Thursday, 5 August 2010

Energon Slugslinger

And just when you think you have a toy line sussed, it throws you a complete curveball - Slugslinger is a Decepticon who doesn't really have a Hypermode... Unless you count his spring-loaded weapon... Which I don't.

Slugslinger is a very obvious G1 reference - back then, he was a TargetMaster, partnered with a Nebulan named Caliburst. Back then, he had a very simple transformation, and turned into a fairly blocky robot with his vehicle mode's twin nosecones sticking up out of his back. Energon, naturally, does not include his TargetMaster partner, even as a Mini-Con, though he does have a couple of Mini-Con ports. He also features a more complex transformation, and a far more poseable robot mode that - gasp - actually uses the twin nosecones.

Vehicle Mode:
This update follows the G1 model in form - a twin-nosed attack jet - but the colourscheme is all over the place - pearlescent/translucent greeen, grey, two shades of blue, black and orange... It's not entirely obvious what propels this thing - there aren't really any engines visible, unless they're the grey parts just inside the wings... or maybe the design molded onto the grey panels at the rear are supposed to be afterburners.

Sadly, Slugslinger suffers from Visible Robot Head Syndrome - the back of his head is quite obvious, protruding from the rear, right in the middle. This isn't mistransformed - that's the best it can do. He also suffers from very poorly fitting pegs in many parts that don't hold his vehicle mode together very well, and a fairly un-aerodynamic body. There's also something deeply unconvincing about this vehicle as a disguise: one cockpit is unnecessary enough for a transforming alien robot... two is more likely to draw attention.

I cannot imagine how a plane such as this could be piloted. Perhaps one cockpit is for the pilot, the other is for the gunner/navigator/whatever? Who knows... But, if you ask me, anyone being attacked by a plane with two separate nosecoses, each with its own cockpit, is going to realise that this is not a human vessel.

There are landing gears in each of the nosecones but, at the back, he has a pair of stubby things that don't quite look like wheels. Perhaps if they folded right back, they might look more convincing, but they do at least hold him level the way they are.

Robot Mode:
I have to say, this is a huge improvement on G1 Slugslinger. This version is utterly  unique - in fact, the mold has only ever been reused by the TransFormers Collectors' Club (as Airazor, to complement the BotCon 2006 set, Dawn of Futures Past). The colour scheme is equally unique, and includes a lot more light grey than the vehicle mode. Somehow, it all works quite well, without clashing too dramatically, though the orange comes close... It certainly cannot be said that Slugslinger's paint job is without character.

If the original Slugslinger was lacking joints, the Energon version more than makes up for it, with plenty of ball joints and standard pinned hinges. One thing I particularly like about this model is the 'wings' he gains in robot mode - they do look suitably demonic. It's also quite clever how the twin nosecones become Slugslinger's legs, and yet still manage to be quite poseable. The only problem is in the feet - just like Sharkticon, there's not enough movement in them for some poses, but what's there is adequate. He even suffers less from his comparatively short heels, though still does have a tendency to fall over backwards.

The head sculpt is where this figure stands out the most, though - it's like someone made a TransFormer out of the Batman villain Two-Face - one side of his face is all smooth and chiselled, quite dashing... then the other looks half-formed, or blown away, with the whole of the right-side optic sensor visible along with the inner workings of his mouth... of course, that's not the case, as certain parts protrude further than the equivalent from the other side... but it certainly makes his a face you won't forget in a hurry. I'm very glad he has light-piped eyes - they really add to the assymmetry of his face.

I am mystified by his antennae, though - were it not for them, the head would be far less obvious in vehicle mode... it may even have been possible to stow it completely within his chest cavity.

The spring-loaded missile launcher, slung beneath the plane's fuselage in vehicle mode, can be flipped over Slugslinger's shoulder in robot mode and, thanks to the way his arms are jointed, he can even be posed 'holding' the launcher as he fires. The only downsides to the arms is that they don't peg in very securely at the shoulder, and this is further hindered by the placement of his rear landing gear on the insides of his upper arms, so his arms must always hang slightly outward.

Slugslinger, looking so bizarre, has to be one of my favourite molds from the Energon line. It's quirky, unusual and almost completely unique, which is unusual in a toyline like TransFormers, that likes to reuse molds as often as possible.

Transformation is quite complicated, but only because of the parts that pull out, flip round, and hinge back on themselves into a slightly different position. His robot mode wings do get in the way somewhat, and the fact that they're attached to his shoulders does seem a little odd, but there's really nowhere else they could go.

As homages to G1 characters go, I'd have to say that Slugslinger is one of the better ones - he's vastly more colourful, more detailed, sleeker and has far more character, as well as having fewer redundant vehicle mode parts hanging off his robot mode. The crazy head sculpt is just the icing on the cake.

The only downside is that, as mentioned before, there are parts - in both vehicle mode and robot mode - that just don't peg together very well, meaning both forms can seem a little flimsy.

Even so, it's tempting to wish for another usage of this mold, if only in the G1 colourscheme...

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