Sunday, 13 March 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2014 (Timelines) Barricade & Frenzy

The problem with TF Prime not having the world's most extensive and diverse cast of characters is that it limited Hasbro's options for repaints... and what limits Hasbro's options tends to cause similar problems for the TransFormers Collectors' Club. Nevertheless, they do have a habit of creating pretty adequate adaptations of characters and designs that Hasbro neglect to exploit.

The second year of the Club's Subscription Service didn't offer much of interest to me, but I ended up buying three figures in one of their clear-out sales. Barricade was one of them, largely because it was loosely based on the character artwork from the cancelled MMORPG TransFormers Universe and I was pretty sure that there would never be a proper toy made to that design. As a combination of the TF Prime aesthetic and the movie franchise's 'bad cop' character under the Club's Timelines banner, it's an odd concept, but that's basically the Club's speciality.

Vehicle Mode:
As vehicle modes for police cars go, this one strikes me as about the least appropriate that TransFormers Prime had to offer. Bumblebee or Knock Out, maybe... Vehicon certainly... but Smokescreen? If the overall design of the car didn't preclude it from being turned into a Police vehicle, surely the massive, jutting spoiler should have? Then again, Hasbro had already used this mold for Beast Hunters Prowl, so it wasn't such a giant leap to turn it into Barricade.

And they've made a reasonable attempt at it simply by following the pattern of movie Barricade, borrowing his blue and white shield insignia and the "To punish and enslave" script. Other than these few decorations, it's a remarkably plain and simple repaint - molded almost entirely in black plastic, the doors are painted white with 'POLICE' stamped on in silver and, while the headlights are unpainted behind the transparent, colourless plastic shells, his four smaller front lights are picked out in red. The hubcaps are all painted a nice silver, and the lightbar is the traditional red and white. I'm not quite sure why the central section is red, particularly since it also functions as the mounting point for Barricade's gun, but it's not too distracting... it just bugs me a little that the red section is longer than the blue, when the central part should have been silver or even black, as it is on Prowl...

The only other bits of decoration are the word 'POLICE' across the spoiler, the number 643 (also used on the movie character) on the roof and, curiously, silver paint on the ridged section behind the rear windscreen, while the windscreen itself is unpainted. Nothing is painted on the rear of the vehicle, which is a huge disappointment, particularly on a premium exclusive... There's really nothing about the appearance of this figure that doesn't look like something that might appear on the shelves of a normal toy shop.

Like Beast Hunters Prowl, this has a cut down version of Smokescreen's accessories - the vehicle armour and the 'net' for the missile have been removed, leaving what effectively becomes a harpoon gun. It doesn't really suit the 'Police' theme, nor does it really seem to suit Barricade.

Robot Mode:
Despite many differences between the Smokescreen/Prowl mold and the existing artwork for TransFormers Universe Barricade, it makes a suprisingly effective robot mode for the character. The addition of purple paint and plastic breaks up what could easily have become a sea of black, without detracting from the character, and there's a decent amount of silver paint highlighting some of the details. One rather amusing feature of the paint job is that, while the small lights on the front of his vehicle mode were all painted red, their equivalents in robot mode are red on his right side and blue on his left. Similarly, while the bonnet of his vehicle mode is plain, unmarked black, robot mode's faux chest has a Decepticon insignia stamped right in the middle, and the fake headlights are are painted silver... making me wonder if some more paint applications on vehicle mode were originally intended.

The distribution of paint - and the plastic colour, for that matter - doesn't precisely match the TF Universe character art, but it very much suits the toy mold. While vehicle mode looked a bit boring and by-the-numbers, the robot looks much more lively and appropriately decorated.

His weapon looks a bit daft with such a long missile and without the rubbery net piece - which would even have been appropriate on Barricade, as a tool for catching his prey - and I rather wish Hasbro had simply created a whole new weapon for the Prowl version of this mold. Frenzy doesn't exactly make a brilliant weapon either - while he's smaller than a Mechtech weapon, for example, he's still large, awkwardly built and rather unwieldy in Barricade's hands.

The funny thing about the head sculpt is that it's probably better suited to Barricade than it was to Prowl. The face is bland and virtually expressionless, so it seems cold, while the angles of the visor make it seem a little on the angry side. Weirdly, its colourscheme isn't significantly different from Prowl's - the red side crests have become purple, as has the silver central crest, and the orange visor has become red, while both have silver faces. Simple as it is, it's quite an effective sculpt, and fits well within the TF Prime aesthetic.

As has been fairly typical with the Club's output, Barricade's bio is fairly nondescript, but makes him sound a little bit like the kind of American police officer that makes the news all too often, having shot some unarmed person... the only difference being, it sounds unlikely that Barricade would claim 'self defence'. The latter half of his bio name-drops some of his former partners, including the eHobby Cobalt Sentry pair, Howlback and Garboil. I like these sorts of references, as they add to the depth of the Timelines continuity, but they happen quite rarely. Between the two of them Barricade and Frenzy are Decepticon justice-bringers who are ignorant of the facts of the case they're investigating and, apparently ignorant even of the law they claim to be upholding... It's a real shame he never turned up in any of the Timelines stories, because it would have been interesting to see that dynamic at work.

Barricade's Arms Micron partner is Frenzy, a recolouring of Sou, the Micron originally packaged with Takara Tomy's AM Swerve, though his circular saw alternate mode doesn't really suit the vehicle mode: for one thing, its mounting points are on the lightbar and either side of the spoiler - not ideal positions for a mêlée weapon - for another, regardless of movie Barricade's spiky wheel weapon, I don't think it's suited to a police car. It works well enough in the robot's hands, but I do feel that a different Arms Micron, such as B.2, would have made a more appropriate partner

Weapon Mode:
So... Yeah... Barricade's Arms Micron partner is also his Arts & Crafts parter. Frenzy can be held like a gun via the main peg, or plugged in using one of the four other pegs - one on each arm, one on each leg, all ending up in very close proximity to each other thanks to a very simple transformation. The blade can be oriented horizontally or vertically and spins freely.

One odd feature of Frenzy is that the forearms are molded with what looks like tank tread details on them... but there's no way to effectively position the arms so he can make use of them in some kind of vehicle mode. Another odd feature is that, while he has the clear plastic section (stamped with a Decepticon insignia), he doesn't have any of the usual Arms Micron stickers... so he's very plain and very grey.

Robot Mode:
From a not-entirely-successful circular saw thing we get a clumsy, chunky robot with a circular saw hanging off his back. The lack of paintwork or stickers really ruins his robot mode as the dull grey plastic features quite a bit of molded detail which is crying out for a bit of silver paint or a dash of colour here and there.

Like most Arms Microns, Frenzy doesn't do much... His arms move, but his thighs are joined at the hip and his lower legs only rotate at the knee... He also has an enormously long peg sticking out of the back of his head, so the overall impression is that he'd constantly fall over backwards were it not for the circular saw propping him up.

While Barricade's transformation is functionally identical to Smokescreen and Prowl, I've found significant differences in the feel of them. Smokescreen is a floppy mess to transform, and Barricade's shoulder/front wheel section is even worse, exhibiting a tendency to separate at the transformation ball joint, as well as a distinct reluctance to stay in the right position when attempting to transform him back to vehicle mode. The shin plates can also be a little finicky, but the absolute worst aspect of transformation is, as with both the other versions of this mold I own, the doors - mounted on a hinged piece that only ever places them in the way of some other step in the process.

Since I nevertheless like the mold and am amused by its use as both Prowl (in the toyshops) and Barricade (as a Club exclusive), this was almost a must-buy for me... though, not being interested in the majority of TFCC SS2.0, I was prepared to miss out on it rather than pay over the odds on the secondary market. Considering this mold isn't widely liked - being overambitious in its design and carrying far too much car shell on its arms - I can see a premium version that isn't especially premium in look being less popular that some of the Club's other output, but it's another one of their oddities that I'm glad to have.

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