Sunday, 21 September 2014

TFC Hercules Review - Exgraver and Neckbreaker

Time for part 3 of my review of TFC's first combiner - Hercules.

Originally this was intended to be a review for Mastermind Creations Tigris, but the lighting Gods decided otherwise, and took out another of my photo box lamps. So I am down to one, and did not think it would be wise to continue with a spooky Goosebumps look to the photo's.
You want to see Tigris in all his glory, and it is well worth it. Hopefully it will be done before the end of this week, depending on the speed of Amazon.

Back to Hercules, next up are the fine two component, Exgraver and Neckbreaker, who are analogues to Generation Ones Scavenger and Bonecrusher respectively.

Exgraver was the very first figure from the set to be shown, and also released so it will be interesting to see how he stacks up.

To read my thoughts, hit the jump


Excavator mode

Exgraver, as I mentioned earlier, was the first of the Herc bots to be shown and he has dated a little. Not because his alt mode is based on an out of date Construction vehicle, it is still a near future Excavator, but the aesthetic seems left behind by modern 3rd party standards.

It is an odd thing to say, as it still fits in perfectly with the rest of the team, but all the Hercules team, I would say this is the one that most looks a bit ropey.

As a toy, it is pretty fun- it is very chunky and holds together extremely well, Everything tabs in so securely it can be a pain to get it apart during transformation, but it is better than it being gappy and falling apart.

The treads are the only parts that don't lock in, which is odd as they have the peg holes at the joint, just like Neckbreaker who's treads to peg to the side. Maybe they could not find a way to fit the pegs there in bot mode, and make them look pleasing?
Curious indeed (*edit* it turns out I got this wrong, and there are two grey pegs that flip out from Exgravers arms, for the treads to tab onto)

Luckily gravity keeps them in place, as the rest of the toy sits on them, and yes they do have wheels so you can roll the toy if you wish.

The crane does also move, and is extremely tight so you may think it is going to snap. There is a touch of irony there, as the original excavator arm was prone to cracking, so a replacement was issued with a later figure.

Hercules/Devastators fist is wonderfully concealed in this mode, at the back and you would not know it was a fist if you were not looking.

Overall, a solid mode but it mostly resembles a square block with a big shovel sticking out of it. Nothing really like the original toy or design. That is a shame.

Robot Mode

Exgravers robot mode fares much better than the rolling block of his alt mode. At first glance, the proportions are very cartoonish, but they work for him.

They play to his strengths as a fun poseable toy, and that is still very evident today (listen to me talking as if this is a vintage toy!).

The robot mode is supremely poseable, with an odd choice coming at the shoulders where they rotate forward and back- but not the full 360.

That does not matter too much and it may just be mine, as unless you are addicted to arm spinning, and if you are that is a weirdly specific thing to be addicted to, then you are very unlikely to notice.

On top of all that articulation, he is quite solid and his arms hold everything really strongly. His legs on the other hand were a bit floppy and required some clear nail polish to fix.

I know it is an easy thing to do, but when 3rd parties are charging large sums for collector focused figures, then they really should come perfect out of the box.

Exgravers problem, is also the thing that makes him most himself- his shovel.

There is no real ideal place to store it, that it looks right. This was a problem that did afflict the original Scavenger to a degree, and at least TFC decided to give you options in how you to position it. But that is part of the problem, it feels like TFC could not figure it out so decided to leave up to you to figure it out.
Again, when you are paying big money for these things every little issue should be considered and dealt with. Then again, I have no idea how they would have done it, so maybe this was the best option available.

I prefer to store it on the back, as it is out the way, but it still kind of goes there awkwardly. The combined fist stores there, which is great, but you have to juggle it a bit to get everything to look okay.

The default way, as shown on the box, is the shovel is supposed to go on his arm. That is ridiculous, though is good for combat I guess, but for every day life? Exgraver would not be able to do anything as it would always get in the way. Imagine him trying to reply to Facebook comments from the other Decepticon special teams.

The shovel does help to give Exgraver play options though, which would be great if it were a kids toy which is ultimately one of the great contradictions of the whole Hercules set. It feels like they are made as toys to be played with, and as kid friendly as possible but marketed to collectors. It is not so much that it treads a fine balance, as it is that it is being asked to walk in a straight line by a Policeman and is wobbling all over the place.

A good fun toy with pleasingly intuitive transformation (I should have made more of that) but does not hit that look you would hope for in a Masterpiece Constructicon.


Bulldozer mode

Ah here we are, the most awkward one of the entire lot - and I have saved it for last.

Okay, lets start with what it is, and that is a decent depiction of a Bulldozer, in that toy like chunky TFC style.

It does have a ridiculous giant hand of Devastator sticking out the back, which was TFC's haphazard way of integrating it into the vehicle, but at least it attaches I guess?

I am just going to launch into the negatives, and I feel harsh for saying that, as there are not many positives in this mode. All you need to do is look at that picture and you will start to see the problems.

Had a good look? Right, can you tell it looks like it is trying to explode? Ah, because that would be due to it not holding together at all well.

The biggest culprit is the robot mode waist section the treads are attached to- it does not fold down enough. A worrying amount of force gets it very close, and the treads even tab in, but it still ends up looking like the main part of the vehicle is point upwards away from the treads.

It also means that other parts don't quite appear to sit right so it does not look great.

Maybe I was overzealous in calling the tread connector its biggest problem because the front shovel is a nightmare.

The way it folds out and transforms is pretty clever, but it does not hold together solidly. Moving it about causes it you come unclipped, and you will spend ages lining the parts back together again. It is maddening trying to get them right as something always moves.

If it held together better, it would have been a much better mode, but it is frustrating and is the one you will go back to the least.

It could have, and should have been much better.

Robot Mode

Transformation is not too hard, but ends up awkward again - sigh.

First, the ball joints on the hips are crazy loose, so I had to pull the legs off and cover the ball joints in clear nail polish. Not once, but twice because they were so loose.

Once fixed and transforming commenced, two annoying features made themselves. First, that evil shovel flips over to forms the chest, and tabs in. But again it is not entirely secure so it has a habit of coming away. Sigh, again.

The second thing is the feet. The legs are remolded from Exgraver, but the addition parts of the shovel end up here too, and can form feet. But they have a knack for moving out of place slightly, which I suppose you could argue is articulation - but I would say it is annoying.

He does still have the Exgraver feet though, so you can use them if you wish, but then the shovel sides don't really go anywhere neatly.

In terms of looks, he is not a perfect doppelganger of Bonecrusher. He has his own aesthetic, that fits in with the Hercule bots and is actually pretty nice.

Whilst many call him boring, I really enjoy the understated approach to him. Sure, his shovel could have done with a bit more colour as the black dominates the torso, but it is an interesting twist on the figure to make him stand out a little from the rest. I am considering picking up the Reprolabels set for this guy, just to add a bit more colour and detail and then I reckon he would look quite cool.

You can even store Hercs hand on his back, which is executed far better than it is in alt mode.

Neckbreaker ends up with a very clean, and poseable robot mode. Probably in no small part to that evil shovel and the way it splits into so many pieces.

Silver linings and all that.

I started off moaning about Neckbreaker, the vehicle mode is just annoying in many ways. But, by the end of the review, it should hopefully be quite clear that I really like the robot mode of this toy, and feel it drags the figure as a whole right up.

You may not find the alt mode as frustrating as I do, so you may even get more out of the figure than I did.

Anyway, on to the combined mode!

Combined Form

These guys turn into massive arms for Devastator (yeah, lets call him that), and with the Rage add on kit you get G1 style arms.

You may have noticed during these reviews, that I have skipped over a few things like the weapons, the rage upgrades and alternate arm transformations. This is because I prefer my figures to be as G1 as possible, and has nothing to do with my old hard drive dying meaning I lost many of the photos I had taken, and with lights broken-I cannot take anymore at the moment...nope nothing at all to do with those.

Here have an official photo showing the original arm mode:

I actually really love that they went IDW originally and integrated the arms by using the treads instead of the traditional Devastator hand on forearms.
In fact, I probably like them more this way.

Okay, so you take the arms and add them to this:

Then add that to:

And what you get is this giant piece of awesome...


Yep, it is an enormous Devastator. He is fully poseable, though his weight and farcical loose hips limit this to a degree.

But he still looks awesome.

As you can see, the Rage kit gives him a more familiar G1 look, but at the same time makes his proportions slightly off, and with the small thighs it combines to make him just look slightly off. Only slightly though.

One of the other upgrades with the Rage kit is a new head, which has different faces and a more G1 shape.

It looks good, and is a cool face.

Just like the original Herc head, he comes with an optional visor. However it does not seem to goes all the way up to the forehead, leaving an odd looking gap. It is much less noticeable in person, but I do wonder how it slipped by TFC.

A second problem is that the visor is see through, which I presume is to work with the light piping. It is a noble idea, but in practice, it is distracting being able to see the face through it. It would have worked much better if it had been solid red, instead of clear in my opinion.

Hercs main guns transform by combining from the pieces of the Constructicons (Hercules team bots) weapons in a nice bit of parts utilisation.

However the Rage kit comes with a new more accurate gun, which I don't actually prefer. Personally I think the original gun looks nicer, but I have used one of the guns to correct an issue I have with the figure, and that is with the gigantic crane arm on his shoulder.
As it is so long, it sticks out really far backwards, making him difficult to pose on a shelf. So you can take one of the guns, peg it into his shoulder instead, and attach the crane to it so it dangles off his back. It looks nicer, but then it makes the figure massively back heavy- as if it needed any help.

So here we are at the very end, and I guess I should reach some sort of conclusion.

Okay, this set won't be to everybodies tastes and newer figures have passed it by in the looks stakes, but I still really love it. Of the two choices for 3rd party Constructicons (oh Hasbro, you know your official attempt during Energon, that was then thrown into Classics, was terrible) this one is my favourite.
It still looks really nice, and crucially it is an incredibly fun toy. So does it still stack up? I would say yes, and whilst I am expecting Warbotron or some other 3rd party to do a more accurate version, there will always be a place for Hercules on my shelf simply due to much fun it is to mess with and as a reminder of how much of an achievement it was at a time when combiners were at a very low ebb.

Thank goodness those time have gone.

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  1. I've really enjoyed your Herc series; lovely photos too although I can see them all for myself if I turn my head to the right!

    I was just as amazed to get Herc from Morg (who shipped him to my work in an MP Megatron box, which was lovely to see but blew my cover forever!) as I would have been to actually get my hands on the OG Constructicons back in 1985.

    They look so good on my MP 'con shelf I've been resisting combining them, but thanks to your pictures, I may not be able to hold off for much longer...

    Oh yes. Tony the Tiger's delinquent younger brother. We want to see him too!

  2. Cheers Neuta, really grateful to you for not only reading the articles, but saying such nice things.

    They are great figures individually, loads of fun and so unusually toy like for 3rd party Transformers. Get them combined though, and they become something great....but watch out for the loose hips!

    Have you got the Rage kit? If so, file down the connector ports and pegs on the shoulder extensions before you attach them for the first time. Otherwise you will need a pneumatic drill to remove them!

  3. Can't complain about your review, that shovel is a bugger to get right and then everything else is off so you sort that and pow, the shovel needs sorting...............argh!!!!!!

    I prefer the original arms, and like how the parts are stored on the vehicles, even if it does make them look slightly silly.

    Is an impressive piece, and I have to admit I hated it when putting together and thought what have I done but when fully combined it won me over!



    1. It does look awesome fully combined. Fully agree on the arms, the proportions just look nicer the original way it was intended.