Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Armada Powerlinx Red Alert

Personal friends and long-time readers of this blog will no doubt be aware that I am no stranger to impulse buys. Pretty much every Armada purchase I made was an impulse buy, because I already knew that they were all a bit rubbish. Powerlinx Red Alert was an impulse buy on two levels - first, I was on a business trip and just happened to see it in a small, independent toy shop; second, while I was vaguely interested in the original, I wasn't remotely interested in this recolour until I saw it on that fateful day... So, do I regret this purchase?

Vehicle Mode:
Considering this mold was originally used as an ambulance, it looks remarkably unlike an Emergency Services vehicle. Maybe mountain rescue, or something that operates out in the wilderness, but this car looks like a fairly standard 4x4 of the Land Rover variety. The word 'RESCUE' printed on the bonnet tends to support that idea... but this is the second usage of the mold, and the first was clearly supposed to be an ambulance.

The whole colour scheme is actually a bit disappointing - flat orange and white for most of it, with the so-called lightbar molded in translucent grey. White stripes appear on the bonnet and the sides of the vehicle, there's a tampographed 'CFD' (Cybertron Fire Department???) logo on each side, the windows on the doors are painted a slightly bluish silver (which also appears on the roof-mounted rig) and what could be indicator lights are painted blue and red on the back. If you look closely, there's translucent blue on the very tops of the lightbar... but even if the light was strong enough to have any effect on the lightbar, it'd flash red, not blue. Whatever the roof-mounted rig is supposed to be, it doesn't stand out very well at all.

This being Armada, 'big and chunky' goes with the territory, and this vehicle certainly fits that bill. It's substantially larger than a contemporary Voyager, but that's the size class it would have been at the time. Also, the model is bristling with Mini-Con ports - one on the bonnet, one on the back of the roof-mounted rig, and one on each door. Only the first two are 'active' - the one on the bonnet activating Red Alert's disc-launcher, craftily hidden behind the front grille of the car, the one on the rig has a dual function: pushing it forward causes a red light to (briefly) flash, and a sound clip plays that says "Red Alert - woo woo woo woo woo woo" (seriously, it sounds like someone saying "woo woo woo woo woo woo", rather than a siren). Pushing it back flips out the claw-missile launcher thing, accompanied by a deployment/firing sound effect.

Vehicle mode looks OK - uninspired, basic, but not bad - from any angle but the rear, which is curiously open, with Red Alert's robot feet dangling for all to see... Not Armada's finest hour.

Robot Mode:
Good grief... Well, if you've ever wondered what RoboCop would look like if you dropped a car on him, Red Alert gives you a good idea. I know 'Car Bonnet As Robot Chest' has been a staple of TransFormers since the earliest Diaclone repaints, but this is ridiculous. Red Alert's arms aren't long enough to reach his headlights.

It's not immediately obvious from the vehicle mode, but Red Alert is basically a stick-man covered in bits of car. The entire roof hangs off his back, the doors stick out over his shoulders, and the rear sides are attached to his knees. If that weren't bad enough, some bright spark of a designer thought it'd be cool to turn these panels into 'maintenance bays'. One contains two nozzles for the socket in Red Alert's left wrist, the other has a flip-up 'scanner panel' thing (with an additional Mini-Con port). Considering Red Alert wouldn't be able to see whatever was occupying either bay, they seem more than a little redundant. Facing facts, he wouldn't even be able to change his own wrist attachments.

The two active Mini-Con ports act the same in robot mode - the disc (which looks remarkably like a life-preserver with an Autobot logo stuck in the middle) launches out of his chest, and the claw-missile thing turns into a shoulder-mounted launcher, though it can be detached and held in his right hand (though, again, he wouldn't be able to reach it himself).

There's a bit more colour to Red Alert in robot mode - grey for his legs and arms, with large panels on his legs painted in metallic red. The head does, technically, feature light-piped eyes, but it's translucent grey plastic painted over with translucent blue paint which renders the light-piping almost useless.

Mini-Con Partner Longarm:
There really isn't much to say about Longarm... the crane arm is quite impressive for a Mini-Con, since it collapses back on itself so as to be less obtrusive in robot mode but, other than that, he's astonishingly bland in either mode - not a hint of paintwork anywhere, and very little articulation.

I don't think there were any particularly complex models in Armada, but Red Alert surely wins an award for chunky simplicity. Getting all the panels snapped back into place in vehicle mode can sometimes be frustrating but, once they're there, you have a fairly solid block of a car on your hands. The only flimsy part is the missile launcher, which will occasionally deploy if you look at it funny.

Arms and legs have a good range of motion, potentially, but it's all rather hindered by the massive chunks of car hanging off his back and knees, and the fact that his chest is just so darned long. The play value is all there, but it's really not a great step up from some of the later G1 models, and shows no sign of the lessons learned with Beast Wars or Car Robots/Robots in Disguise.

Honestly, if I could go back in time, I'd do my utmost to not buy this thing... it's big, clunky, unattractive and not very interesting (other than the sound effects). I didn't buy many Armada toys, and Red Alert shows why.

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