidy and disproportionate. The shoulders are OK - better than the ginormous lump shoulders of the FE version - the biceps are about the right length, but the forearms are about twice the length they should be. Following on from that, the vehicle mode's door windows are conspicuously sticking out of the forearms, and the front of the car hangs off his elbows.

The legs are a prime example of how cheaty this mold is - the thighs are molded with (unpainted) wheels on the backs - all correct according to the CGI from the show - while the lower legs are hollow and have side panels from the rear of the car tagged on the outside. If they folded in to cover the hollows, they'd more closely resemble the CGI, since all of Cliffjumper's wheels end up in his legs.

The torso comprises of an entirely faked split car roof, while the real car roof ends up folded up on his back. This may look more show-accurate than the First Edition, and his body is certainly less hollow, but the FE version is to be admired for trying such a complex feat in this size class. This one relies on old, cheap tactics.

The head sculpt is a bit odd. For the most part, it's an excellent representation of the show model, but it has a fixed grimace that doesn't really suit the character that well - Cliffjumper was a joker and a motormouth, not the violent psychopath implied by this facial expression. He has light piping, but his eyes are so tiny, it was barely worth it. The plastic is colourless, but he has a dab of blue right in the middle. The head is on a ball joint on the end of a well-positioned and surprisingly long neck, but its movement is somewhat restricted by the unnecessary geared head reveal gimmick - as the shoulders are folded out and down, the head is lifted up, but the gears on the shoulders mesh with a panel right behind his head which not only completely prevents him from looking up, but also limits the head's sideways movement.

The impression that Cliffjumper had a higher paint budget remains in robot mode, with parts of the grey plastic on his shoulders painted red, the fake car windows painted black, and a fairly extensive application of silver paint in all the most important locations. The fake car headlights are even picked out in the same pale sky blue as the real headlights on the vehicle mode.

The weapon included with him fares no better in robot mode than it did in vehicle mode - it looks dull and unwieldy as a club and doesn't work at all as a rifle. I don't think there's any way it could have been rescued by paintwork... it's basically a chunk of plastic that could have been put to better use on the robot.
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It's immediately obvious, even before starting to transform this model, that it's very different - and much simplified - versus the First Edition. There are seams in the car's roof, but running across rather than lengthways... and when you get him into robot mode, you find his 'car roof chest' is faked. The implementation of the FE version wasn't great and left him looking very square, and cheating whole great chunks of vehicle mode like this has been pretty common throughout the history of TransFormers... but with a more genuine transformation available, I can't understand why Hasbro would go to such great lengths to remake the model.

With a huge mass of ball joints, Cliffjumper is very poseable and, more importantly, very stable. The feet and the double-jointed ankle (ball joint into the foot, hinge into the lower leg) have an excellent range of motion and are pretty much rock solid in just about any pose. I have found the knees and hips on mine to be a little loose, but not so bad that he's inclined to fall over at every opportunity. The arms are awkward due to the length of the forearms, but the double-jointed elbow makes up for some of that. The main problem is that the hands, while on ball joints, have very restricted movement as a symptom of how they transform back into vehicle mode.

This version of Cliffjumper is pretty cool, in and of itself. Had the First Edition never seen the light of day, I might see it more favourably but, however you look at it, Cliffjumper is hardly an essential buy for a fan of the TV series. Neither are perfect but, in spite of some huge flaws of its own, the First Edition looks to be the superior version overall... however, I concede that my opinion might change if I ever get my hands on the First Edition version.

That said, in spite of my reservations, the way a fairly chunky robot compresses down into such a tiny car is nothing short of phenomenal. There's very little wasted space or plastic on the main robot, and it's nice to see that Hasbro can sometimes apply all the paint that matters. For a change.

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