Thursday, 24 December 2015

Combiner Wars Groove (Legends class)

Hasbro caught a lot of flak for this one. Not only were fans upset that Groove - officially one of the worst G1 toys, as his robot mode was basically a motorcycle stood up on its back end - had been relegated to a Legends class supplemental role but, rather than forming a weapon for Defensor, he - like Blackjack and CW Rodimus - serves no truly useful purpose pegged into Defensor's chest.

Still, it's Groove, right... and since he's been released, you might as well complete the team...


Vehicle Mode:
Well, the good news is that Groove is a police motorbike, and a pretty cool, futuristic-looking one at that. The design and proportions are, admittedly, a little strange - the handlebars are rather too far forward given the position of the seat and instrument dials, giving the impression that the rider would be leaning forward with their chin resting on the central panel, just behind the windscreen - but it looks decent enough for a TransFormers motorcycle - we all know how bad some of them can be. It also scales pretty well with Streetwise and First Aid, though less so with Hotspot and Blades, obviously.

The paint job is as simplistic as one would expect from this size of figure, leaving the distribution of colour looking a bit dodgy in places. The front and back are mostly OK - consistent, at least, though the omission of paint for the headlight seems lazy - but the central portion features an unpainted white seat, a band of silver which runs the length of the engine and into the white rear panniers, as well as blocks of grey either side of the instrument dials and right at the bottom of the bike. The windscreen is painted gold and a couple of red panels on the panniers suggest emergency lights, but they're in rather an odd position if that's what they are... There's also a black star containing the Autobot insignia on each of the panniers. Right at the back is a block of black which almost reminds me of G1 Groove's weapons, but appear to be boosters of some kind.

A couple of puzzling aspects of  Groove's design are the 5mm peg and port on either side of the rear. The peg looks like a Mini-Con peg, but the fact that there's a peg on one side and a port on the other suggests either that the two are intended to connect in some alternate form, or that there are missing weapon attachments. The gaping hole right in the middle of Groove's vehicle mode also seems to suggest a missing gun of some kind, into which his robot arms would peg to make vehicle mode a bit more stable - as it is, even with the back end pegged together properly, it tends to be wobbly.

Robot Mode:
Unlike his G1 predecessor, Combiner Wars Groove has very distinct - and separate - legs and arms. In fact, due to the design of the bike, he's incredibly lanky, and doesn't even suffer the usual malady of TransFormers toys in having miniscule thighs and enormous shins. Granted, his lower legs do look particularly odd, with the feet on rather long stalks that swing out of the panniers, but his legs are well-proportioned in and of themselves. Even the skinny thighs don't look too bad versus the lower legs. It's only in comparison to the rest of the body that they really look odd: his forearms are incredibly long - about three times the length of his upper arms - and the body is short and stocky. Having the front wheel of the bike sticking out of his back looks rather unsightly but, let's face it, it's nothing new for TransFormers.

With the variety in plastic colours and the touches of paint, Groove looks quite good. The gold windscreen references his gold-ish chest in G1, the gunmetal forearms match the grey plastic uppers quite well for the most part, and the bike seat's lack of paint is more-or-less explained by its alternate role as Groove's kneecaps. The tiny Autobot insignia stamped on his chest is the only other decoration, though.

My suspicions about potential missing weapons gain further support in robot mode, as the two leg mountings would still be perfectly accessible in robot mode, and his hands are molded to grip any weapon with a 5mm peg. Most recent standalone Legends class figures have had weapons (terrible TargetMasters, mainly) but, aside from Groove's third mode as additional armour for Defensor (making him, quite literally, cannon fodder), I can't think of a single reason why he wouldn't have at least one weapon of his own.

The head sculpt seems quite detailed but, covered with a heavy layer of black, gold and silver paint, much of his face has been 'softened' to the point where it's barely discernible. It actually reminds me more of Jazz than Groove, in that it's not as square, seems to have three prominent crests on top, and features a visor rather than separate eyes (at least according to the paintwork - the sculpt could go either way). It's not a bad head, but could have used either less paint or sharper, heavier sculpting to counterbalance the effects of the paint on such a small part.

Being a Legends class figure, Groove's transformation is necessarily scaled back, but it still manages to be fairly intricate. The biggest problem I have is fitting the rear wheel back together - while it seems to be molded symmetrically, I can never seem to line up the pegs and slots without rotating each half a few times. The windscreen appears to be molded to peg into a slot in his waist, but the tab tends to rest on the slot rather than slipping into it. Other than that, my only gripe is that his shoulders don't peg in securely either in robot mode or vehicle mode...

Given that he has ball jointed shoulders, elbows and hips as well as mid-thigh swivel and hinged knees, Groove is just as poseable as his Deluxe class team-makes except for one small but significant detail: I'm not sure if it's stuck due to excess paint, but I can't get his head to move at all. It looks as though it should swivel, at least, and the front of the bike behind it doesn't appear to be restricting it. The joint that deploys his feet is tight enough that it can also be used as an ankle, but it makes his legs look digitigrade, and tends to make him lean over unless both are bent.

I have to say that, even ignoring my tendency to strive for 'complete teams' wherever possible, I like Groove as a figure. While I may not have bought him as a standalone figure with no connection to Defensor, the fact that he can be part of the gestalt - however pointless it may seem - adds some play value to an already rather good TransFormers toy. The only improvements I can think of would be G1-referencing weapons, particularly something to plug onto those unused leg connections.

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