Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Combiner Wars Rook

OK, time to address the elephant in the room: While I'm sure we all wanted a Deluxe class Groove for the Protectobots (Takara Tomy certainly did - they created one as a new mold for their Unite Warriors boxed set), there is no way a motorcycle can adequately scale with a police car and an ambulance, let alone a helicopter, and transform into a limb of the same size as his team-mates. Whether or not that was Hasbro's reasoning, they've changed the character line-up one way or another for all of the gestalt teams so far, so it was no real surprise to find Groove relegated to Legends class as a supplemental part of the team - as Powerglide was to the Aerialbots and Blackjack to the Stunticons.

Of course, this left a space to be filled as one of Defensor's limbs... and the solution presented by Hasbro is another whole new character invented for Combiner Wars... Rook!

Vehicle Mode:
The first word to spring to my mind was 'Bricktastic!', because Rook is some kind of armoured personnel carrier - essentially a box on wheels. If that implies the model is lacking detail, then I should point out that he barely has a single featureless surface. Most of the detailing is armour panelling, tiny windows, reinforced doors and the like but, toward the back, there are sets of tools (an axe and what could be a pneumatic claw) and what appear to be spare fuel tanks, both picked out in silver. The front end features a couple of panels which are painted as if they're headlights, but they seem rather too large - not to mention basically in the wrong place - for this sort of vehicle. A set of gunmetal, fractionally recessed panels at the front of the roof appear to be windows, but then there's a tiny raised 'cockpit' just behind them on the lefthand side of the vehicle which actually has holes representing windows. Running from the very front of the vehicle to the rear wheels is a rim of not-quite-Police-blue, which it tidy enough, but does rather make the mass of white everywhere else look a bit odd. White SWAT vehicles aren't completely unheard of, but they are certainly in the minority. to the rear of the vehicle, on the two raised chunks, are what appear to be sets of large, square lights but, as is so often the case with Hasbro, none of the back end received any paintwork. This being a tactical response vehicle, it's one of those rare occasions where unpainted hubcaps make it look more authentic, as opposed to just incomplete. The only other decoration is the 'POLICE' and 'SWAT' markings dotted around the shell.

Weapon-wise, his hand/foot gun actually works remarkably well, for once. A dual missile launcher mounting on the roof of the SWAT vehicle does make sense, and the only drawback to it is that the gestalt's thumb needs to bend down slightly into the back of the vehicle. Thankfully, this does not prevent the launcher rotating as a turret as the thumb can stay almost in place thanks to its articulation, while the weapon rotates on its peg. His only other weapon is a bizarre claw thing which can be mounted on any of the three 5mm ports on the roof, or stuck on the front for those occasions when a SWAT van needs to carry stuff down the road. It's basically not designed for use in vehicle mode, so the latter position is the best it gets.

There's really not much more to say... Rook is a box on wheels with lots of molded detail and a rather sparse paint job. His enormous wheels give him good clearance everywhere except the back, where the robot's chest - and particularly the combiner joint - drag down very low.

Robot Mode:
Well, if there's not much to be said about Rook's vehicle mode, the same cannot be said for robot mode. He's a massively broad-shouldered beefcake of a Protectobot with a very narrow waist, comparatively tiny thighs, and enormous moonboots. Clearly built for heavy work in difficult situations, Rook appears to be as well-armoured as a robot as he did as a vehicle, even without the massive shell of SWAT vehicle now hanging off his back. He does have quite a few very hollow-looking parts, though. The backs of his forearms are understandable, to an extent, and moreso the vacuous insides of the lower legs, due to his transformation... but the fact that he has open areas on his shins means that his legs look hollow from the front as well. There's no obvious reason why the trapezoid and the row of three boxes just above are holes rather than just indentations, but it tends to suggest a missing part - perhaps some translucent plastic, or just something of a different colour?

For a vehicle so white, his robot mode is surprisingly dark, with the torso almost entirely black apart from the grey combiner joint and the panels of blue either side of it. The only other robot-specific paintwork is the dark gunmetal on each kneecap but, with more blue plastic revealed in robot mode, he doesn't look as plain as First Aid or Streetwise.

The way his hands are designed - with what look like cannon muzzles protruding from the knuckles - means he can't hold weapons the traditional way, as the only 5mm port is on the front of his fists rather than in the 'grip'. That said, his 'weapon' - the claw thing - is designed to plug in via those ports so he can take full advantage of the extra reach they provide. These front-facing ports also allow Rook to wield any combiner fist as his own, and they don't look as strange as they ought to. In fact, having either one or two ginormous fists plugged in is a look that rather suits him. It makes a bit more sense for someone like Rook to have a missile launcher attached to his arm (as opposed to the gestalt) so, even though it's oversized, it basically works well enough to carry the look.

The head sculpt is very odd. Not to the extent of some movie toys, but the specifics of its design are curious. It's a very square head, like all the other Protectobots, but the top seems to have been designed to resemble an Ushanka, while the bottom almost looks like the wire visor of an American Football helmet. Dead centre on the 'hat' is a fairly large Autobot insignia, and the entire face - visor and all - is painted silver, with Rook's tiny blue eyes squinting out just below the rim of the 'hat'. What little one can see of his face reveals an expression of grim determination... or possibly he's as grumpy as Blades.

Rook has an incredibly simple transformation because only a little more than half his bulk actually does any transforming - a huge chunk of vehicle mode shell simply folds up onto his back. The legs extend by swinging out from the insides sideways, which leaves them looking very empty in robot mode, but it's no worse than some other Combiner Wars figures.

Despite a rather different and simplified transformation, Rook has all the articulation offered by the average Combiner Wars Deluxe. In fact, the way the arms are mounted, the shoulders can be swung back slightly for added effect. The head is on a ball joint, as usual, but this is another one with very restricted 'wobble', so he can't look up or down. That said, the head is mounted on a flap, so it can be tipped back on that... but it looks more like he's been beheaded than it does that he's just looking up. One rather novel feature is the inclusion of ankle tilt once the 'toe' section hinges up into place. This allows his enormous feet to offer a good, stable base in far more poses than any other CW figure thusfar. It's not a massive tilt, but it's effective enough and a very welcome addition when virtually every other CW figure has feet molded at a fixed angle that isn't always suitable for dramatic posing.

While I think Takara Tomy have done a good job with their Deluxe class Groove, I don't think it fits the rest of the toyline especially well, so part of me is glad Hasbro didn't wait to release it as one of the new Protectobots. Substituting Rook, though, was a strange move. In and of himself, he's a decent figure, and the SWAT APC alternate mode fits the Protectobots to a degree, but he comes across overall as more demolitions than rescue. He has a very 'heavy duty' vibe (probably why the Collectors' Club are using him as Impactor in their 2016 Subscription Service set), but the lack of proper hands and the somewhat odd choices of positions for the 5mm sockets all over him seem to me to be a seriously limiting factor.

On a random note, if Hasbro ever wanted to do a crossover with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Rook would make an excellent 'hero in a halfshell'...

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