Friday, 27 March 2015

Perfect Effect Motobot: PE-DX01 RC

(Femme-Bot Friday #11)
Perfect Effect started out making small and, frankly, quite odd accessories for TransFormers, some of which transformed. My first experience of their figures was PE-01R/F, a pair of TargetMasters modelled after G1 Frenzy and Rumble (and given the correct names for the colourschemes, rather than following the long-running error in the G1 cartoon!). I'll write them up in detail eventually but, suffice it to say, I have mixed feelings about them.

The company very quickly graduated - like so many other third party toymakers - into full-blown TransFormers-style figures, starting with a Reflector analogue then, in 2012, only three years after their debut on the scene, releasing one of the most ambitious third party models that had been seen at the time - a homage to G1 Arcee by way of TRON, which nodded to both the live-action movie interpretation and TF Prime. RC initially came in pink (G1 homage) and blue (TF Prime homage, perhaps), so I had to carefully consider my options when choosing which to buy for myself. With MMC's Azalea already on my shelves, I began to feel the need for more pink femme-bots to balance things out.

I picked this up on import, on the (very slightly) cheap owing to the box exhibiting what the seller described as 'shelf wear'. At first glance, this was some minor scuffing on the front of the box and a couple of very slightly crumpled corners, but I later noticed a large puncture in the top of the box.

Even so, Perfect Effect have created a very early-G1-influenced box with a digital painting of RC in bike mode and a nice, large window to the figure inside. The back of the box shows several CGI representations of the character adopting various poses, all of which are actually achievable by the model, albeit with additional support in some cases. The images show off her included weapons to great effect.

Inside the box is a short comic which seems to portray the blue version of this model appearing pink in a mission simulation which terminates when Aranea turns up. Also featured is a robot that looks very much like the Revenge of the Fallen Voyager class Bludgeon toy with a different head (not made by PE). Then again, Aranea is shown with a head/helmet entirely different to the one the model was eventually packaged with, so a lot of artistic license was involved. The comic features very little dialogue, yet still managed to squeeze in some excellent examples of terrible Engrish to mar the otherwise high quality.

The instructions are a huge disappointment after those included in other third party products - FansProject City Commander's instructions appeared within the comic as an extended transformation sequence, Azalea's were in the same booklet, but printed upside down and running from the 'back' page... Here, you just get a small leaflet. It's full colour, but almost looks like an afterthought, and some of the (visual only) instructions are a little on the vague side.

Vehicle Mode:
From most angles, I suspect the uninitiated would not see that this is a transforming robot, as it appears so successfully as a sci-fi motorbike. Granted, this is because of a rather large amount of partsforming, some of which is revealed in the rear view (RC's hands are hanging on to her pistols to keep the bulk of the rear of the bike in place), and without which she doesn't look half as much like a motorbike. The core robot forms the structure of the bike, but it's the extras that complete the picture.

Her colourscheme is pretty basic - virtually all a nice, rich magenta... that didn't photograph well when I took the bike mode pictures - though there are plenty of little touches of colour dotted about, including a very subtle use of translucent orange in the front 'intakes'. Arcee's tradtional secondary colour of white is used quite sparingly for a change, and there are bits of panel lining in black as well as odd details in metallic orange, silver and gunmetal. The side panels look as though they might be missing a few paint applications, but they're not bad as they are, with just the molded detail.

RC comes with several dual-purpose accessories, some of which are just extra bulk for the bike mode, but a couple form weapons for the bike, which attach on either side. One is a single-barrelled blaster, while the other appears to be a smaller, double-barrelled gun of some kind. Both can rotate in their sockets, and the two barrels of the smaller weapons are independently mobile, swinging out and up/down at an angle. Considering how bitty the extras are, it's a mark in PE's favour that every single piece has a place in vehicle mode as well as robot mode.

Like all good motorcycle robots, RC comes with a kickstand - as part of one of the removable shell pieces - and, like many motorcycle robots, it's a bit on the short side. It's molded in such a way that it does, eventually, offer good support, and I suppose she stands at a fairly realistic angle, but it does feel as though she's likely to fall over at the slightest provocation.

There's one fairly significant problem with this vehicle mode: the wheels don't turn very readily... and on a wheeled vehicle, that's a bit of a failure in my books. The wheels are mounted in an unusual way, but it feels like a quality control issue on mine rather than a genuine problem with the mold. Going by some videos I've seen of this model, it certainly doesn't seem to be a common issue.

Robot Mode:
What's most amusing about robot mode is that its basic form looks kind of like the animated form of a TransFormer, in that it's quite simplistic and, despite some obvious vehicle parts - like the wheels occupying the shins - she just doesn't look as though she could transform into anything - RC without all her partsforming extras just looks like a detailed femme-bot action figure. What's really cool about it is that she looks feminine without resorting to all the usual stylistic clich­és like robo-boobs... Though she does have probably the most ridiculously high heels ever seen on a femme-bot.

The colourscheme offers no surprises in robot mode, but the distribution of colour is good, and she doesn't really need anything more. She never gets too samey in this mode, with the swathes of pink rather more broken up by bands of white and more of the dark gunmetal colour..

With the extra parts, she has something akin to Arcee's characteristic/traditional backpack, as well as a pair of handguns, a pair of energy swords... and a huge great sniper rifle... This one one very tooled-up Arcee clone... Her hands, being slightly rubbery, should theoretically offer decent grip for all the weapons, though I've found them a little loose in some cases. On the upside, as well as wrist swivel, there's a pinned tilt joint in the hand, so she can direct her weapons just about any way you like, and actually hold the rifle two-handed. The handguns are small, solid bits of plastic that have just enough detail to look like guns, though the swords are rather more elaborate, with hinged translucent pink blades, and two shades of metallic paint on the hilts.

The bike's side panels fold up and deploy white fins before attaching to RC's back via her handlebars. Since these are poseable, and the connection socket pivots in its setting, there's a small amount of leeway in the way these pieces can be positioned. The 'seat' and rear section of the bike plug into a socket on her back to provide sheaths for her two swords and holsters for her handguns. Despite the extra load on her back, none of the extras hinder RC in any significant way - neither in terms of freedom of movement nor balance - clearly a lot of thought has gone into this model.

The head sculpt is a little bland - the 'helmet' has such defined angles that the face looks comparatively underdeveloped and lacks depth of detail, and the coating of pink paint doesn't quite reach the edges of her face. Her eyes are painted flat cyan and, on mine, there's a little bit of mold flash left just over the right eye, which I find slightly distracting. The collapsible 'earmuffs' are connected to a piece which seems to imply that the protrusions from the rear can be rotated up... but I think it's more that the space around the grey central peg is what permits her head to tilt up and down - it certainly isn't a ball joint in there.

One accessory that isn't pictured is the tiny translucent yellow visor that is provided with this model. I gather it just kind of sits on her face with only friction and luck keeping it there, so I'm not inclined to risk losing it and have left it in the box.

There's probably a politer way to say it, but RC is an absolute bitch to transform: the legs are quite the most frustrating things I've encountered in a while, and the instructions are a little difficult to follow on some points. They insist that the feet should fold a certain way into the lower leg - in fact, the kneecaps' freedom to rotate seems to depend on it - and there's a bump that's supposed to provide the 'click' that lets you know they're in position... but I've been unable to make it clear the edge of the calf plates. The kneecap does eventually rotate into position (and is designed to pop off if the joint isn't properly released), but it's very fiddly. Getting the head into position for vehicle mode is also a bit fussy, and the compression of her helmet seems a touch over the top for a model this size. Add to that all the partsforming, and the slightly dubious clearance in some parts (at least one of mine's swords is now slightly bent because of the way it stores in vehicle mode, and having the rifle barrel in its intended vehicle mode position doesn't help) and you have a transformation that is intricate, but absolutely not fun, even with practice.

As you'll have seen from the photos, the Motobot mold is exceptionally poseable and very emotive. The inclusion of some die-cast metal on the outsides of her calves lends the legs a touch more weight and lowers the centre of gravity such that she can adopt some very extreme poses and remain virtually rock solid. With a waist rotation and an 'ab crunch' joint, she can get into positions that Hasbro's output can only dream of, and is every bit as mobile as the CGI images suggest. The (exceedingly high) heels look as though they might be a handicap and, while they won't always touch the ground the way you might like, RC tends to be pretty stable. It may not be as good as Mastermind Creations' Azalea, but this came out around two years earlier. That said, RC can actually reach round to her back to grab her swords, if not her guns, and that's something Azalea cannot do.

On the downside, I am a little dubious about the quality control. Ignore, for a moment, the issue of the mobility of the wheels in vehicle mode. The first time I tried to rotate her hands at the wrist, one of the forearms looked like it popped open. It hasn't completely separated, and doesn't seem likely to just fall apart, but I was worried I'd have to break out the superglue within moments of getting her out of the box. The bicep swivel joint may or may not be a simple peg-in-socket affair... that's certainly what it seems to be, but I'm afraid to pull it in case something breaks, or I'm somehow unable to get it back on - it really does feel that delicate.

In fact, had I researched the Motobots earlier (I only got round to it just before buying my second - Aranea), I may have decided against buying any, such is the extent of the issues that have been reported on forums. On the other hand, this is a very well-designed figure, even if there are issues with either the materials or the QC. It looks great, it hasn't broken on me yet - unlike some official Hasbro products - and it shows great promise. Perfect Effect's follow-up was very different - a small interpretation of IDW's Fortress Maximus that turns into a tank-like thing and an alternative head for the G1 toy, and the last teaser from PE seemed to be a homage to G1 Wheelie... almost as if they're scaling back on their ambitions...

Personally, I quite like this figure and feel fortunate to have it on my shelves - it's a biker femme-bot, after all... your mileage may vary, so if you think you might want one, I'd strongly recommend reading about it in the forums before making a decision on shelling out the secondary market prices.

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