Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Robots in Disguise Ultra Magnus

It's a very sad fact that, outside of Robots in Disguise, every version of Ultra Magnus has been nothing more than Optimus Prime painted white. OK, fine, G1 set the precedent on that one, but at least it had the super robot armour as standard... most other versions have been literally just a white version of Prime. There was one completely different iteration of Ultra Magnus in the extended Armada line, but he was just a repaint of Overload and, like Overload, attached to Armada's Supermode Prime, rather than really being a proper robot in his own right.

That's one of the reasons I like the RiD version so much: it's a completely different mold from RiD Prime, it's a car-carrier... and the full robot mode is a combination of the cab and the trailer - a far better homage to G1 than any other (official) Ultra Magnus so far...

Vehicle Mode:
So, yes... the only other car-carrier Ultra Magnus in the history of TransFormers... and, in many ways, a huge improvement on the Generation 1 version. It actually fit several of the larger-scale Autobot cars all at once - not only does the rear of the trailer fold down to become a ramp, but the top level can be unpegged and half of it tilted down to form a ramp leading all the way to the front, right above the cab. Certainly, there's not as much space on the lower level as there is on top but, with only three larger-scale Autobot cars (Prowl, Sideburn and X-Brawn, the so-called 'Car Brothers'), that's really not a problem.

What is a problem, potentially, for this kind of vehicle, is that it's not articulated. The truck section can separate and, unlike Prime, has more than enough wheels to function independently, but it's an enormously bulky truck, and the upper deck of the trailer is attached to it and folded over. Round the back of the truck are a pair of jet engines, which must surely be useless if the trailer is in use... In many ways, this alternate mode features a lot of confusing, conflicting details...

Also unlike Prime, Ultra Magnus's weapon doesn't stow within the vehicle mode, but it can be attached. It mounts either toward the front or the back of the upper deck of the trailer (facing either forward or back), and both guns and the missile launchers are fully accessible... but obviously without any sound effects.

There is a light on Ultra Magnus but all it really does is light up in synch with the button-activated contextual sound effects. By default - and certainly in this mode, all he does is say "Ultra Magnus, transform!", but things get a bit more interesting in robot mode.

Robot Mode:
Even more unlike Optimus Prime, the truck section does not transform into a complete robot in its own right - it's just the upper body, down to mid-thigh. The trailer splits in half and the lower thighs fold out to attach, at which point Ultra Magnus becomes one of the lankiest TransFormers ever.

Sadly, this is where the problems start. Since all the electronics are housed in the part that becomes the backpack, he's astonishingly back-heavy and, despite what should, technically, be a fairly large footprint, it's not particularly stable and very prone to falling over backward.

These long legs of this are also not very poseable, not just because of the completely fixed feet, but simply through lack of joints. The hips are about average, but the mid thigh joint isn't really intended to be mobile (and wouldn't be much help if it was) so the knee joint, while offering a decent range, isn't particularly useful.

The upper body has better joints - ball-jointed shoulders, elbows, wrists and even neck - but none of the are particularly solid, and the arms have a habit of sagging while posed.

The head sculpt is interesting - it's somehow recognisable as Ultra Magnus despite not having the usual extent of antennae, and has a small Autobot logo molded into the central crest. In fact, molded detail is one of the highlights of this mold - there's not a single surface without some form of detailing, and most of it is very intricate.

What makes Ultra Magnus particularly interesing is the selection of context-based sounds. His weapon, supposedly named 'Blue Bolts', has square pegs at one end and round pegs on the other. These marry up with the sockets - located, somewhat bizarrely, in his armpits - which appear either side of a button. When the weapon is plugged into the relevant socket, the button on his backpack activates a sound effect appropriate to that weapon. One way round it's a sort of Gatling gun, the other way round it's a cannon with a single, very large barrel. 'Blue Bolts' has a third mode, where it's attached on both sides. When the button is pressed, Ultra Magnus says "Fire" before unleashing a barrage.

Much like RiD Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus is a bit of a parts-former... only this model requires all its parts to complete its single robot mode, rather than having a basic robot mode and a 'supermode'. It's basically simple enough, but the end result is a robot that's incredibly broad-shouldered and long-legged that, really, can only stand up straight... and only just manages that feat. The poses I've managed in the photos here were achieved more by luck than judgement, and the model's tendency to fall over backwards is almost impossible to avoid.

That said, the contextual sound effects and the multi-purpose weapon definitely increase play value and make RiD Ultra Magnus a very fun toy, despite the shortcomings in his stability.

...And, when you have both Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus, you can combine them to form Omega Prime!

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