Thursday, 31 August 2017

REVIEW: X-Transbots MM-IX Klaatu



INTRODUCTION
It wasn’t so long ago that I sat down and wrote up my thoughts on another not-MP Cosmos homage, and so it should perhaps come as relatively little surprise that a competitor follows right around the corner; it seems to be our perpetual fate to be gifted waves of the same character one after the other, to the point where you expect that another might be just around the corner. Still, despite enjoying Toyworld’s Spaceracer for the most part, I did definitely feel that he left enough on the table for someone else to have a crack and even improve on him (you can read the full review here). Step forward X-Transbots with their attempt, Klaatu, named after a character from the classic sci-fi film, The Day the Earth Stood Still (or the somewhat less classic 2008 Keanu Reeves remake, if you really must).

Of course, X-Transbots still have their detractors in the collecting community, despite being on a general upward swing or at least for the most part. When you start talking about a new XTB product, one of the first questions that anyone will ask is invariably to do with the quality of the fit and finish, so I’ve no doubt that’s something that people will be wondering about here. Have they crafted a product that is a worthy contender to Spaceracer? Thanks to the lovely folks over at TFs-Express.com, let’s have a look!

Final note before we get on with it - this is a test shot, and so there may be some differences with the final retail product, including tolerances and the like.

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
This being a test shot, I didn’t receive all of the final packaging for Klaatu, but I did get what I believe to be a full compliment of accessories, and there’s some fun stuff in the package. In keeping with the character’s peaceful nature, there’s no gun or traditional weapons to speak of, but there is a few more creative pieces.


Firstly, he comes with a clear-plastic base & stand which can be configured to support him in both modes.


Secondly, he features two clear-plastic “cups”, both of which can be placed on the stand to simulate the effect of a UFO using a tractor beam to “beam up” an object from underneath. The one cup essentially stacks on top of the other, allowing you to place other objects inside as if they’re hovering. It’s a cool effect and works pretty well! Some of the initial images of this figure showed a mini-cow being used for demonstration, which I think a lot of collectors took as a sign of such a thing also being included as an accessory. Alas though, no Masterpiece-styled cow, something that until now I never thought I needed but suddenly I can’t believe that I’m disappointed to not receive.


With Badcube "Fry"

Also included here is a small creature made of bendy grey plastic, meant to represent one of the Morphobots from the G1 cartoon episode Quest for Survival. In the episode Cosmos is attacked by some space spores which later grow into the Morphobots and threaten to take over. In the cartoon they grow to be very large, but the recreation here is a little bit smaller. I also found that it didn't balance very well when trying to display it on the vehicle mode, as well. Still, it's a fun inclusion, and works pretty well for display purposes and play value.




In an additional homage to the same episode there’s a can of pesticide also included here, as a recreation of the item that Cosmos was on a mission to collect in the first place in order to deal with a looming Insecticon threat. In the cartoon the can is quite large, and certainly much bigger than is represented here, but this is still quite good fun. It features a hole in the rear so that it can be mounted over Klaatu’s thumb, and then if you close his fingers over the can it looks like he’s holding it. It works exceptionally well, I think, even if it’s not a direct recreation of the item from the cartoon.



But there’s more! Klaatu also features a set of alternate eyes that can be swapped out by removing a screw at the back of his head. Whilst the default eyes are painted a shiny blue, the alternate ones are clear with a light-piping piece at the back. Whilst I usually find my preference swings one way or another, I must admit to liking both sets of eyes here, although I'm maybe a bit more taken with the light-piped version overall. I can often take or leave light piping on toys, but here I find it works exceptionally well, and ably catches the light to great effect.



Oh, and he also comes with the now-relatively-standard small screwdriver that we seem to receive with X-Transbots releases. Can never have too many of them!


VEHICLE MODE
Anyone who knows G1 will remember the character of Cosmos as the loveable little green spaceship, and I think it's fair to say that X-Transbots have done a great job at recreating that form here. First thing to notice straight out of the box is that it's surprisingly sizeable too - bigger than I was expecting!




Perhaps I'm used to Toyworld's more diminutive version now, but Klaatu immediately feels impressive for being slightly larger. The other thing that struck me right away is how solid it all feels. It's very well tabbed together and all feels good in hand. Actually, I'd go so far as to say that the plastic quality and general fit and finish feels like a noticeable step up from the company's previous releases. I know we've heard talk of this before, but genuinely this strikes me as a distinct step forward.



So, things are feeling good, but how are the looks? Well, it's a handsome mode and no mistake, and looks very tidy from every angle. I especially like how neat the various nozzles & exhausts are. He's the cutest little spaceship you can imagine, really!



You'll also note that he's rather fetchingly decked out with two shades of sparkly green plastic, both used to good effect. I like the metallic flake effect quite a bit here, and it helps to make him feel a little more interesting that if this was just a dull, flat green. I've read a few comments from people saying that they think the greens used are a bit too dark, and I'd agree with that, although it's not a major problem by any means. It's also nicely broken up by a few well-placed paint applications, and that striking blue and white cockpit section. Overall, he does the job very well, I think.


He's also a bit of a dead ringer for the animation model, which is something I know a lot of collectors are excited about for this release. A straight-up comparison shows you how good a job X-Transbots have done at capturing all of the small details here, and I particularly like the white front section which can be used to place a cartoon-accurate Autobot symbol, especially as this folds away during transformation. Clever stuff.

Cosmos' animation model


So yeah, I'm pretty taken with Klaatu in this mode, I must say. He feels quality in hand, and looks really great. Even the underside is very tidy, which is good as he'll note doubt end up on display on his flight stand quite a bit of the time!



As for comparisons with other figures, he fits in very nicely with the likes of the Masterpiece cars. He was never going to be large enough to fit all of the Autobots inside his spaceship mode as happened in the cartoon (mass shifting fail!), but this still looks pretty good to my eye.

With Masterpiece Bumblebee

With Masterpiece Smokescreen

With Badcube Lorry

So, let's have a look at a direct comparison with the other not-Cosmos, shall we? I have to say that as cute as Spaceracer is in his vehicle mode, there's no doubt that Klaatu wins this round hands down, in my opinion. The body section is much more in proportion with the saucer, and so feels closer to the animation model overall. Plus the blue & white detailing feels a lot more cartoon accurate, and everything is just generally a bit tidier and more thought out. I do like Spaceracer, but looking at them side-by-side I can't help but feel that he very much looks like his robot mode bundled up here, leaving Klaatu feeling just a bit more stylish.

With Toyworld Spaceracer




So, round one to Klaatu, but let's see how he fares in his robot mode!

TRANSFORMATION
X-Transbots products have become rather notorious for their fiddly and intricate transformations. You'll often hear people say that their figures look great in both modes, but they're a pain to convert between them. Well, I have good news for you! Not only is Klaatu's transformation all pretty simple, but I'd even go so far as to call it fun! And yes, I'm being serious.


The major factor here is that nothing is overcomplicated. All of the panels contort in a way that feels very logical and, dare I say it, intuitive. I didn't have instructions for doing this, but nothing caused me any grief even on my first attempt. In fact, I think within mere minutes I had him into his robot mode without even needing to check what I was doing - it's all that easy.


I'd even go so far as to say that there're some very clever moments. I particularly liked the way the legs unfold and come together, with tabs required for the vehicle mode being moved away cleanly and with ease. I also like that there aren't any awkward moments trying to manipulate or line up small sections of panels from the vehicle mode, which I have to say was something I found to be a bit irritating on Toyworld's attempt, at times. Altogether Klaatu's transformation feels much smoother - another round to X-Transbots, in my opinion.


I will say that it's not quite all good news, and I definitely would have preferred that back panel to fold away a bit neater than it does. It actually looks like you should be able to manipulate it a bit further, but instead it just sort of sits a bit awkwardly, not quite feeling finished. The only other point I would mention here is the button that is used to pop up Klaatu's head, which is located under the white and blue cockpit panel. It's a clever idea and fun in theory, but in practice it's very difficult to operate without the use of a tool, such as the included screwdriver.


Overall though, there's no doubt that this is a fun and very repeatable transformation, making Klaatu a definite "pick up and play" type figure.


ROBOT MODE
There are many words that could be used to describe Cosmos' G1 robot mode - dumpy, loveable, bizarre, unique... all of them true. Fortunately, Klaatu ably captures all of that, and embodies the character well!



Now, a robot form like this isn't going to be for everyone, and I can already imagine quite a few people looking at it wondering why it doesn't look more heroic, or better proportioned, or what have you. Well, all of that may be valid criticism if it wasn't for the fact that this is exactly what most fans will be looking for in a Masterpiece-styled representation of this character, and there's no doubt for me that Klaatu is spot on in that regard.




A quick comparison with Cosmos' animation model will show you exactly what I mean. As with the vehicle mode, it's impressive how much of the finer detail has been captured here, and yet again X-Transbots show that one of their main strengths is producing cartoon-accurate 'bots. The only criticism I could possibly level here is that it's going to be difficult to place an accurate Autobot symbol on that chest without spoiling the appearance of the vehicle mode, but that's a nitpick.

Cosmos' animation model


Still, it's not just cartoon-accuracy that this mode has going for it. He's a surprisingly handsome chap, with all of the lovely colours and detailing carried over well from the vehicle mode. I had read some criticism of the head and face looking a bit dull on this figure, but I have to say I didn't find this to be a problem in hand. He looks fantastic.




As well as good looks, I pleased to report that the initial signs of this being a step forward in quality for the company carry through here. I was most impressed to find that Klaatu is solid, stable and feels really good in hand. He features just the right amount of diecast to make him feel slightly weighty but not overburdened, and he's loaded with pleasingly-soft ratchets in the legs. All of this contributes to him being an absolute pleasure to play about with and pose, and he's certainly more than capable of pulling off some inventive stances. I particularly like the inclusion of a couple of notches of outward ankle tilt, which gives him more range than perhaps might be expected otherwise. The arms can be a bit tricky to move into some positions on account of their natural awkwardness, but once you get the hang of it there's plenty of fun to be had here.




Of course you can also display Klaatu on his stand in this mode too, should you so wish. He looks surprisingly dynamic, in my opinion!



So yes, I've been enjoying this guy quite a bit, in case you can't tell. He's just a lot of fun! Of all of X-Transbots' figures, this is the one that genuinely feels like it's a real pleasure to just pick up and mess about with. There's nothing complicated or annoying about him, there's no worries about anything breaking or popping off, and whichever pose you put him in there's a very good chance that he'll stay in it. That's not to say he's perfect, of course. Despite all his stability I have detected a bit of give in the sidewards hip motion that means his legs will move enough to prevent him standing on one leg (although he can do a very convincing run!), and as I mentioned before I would have preferred that back panel to be a bit cleaner. But overall I have to say that there's a lot to like here, and really not a lot wrong.




So, it's that time; how does he compare to Toyworld's Spaceracer? Well, after already being my preferred attempt in terms of both vehicle mode and transformation, I have to say that I am personally handing this one to Klaatu as well. Don't get me wrong, I like Spaceracer a fair bit, and he definitely has a kind of awkward charm that makes him more loveable than I had initially expected. However, Klaatu feels much more like the character for me, and although he captures that awkwardness that you would expect from the character of Cosmos, he's much more finessed in terms of design and engineering, making him an altogether more impressive 'bot. I'm also a much bigger fan of the lighter yellow that's been used here, as I was never a fan of the darker gold on Spaceracer.

With Toyworld Spaceracer




Of course, the ultimate test for Klaatu is how well he lines up with the rest of your Masterpiece-scaled collection, and there I can't help but think that he slots in pretty seamlessly. This is one 'bot who's earned a solid place on my shelf, at least for now.

With FansToys Spindrift & Badcube Grump

With X-Transbots other Minibots: Boost, Hatch, Glider, Arkose, Stax, Ollie

With Masterpiece Inferno, Red Alert +, Optimus Prime & Tracks


With Masterpiece Bumblebee & the Badcube Bug Corps.

CONCLUSION
Two great modes and a fun & intuitive transformation in between? Well played, X-Transbots. I actually think this may well be my favourite figure from them in many ways, not least because it feels like that genuine step forward that we've all been hoping for since the likes of Apollyon and Andras. Now, if they can just maintain this level of workmanship for their future releases, then I think we can have a lot to celebrate!

What's HOT?
Lots. Great vehicle mode, pretty fab robot mode, and the transformation between the two is very clever and quite a bit of fun. Also, he feels quality in hand and doesn't appear to feature any areas of concern. Overall, a good 'bot.

What's NOT?
I'm struggling to think of anything concrete past mere nitpicks! That back panel in robot mode is probably the main offender for me. Oh, and the head-popping-up mechanism could be a lot easier to operate.


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2 comments:

  1. Amazing! Looks like an instant buy for me now. Thanks for the informative review.
    Nic

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, buddy, glad it was helpful! I know you like Cosmos...

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