Tuesday, 16 September 2014

TFC Hercules Review - Heavy Labor and Dr Crank

Part 2 of my review of TFC's Hercules combining team continues with Heavy Labor (Long Haul) and Dr Crank (Hook). As an Englishman, it annoys me to have to spell "Labour" with the Americanised spelling...no, just no!

Anyway, these are the next two Herc bots on my list to review.

Forming the torso of Hercules (Devastator) how do they stack up today?

Hit the button below to read the retroish review

Heavy Labor

Heavy Labor, like the original G1 Long Haul has the alt mode of a large dump truck. Of all the Hercules bots, this is one of the most successful vehicle modes.

The first thing that hits you is how chunky it is. It is like a little block of sheer awesomeness, and feels like a toy. Toys are very tactile things, and too often 3rd party figures feel fragile and like bits are desperate to move around - not so with Heavy Labor.

Everything is held together extremely solidly, feels extremely tough.

In terms of the real world aesthetic, it is not so successful. It does look like a toy version of a dump trunk, and that is more of a strength than a negative for me, but collectors who prefer real world accuracy are totally out of luck.

There is a cab on the front, but no sculpted doors or anything like that. There are some numbers painted onto the side, but I have no idea what they are for, or if they reference anything.

The wheels roll quite very well, but you do have to remember to move them down a click into the correct position. For robot, and combined modes, they move up to get out of the way which is a good thing.

The truck bed does not lift up or anything, but the guns he comes with do peg into the visible fist holes, and look very much like gas canisters or something.

Whilst not being a very accurate real life vehicle, it is immensely fun. There is a lot of play value in this mode, and just really cool. It is one of my favourites from the set, and might just take the prize.

Robot Mode

Transforming Heavy Labor is pretty cool, as there some interesting things going on here. The sides of the truck bed pull outwards to form the arms, and it is a neat transformation process.

Once transformed you get an excellent robot mode. Just like the vehicle mode, accuracy is completely discarded here, but again it really works. When I saw the photos for the first time, I instantly thought this was my least favourite of the set, as it looked completely wrong, but in hand it became one of my favourites.

Not only is Heavy Labor extremely sturdy and solid, he can knock out some ace poses. His size, and bruiser like demeanour really lend themselves to some great looking poses.

There is a lot of nice detail to be found too, from the paint on the front, the bumper which flips over to form the waist.

To say it looks nothing like Long Haul really, it still manages to look like a Constructicon, and that is crucial to the idea of the team.

You also get some great light piping which glows bright red, just like the rest of the team.

You do sadly get some back kibble, with the middle of the truck bed just dangling away there, but as it helps to cover Hercules combined mode waist, it can be a bit helpful.

Overall, I love this figure. It is very solid, well balanced, articulated and has a really good look to it. When you factor in that it feels like a toy, and is really fun then it makes it a winner.

Dr Crank

Dr Crank fills in for Hook, and on top of having a great name - he turns into a great looking crane.

I have mentioned several times, how the Hercules teams alt modes all seem like heavily stylised/fictionalised vehicles. There are real world qualities to them, but they are not particularly accurate (Exgraver will take this up a notch in the next review).

Dr Crank however tones all of that right down, and looks more real worldy. The obviously combiner ports on the side don't detract that much and the cab looks like you sort of expect.

What is interesting, is the front cab windows are painted black, which looks fine, but the smaller cab on the roof is in translucent red plastic which seem completely off.

Not only does it not match up with the cab, but the red translucent plastic is not used anywhere on the Hercules figures alt modes - so it stands out even more when you have the group in vehicle mode. The only place the red is used otherwise, is as the light piping for the eyes,and the bonus Energon/clear weapons.

Hercules head is stored on Dr Crank, but you cannot see it really as it is hidden under the crane. TFC did a great job with this, as it is hidden very well.

This mode is incredibly solid and compact- another theme with these figures, It holds together really strongly, rolling nicely and nothing even shakes.

Paint apps are applied minimally, but where they are they are done well, and the subtlety works in its favour by not drowning the mode in detail.

There is a nice warning stripe paint app on the front of the crane, which is unique to this figure which is an interesting touch.

I like that the pegs on the front that hold the combined chest mode shield double up as a safety bumper, and the front cab looks like a turtle face- am I the only one seeing that?

Here we come to this modes action feature! Yes, it has one, and it is exactly the one you would expect but they go several extra miles.

First, yes the crane arm does lift up, and it is extremely strong, snapping into place at each ratchet. Second the crane extends, to an almost insane length (trying to capture it in photo form was really tough).

But what sets this apart is the 3rd feature of the crane. Instead of just having a molded hook, like most toys who recreate this vehicle, it has a working pulley system.
It is not set up in the package, and you will need to provided your own string, but it totally works. You run the string around the grey wheels on the bottom and top of the crane arm, and attach it to the black hook. There is a crank that you can use to wind it too, well done TFC.

Whilst for most people, including myself, this is a throwaway feature, TFC have evidently put a lot of thought into it as it is incredibly well balanced. It can have a fair bit of weight hanging from it, and hold it very sturdily.

These things all add to it being one of my favourite alt modes from the set. It is not fancy in looks, but it does everything really nicely, and looks great.

Robot Mode

Transformation is not that complex, and there is a neat thing with the way the front of the cab folds to form knee pads automatically.

Once he is in robot mode, Dr Crank is a bit of a mixed bag. Just looking at him static, it is not too bad. The bot mode looks alright, there are decent paint apps, and the all round shape is very traditional.

The face sculpt is nice, and looks very much like a Constructicon, though it is not accurate to Hook as he is missing a visor.

There are wheels on the shoulder, and they can face outwards or forwards, depending on your preference. He does not really have feet which seems a bit odd, but it is a bit hidden by the top cab, and detailing on the other leg and heel spurs flip out to make him more stable.

This is where the problem lies however - the crane is clearly too big for robot mode. It touches the floor when on his back, which does balance him, but robs him of any dynamism. Really, it needed to be a little bit smaller.

Whilst you would expect Hook to have a crane arm dangling off his back, here it is just way too much, and where G1 Hook had a really slim crane arm, Dr Cranks is much bigger.

It can be detached, and attached to the port on either arm (just like Exgraver and his shovel) but it looks ridiculous (just like Exgraver and his shovel).

You can just see here that TFC gave up, and ran out of ideas with what to do with it.

Sadly, the crane severely impacts poseability. Yes, he has tons of articulation but trying to pose him is an uphill battle as everything you do is negated by the crane arm. Either it is too long and touching the surface you have him on, or the weight prevents him posing too excitingly.

It is hard to get away from the crane, though it is Hooks defining feature, and it does severely limit what you can do with the robot mode. 
It is a shame, as other than that, it is one of the cleaner bot modes and looks cool.

It is hard to criticise it too much, as his primary function is to be part of the combined mode, but TFC dropped the ball a little with this guys robot mode.

Final thoughts on Dr Crank then? I love the alt mode, and it is a great toy but the robot mode is really knocked by the crane being too big for it. 

It is still a cool figure, but it just loses something compared to the others. The chunky, toy like aesthetic is still in full swing though, and if you can get past the crane (you can just take it off) it is otherwise really good.

Heavy Labor and Dr Crank do combine to form the torso, and how it is achieved is probably the most fun transformation of the whole set. Everything locks in tightly, and you end up with a great torso.

I really like how easy it is to transform Dr Crank for this mode, where you basically just fold him in half. Then Heavy Labor has a couple of interesting reverses from his other modes which make his combined form look different to his other forms.

The only problem is the crane, which is massive and sticks out far of the back, but we will get to that when we talk about combined mode.

So what's the verdict? Do they still stand up now?

Weeeeeeeeeeeelllllll...this is tough, because both are still great toys and in Heavy Labors case he is still very good and as good as anything you would expect even now.
Dr Crank however, that crane arm is just too much in robot mode. The other modes are all fantastic, but the robot is just dragged down by that huge crane. Yes, I could just remove it and it would solve the problems, but it would not be Hook if he didn't have his...well...his hook.

Right, time to crack on with the final two, Exgraver and Neckbreaker.

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  1. Spot on dude.

    Crane was what spoiled it ever so slightly for me, even in combined mode, it just gets in the way!


    1. If you hang it off his back, it looks a bit better, but then gravity becomes his nemesis!