Thursday, 16 October 2014

Transformers MP-20 Masterpiece Wheeljack Review

transformers wheeljack

I will start this by saying that I cannot believe that this figure actually exists. Wheeljack was always one of my favourite Auotbots, and his car mode was one of the ones I liked the most - and I am not a big car person.

But Wheeljack just looked cool.

Takara may have soft rebooted their Masterpiece line, and knocked out the Lamborghini duo of Sideswipe and Red Alert, and then the Datsun trio featuring Prowl, Bluestreak and Smokescreen - but a licensed Lancia Stratos? Without an easy repaint? Nah, it would never happen.

Only, it did.

So to read the review, and find out just how glorious Wheeljack is - hit the button below

Alt Mode

Driving out of the box, where he comes packaged in car mode, and straight into your hands, Wheeljacks alt mode is a Lancia Stratos Turbo, specifically the Group 5 Racing version.
I would like to sound clever, but I got that from the knowledge wizards over at the TFwiki, cheers guys.

Lacking any semblance of knowledge on cars, I could not tell you anything about the Lancia Stratos, other than that is the Earth form bestowed upon our favourite Autobot scientist (sorry Perceptor fans, but he does not have flashing ears), and it is a gorgeous looking car.

The round windscreen, looks more like a cockpit, and that may be a carry over in my mind from Wheeljacks original toy which had a flip open cockpit with a seat for a Diaclone driver.

Looking at picture on Google, this appears to be a very faithful interpretation of the Lancia, as if you Google "Lancia Stratos" the real world version comes up in abundance, so it must be iconic in Motorsport? At school I was into comic books, girls and football - I really should have made room for cars. Perhaps I would have learnt to drive if I had...

Ahem, back on track the deco has been cleanly applied over the car body, and blends together across the front, middle and back expertly.
Sometimes in cases like this, because of the paint going over separate pieces which then come together, it can be slightly mismatched leading to an odd look when all the parts are lined up.

Takara have kept a close eye, and steady hand on Wheeljack to keep the appearance of it being a model car.

One interesting thing is noticeable compared to the other Masterpiece cars, and it is that the most of the car is exposed white plastic, instead of white paint over the top of the plastic. All of the over Masterpiece cars so far have been covered in paint, which makes Wheeljack the anomaly.

One big positive is that it reduces paint chipping, which was the bane of Binaltech/Alternators and has been a problem with Sideswipe. These figures are not cheap, or easy to replace in future years, so anything that reduces damage is welcome.

On the negative side, it is white plastic, and white plastic is notorious for suffering from yellowing. My Generation One Jetfire for example, is a sickly shade of yellow now, except for the painted parts on his leg which are still a very nice white.

Having gone through that experience with Jetfire, it is certainly enough to make me consider picking up a second version of another excellent toy, in Wheeljack. He can just live in a box, he can live in a cardboard box....(I could not resist).
So make sure your Wheeljack is kept in plenty of shade - or maybe that could be a future accessory from a 3rd party? Masterpiece parasol for MP Wheeljack?

wheeljack back of car
 I have not seen many complaints regarding quality control with Wheeljack, and mine is for the most part flawless. The paint is applied in a nice, clean fashion, and the all parts lock together tightly, and snugly leaving no gaps.

The only slight flaw is a scuff mark on the right hand side above the wheel well. You cannot see it in the pictures, as Wheeljacks white colouration rejected many of my attempts to photograph the toy, but it is a small annoyance.
If it had been a Hasbro deluxe, where QC is a fun packed lottery, I would have been annoyed so on a high end collector figure, of a character I adore - it is amplified a little. Only a little, as it is easy to overlook being quite tough to spot. The OCD in me is trying to get out.

The paint job is based on the real world car, rather than the original toy or animation model. Whilst it looks really nice, fantastic even - I think I would have preferred a more toy accurate deco.

I get the feeling Takara were caught in two minds over the livery, because whilst the stripes are entirely accurate, and the Alitalia sponsor logos are in place - many of the other details are missing. Many of which were also included on the original toy.

Smokescreen had made up sponsors applied to his car mode, but Takara seem to have backed away from that here (which I am very happy about).

The toy and cartoon design, had far more white on the roof, and the back of the car, which I think would have looked a little better. Even though the figure is mostly white, the Red and Green are very strong, when applied as much as they are here.

Maybe if Hasbro release this figure at extortionate prices over here (some where Hasbro UK are laughing, mockingly) maybe they with go for a more toy inspired deco? Unless it was part of the deal to get the Lancia license in the first place?
If not, there is always Reprolabels, though I suspect they will going crazy with accurate sponsorship logos to cover Wheeljack in.

Thematically, all of the MP cars so far have had weapons that attach to their roofs, and in this case it is where Wheeljacks shoulder launcher pegs in.

Unlike the others, there is no flip out or spring loaded panel, it merely pegs into a hole. What is really strange here, is that underneath the whole is a piece to fill it, which only really works in robot mode. Right now, a Metal Gear Solid style question mark is floating above my head.

There have been complaints from collectors that the weapons don't integrate into the cars, like Binaltech/Alternators or other modern figures. This is a fair criticism, as they don't in general, however, the Masterpiece line is based on Generation One toys and cartoon characters where kids were experts in piling accessories up off to the side somewhere, or they just magically disappeared into nothingness. In the cartoon that was just to get the out of the way, and with the figures that was them disappearing into the void of the lost toys.

I don't mind having extra bits, as long as the toys are good. The rocket launcher on top of the car makes me think he is doing a job for Google Earth.

Fortunately, Wheeljack is a fantastic toy with a brilliant car mode (his pistol even stores under the car as an exhaust) that makes the 5 year old inside me cheer in delight. Of all the Masterpiece cars so far, I believe this alt mode will hit the most nostalgia buttons for people. I still cannot believe it actually exists.

Robot Mode

Transforming Wheeljack is a joy rather than a pain. From the moment you pull the back down, it feels intuitive and fun and is the best of all the Masterpiece cars so my humble opinion.

First you snap the back apart, then pull the roof up. Slide the legs out, fold the feet out and up, flip the doors down and then rotate them around and behind the leg before lining up the panels to form his feet.

Open his back up, unfold the arms, pull the hands out and rotate the spoiler pieces to the underside of the arms, carefully (seriously) bend the wings upwards, and then rotate the shoulders into place, open the chest up up and flip the head out.

Those are broadly the steps but there are some quirks. For starters the wings are a bit scary, as the hinge they are on is terrifyingly tight. It feels like it may break, so make sure you support it, or leave them straight and move the other parts around it. There is also a long black piece that forms almost a spine in car mode, that you have to point upwards and just push in to be hidden inside Wheeljacks body.
It seems lacks the the smoothness you would expect from a Masterpiece toy, where bits like that usually fold in neatly. This does not, and it feels like you have transformed it wrong somehow (I haven't, it is like that in the instructions!). Be careful though, as the wing mirrors you had to attach, are very easily breakable whilst you decipher him.

transformers wheeljack
Your reward for transforming him is spell binding, yes I will go that far over the top - because Wheeljack is spectacular.

Clearly taking on the aesthetic of the cartoons animation model, the robot mode has excellent proportions and looks almost nothing like that original toy with its peculiar hanging fists (I still love it).

It is not a perfectly accurate cartoon Wheeljack, but it is staggeringly close (I must be running out of epithets soon).
The paint job is the most immediately obvious difference, with the chest being more real world car based than the cartoon or toy ever was (as we discussed earlier). The chest still looks great, but his toy and cartoon designs had more white, and were iconic to people like me. The paint job they went with does not diminish him in any way, but the chest looks a bit busy.

There are lots of little details that really make him look like the perfect Wheeljack. There are the feet scoops, which almost every update or homage has copied, the large cockpit chest,  the clear chest wings, but most importantly the head is spot on.

wheeljack g1 head
Takara made a great choice going with cartoon accurate heads, and Wheeljacks is my favourite so far. Comparing it to an image from the cartoon and it is perfect, with every single detail lifted and painstakingly recreated.

Metal beard chins have been ignored (YES!YES!YES!) and what we have is a true Generation face. Fans of the original toy head may be disappointed though, as the obvious inspiration here is the cartoon.

A cool little Easter egg is hidden away behind that mask, which becomes visible by removing a screw, and then the faceplate, and that is Wheeljack has a moustache!

Takara has a history of hiding faces behind faceplates (MP 01 quite famously), and Wheeljack gets the same treatment. The moustache is I guess an homage to Transformers Animated? That is the only place I can think of where Wheeljack has facial hair - but it totally fits that accent he had in the cartoon.

As he is a Generation One character, who is so heavily based off of the 80's cartoon, whilst his body is detailed it is only subtle. So the arms are mostly white blocks, but have a tiny little triangle molded in. I appreciate some fans will not like this, as they want lots of detailing, and a more modern look, but these work brilliantly for me as I am a total mark for G1, and that is where most of my interest lays.

masterpiece wheeljack back
The robot mode is very clean and does not suffer too badly from kibble. The car spoiler does stick out hanging off the underside of his forearms, but that does homage his original toy so it gets a pass.

Hand guards formed from the rear car lights, I am less willing to let go and it seems a tad messy. Would it really have been too hard to find an alternative solution for them? Maybe it would, as usually this is exactly the sort of kibble Takara has excelled in hiding with the Masterpiece figures.

If you spin him around and take a peek at his back, there are no tricks here. The back is formed from the rear of the car and being comprised of just a single piece makes it look incredibly clean.
This section on the toy and animation model is traditionally just white though, so the racing livery is a little jarring to look at.
Something did really surprise me here, and that is the peg hole for the shoulder launcher, can actually be filled in robot mode by a tiny hinged piece that moves up to fill the gap. Interesting, but I cannot get it to do the same thing in car mode. BAH!

A nice degree of detail has been worked into the figure, and the subtlety is very much appreciated. As a scientist character, it would have been easy for Takara to give him lots of tech detailing but they resisted and stick closely to a "perfect" version of G1 Wheeljack. It is a great look, and is what keeps me sticking my hand in my pocket to give them my money.

The one area Wheeljack does look slightly off is his lower legs which look very wide. It would have been nice if the sides could have flipped round and the door stored inside the leg. Due to the sliding mechanism, the lower leg is hollow inside,so it could have been done they had wished.

Wheeljack is a toy that your hands will want to pick up and play with, so it is quite handy that he is incredibly poseable.

His arms can swing out fully sideways, forward and back with bicep and wrist swivels. All of the other Autobot cars have had double hinged elbows, so it is strange that Wheeljack does not. When you think about that, the lack of paint and the empty peg slot on the car roof - it starts to feel a tiny bit like cost cutting,

I hope that is not a trend going forward.

Wheeljacks legs are very poseable, with the feet having so many hinges that you can get fantastic poses from them. They are massive, so that aids in giving him good balance. Hip articulation is good, but sideways movement is restricted and can only go so far. Unless you are planning to have him doing the splits, it will not make much of a difference to you, but it may prevent certain poses if you want an extreme action pose. He is no Van Damme, sadly.

wheeljack g1 gun
Both of Wheeljacks accessories exist to complement his awesome robot mode. You have the large shoulder rifle which pegs into his shoulder in a similar fashion to Sideswipe and Red Alert. There is even a corresponding peg hole on the other side which I am sure 3rd parties will be eager to take advantage of to give Wheeljack is toy style rocket launchers.

The launcher he comes with is close to the cartoon without being exact, and the missile can be removed if you wish. Surprisingly it is not spring loaded, which is what we are conditioned to expect from any kind of missile launcher or projectile based weaponry in Transformers. Seriously-where's the spring? Thinking about it, one is not needed, and you lose nothing from not having it as these figures are not for kids so don't need play pattern gimmicks like that. The missile just seems a little long to me?

The small pistol that formed an exhaust in car mode, is better served in his hand as a deadly weapon. Most Transformers have rifles, or signature hand weapons, but Wheeljack is one of the very few that doesn't. In the cartoon I don't recall him being depicted with a gun (shockblast cannon excluded!), instead he usually had tools or gadgets.
So maybe this is not a gun, maybe it is a tool for repairing Autobots, or for making his dangerous inventions.

Could be? Nah, it is probably a gun right?

Just a quick mention, but mine holds the pistol really tightly, to the point it is difficult to remove. I was convinced his thumb was going to snap, but in the end it came out willingly.

The Amazon release of this figure comes with a bonus Hypno chip device, which Wheeljack used in the cartoon to break the mind control on the human characters. I cannot remember which episode exactly, but I can remember Sparkplug being very mean to Spike in it. If we had a Sparkplug to go with Spike, then we could recreate that scene. Sadly as I have neither a Sparkplug or Hypno chip device - I am bang out of luck.

Masterpiece autobots
It's Halloween Prime!
It is very difficult for me to convey just how happy I am with this figure. I loved the toy as a kid, but always wanted one that looked more like the cartoon, and now I finally have that in 3 dimensional plastic form. The car mode is incredible, and the robot mode just as good.

If you are or were a G1 fan in any way at all, then it is likely that you Wheeljack will be right up your street. He is the kind of toy you pick up and then your mind explodes and you are suddenly £30 worse off without realising.

There are a couple of small issues, and a subtle feeling of cost cutting but nothing that spoils the toy. It would be a disaster if Takara did cut corners with the line, as what they are doing currently is so good, and so much fun, and every release feels like the gods are bestowing great gifts upon us mere humans.

Please get Hound, Mirage, Jazz, Cliffjumper and co out of the way before cost cutting. You can do that with Masterpiece Beast Wars or whatever, because I am selfish and have no interest in those figures.

Each of the Masterpieces so far has been fantastic, and up until now Sideswipe and MP 10 Optimus Prime have remained steadfast as my favourites, but Wheeljack is such a glorious figure - Sideswipe has been usurped...but not MP 10, not just yet- that might be a job for Ultra Magnus or Star Saber.
You should own. I cannot imagine why anyone would not own it - so buy it.

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  1. I cannot believe you don't like cars...............

    Can't wait till I get mine!


    1. I don't dislike cars, I just...errmm...umm.. I dunno - I can't drive.

      I love toy cars;)