Monday, 8 July 2013

iGear MW-08 Bushwhacker

I've heard mixed things about iGear generally, from the accusations of ripping off the work of others to the praise for their Masterpiece Seekers and Coneheads, and now they're producing their own line of G1 Mini Autobot homages, beginning with (Sea)Spray and Rager (aka Huffer), under the banner of 'Mini Warriors'. For the most part, the line wasn't of much interest to me - the models were OK, but not really as complex or as good-looking as the more recent mainstream releases, so they wouldn't be a particularly good fit for my Classics shelf.

However, strange things happen to me when I go to conventions and, faced with a small selection of iGear's newest additions to the line, I somehow felt compelled to pick up their homage to one of my favourite G1 models, Outback.

Vehicle Mode:
The first thing to note is how anaemic this looks versus the CGI on the box, let alone the original G1 Outback. It says quite clearly on the box that "Product and colours may vary" - a fairly common statement these days, but something of an early 'caveat emptor' in this case.

It's basically a large (maybe not quite Deluxe size) 4x4, somewhat similar to the Land Rover-type model that was G1 Brawn and Outback, though the panel on the bonnet featuring a stylised 'M' is proportionally wider. From most angles, it looks pretty good... but there are two huge tanks hanging off the rear, with a large space above the dual exhaust pipes, which really spoils any sense of realism the vehicle might otherwise have had.

Not that it would have had much... it's an exceptionally plain vehicle, with far less evident paintwork that the first iteration of this model, Hench. Rather than having the whole wing/roof lamp bumps painted, only the semicircular fronts are painted. The whole front grille area is painted silver, but the winch attachment (which is not glued in place and is consequently very loose) is unpainted. The 'M' on the bonnet and the crosses in the unfeasibly large tanks are filled with silver paint, and the door handles are picked out in black. All the windows are blacked out and the central parts of the hubcaps are painted silver, including the one on the roof which doubles as a mounting for his gun.

...Or rather, it should do - the peg (on mine, at least) is rather too large to fit in the hole. And that's not the only problem with the gun - it's molded in two parts which (again, on mine) don't fit together properly. Clip the back together and the barrel pops open. Clip the barrel together and the back pops out slightly... and the barrel quickly pops apart again.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this model is that, in spite of the painted door handles, it's not very clear where the doors are supposed to be. Seams are molded, certainly... but the areas which appear to be doors are blocked by large lumps protruding from the sides. Also, seams cut diagonally through the panels and windows on the sides, rather than using the natural seams of the doors, etc.

Robot Mode:
At first glance, Bushwhacker looks pretty decent in robot mode, certainly from the front. While the chest mold is identical to Hench, rather than being a whole new piece designed to resemble Outback's chest, and while the colour is still more Brawn than Outback, the contrast with the (excessively pale) other parts means the overall look is close enough.

Two things really stick out about this model as flawed - only the forearms are silver when, ideally, the whole things should have been painted (though I realise the ball joint complicates this, the arms could have been molded in a silverish grey plastic, as they did with Hench). The most glaring lack of paint is on the head, though - it's almost completely white other than a strip of cyan for the visor. In fact, the only other paintwork for robot mode are the white patches on his chest and groin... leaving Bushwhacker looking incredibly dull.

One interesting feature is that the head is double-sided. On one side, you have the authentic G1 humanoid face-with-a-visor, and an infinitely cooler, more robotic face on the other side. This face-changing gimmick has been present in Hench and Cogz, too, but their roundish heads would probably work more smoothly. Bushwhacker has protruding 'cheek guards' on his 'helmet' which like to catch on the raised areas either side of his neck. It might be easier to switch between faces if the neck's large ball joint weren't so tight.

Another interesting feature of this model is that there are little plastic pieces covering over the screw holes above his head. Like the winch attachment, they're not glued in place and friction doesn't do an especially good job of keeping them in place.

Not only are both robot and vehicle modes decent homages to the G1 model, the transformation is almost identical is most ways. The only significant difference is the legs, which are an interesting development: rather than the entire wings of the car simply rotating round, they fold up around the knee socket to become lower legs with large feet. It's a bit of a pain to transform them either way, but it's certainly clever.

Considering the number of ball joints involved in this model, and the fact that the feet are able to tilt sideways very slightly, to enable stances with the feet placed further apart, there are some significant balance issues which get in the way of poseability. For one thing, the legs are too far forward on the model, meaning the centre of gravity is right above the heels. The 'exhaust pipe' spurs don't stick out far enough to improve his balance, so he ends up leaning forward slightly just to counteract his back-heaviness. Furthermore, despite having limited poseability in the feet to complement the ball-jointed hips and knees, it's very difficult to arrange him in any pose other than a variant on 'standing ready'. The arms are excellent, but the fact that he can't hold his weapon (at least until I do some filing/sanding) makes it a rather pointless addition.

Based on the lack of paintwork alone, I wouldn't have bothered picking up this - or any other Mini Warriors - if I'd looked into them before seeing them at the London Film and Comic Con. The colourscheme is all wrong for the character and ruin what was otherwise a reasonable, albeit flawed homage to the early days of TransFormers. Reviews of Hench elsewhere have been roundly positive... but, with this as my first experience of iGear's Mini Warriors, it's likely to also be my last experience of the line. Perhaps I'll try repainting him to look more like Outback... Probably not, though...

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