Tuesday 21 October 2014

X-Transbots Survivalist Ollie Review (Masterpiece Wheelie)

A beautiful homage to Generation One Wheelie, X-Transbots Ollie has been designed to fill that tiny Wheelie shaped space on collectors Masterpiece shelf.

Back in 1986, Hasbro released Transformers the Movie, introducing many new characters, whilst horrifically killing off many beloved ones in a moment they would later come to regard as a bit of a misstep. Surprisingly kids did not take too well to seeing characters they were fond of brutally murdered and then have fire coming out of their mouths (RIP Prowl).

Wheelie has never truly had a decent toy with his Generation One figure being terrible, homages coming with a small legends figure that turned into an Earth car, and a confusing (but awesome) repaint of the RTS Jazz mold.

X-Transbots are a 3rd party company that have previously bought us the knock off of Jizai Toys Powerglide and more recently a quite cool looking Huffer.

Now with X-Transbots Wheelie, they have stepped up their game and bought us a Masterpiece scale version of the character that has a near uncanny resemblance to the character model - which is no small feat.

To read the X-Transbots Masterpiece Wheelie review hit the button below

Alt Mode

masterpiece wheelie car
Ollie (as I should probably call him) transforms from Robot to what is best described as a futuristic space car,

Wheelie was one of the futuristic Autobots introduced in the movie, and so had no real world styled alt mode, and did not originate in Takaras Diaclone toy line.

His car mode did not show up much in the cartoon, but I do remember at one point he does transform into it in the movie when you first see him.

As a kid, I was not a huge fan of Wheelies character, feeling betrayed in the cinema as a 3 year old (I was a fan rage master before it was even a thing) and not instantly taking to the new character.s Of course I accepted the new toys from my Grandmother who used to buy me one a week, but it was with a distinct sense of begrudging. The characters did grow me after seeing the movie about 6 times at the cinema, and watching season 3 on cable...but I never particularly liked Wheelie.

masterpiece wheelie car mode
With such a stylised alt mode as Wheelie had, X-Transbots had their work cut out trying to replicate that into a transforming series of plastic pieces - their designers must have been listening to the Rocky theme.

The alt mode they came up with is not as exact a reproduction of the original Wheelies animation model as the robot mode, but at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking it had rolled out of the cartoon and was invading your space in all its tiny glory.

First thing you will notice that is different - the cockpit window is a light orange instead of being clear and resembles a finger nail more than it does the windscreen of a car. You can see why they have done this, as for robot mode it is his chest and it is more cartoon accurate, but it does mean it ends up compromising the car mode. A peek underneath reveals that the piece is removable, so X-Transbots could have gotten round this by providing a separate painted piece. If they had made it clear, it would have looked strange as housed behind it is Ollie's upside down head (perhaps a homage to the original, anatomically challenged toy).

ollie car gun
There is one more difference, which personally my nerd OCD finds a bit tougher to swallow and that is the large chunk of grey on the bonnet.

It is hardly terrible, but it is neither accurate to the animation model or the original toy, and draws your attention owing to the windscreen blending in.

Forming from the lower legs of the robot mode, if they had left the grey off to make the car mode more accurate then his robot mode legs would have to be all orange which would make him look like an Orange lollipop. I can happily live with it, and Ollie is most likely to be displayed in robot mode on the shelves of collectors around the globe.

ollie x-transbots
As much as there are differences from the source material, there are far many more nods to it. The overall shape of Wheelies curvy space car is lovingly recreated, as are the sides that look a little like Orange chocolate fingers (the thought makes me hungry).

The back of the car is rounded and conveniently has storage for all Ollie's nick-nacks. His tiny gun can store on the top, by pegging into a hole on the back and it looks like it should be there.

The iconic slingshot that Ollie comes with, is stored in one of my favourite examples of weapon storage on a modern Transforming toy. A flap pulls up, and the slingshot tabs into two holes, and then folds back under the car. Once clipped in place, the tops of the handles are visible, but now resemble rear lights instead.

Quality control has overshadowed this toy, and the car mode fares the best but still has its problems. The thin plastic is not really that noticeable, but it is a very light toy. Sure it is tiny, but picking it up in your hand, it feels lighter than a legends class figure. It is solid, and the colours are really nice, but the paint does seem prone to flaking (you can see a tiny example of this on the windscreen) whilst the grill does not stay in place that well. They fold up and are held in place mostly by gravity, so maybe tightening the tiny screw will help? Also, the Wheels don't really roll, and that just seems sloppy.

I really like this alt mode, and it is easy to declare it the best looking Wheelie car mode we have ever had. True, that is not a glowing endorsement, but it is very faithful and its tiny size makes it really fun.

Robot Mode

xtransbots wheelie
Many things have been said about Ollie's transformation, and before having the figure in hand, it is very easy to dismiss them - a trap I fell into like Scooby Doo and his pals.

The transformation is an ordeal, that is probably the most apt manner in which I can describe it.

There are so many issues here, that is hard to cover the ingenuity, and cleverness of the actual process, instead it always comes back to the problems. I cannot emphasise enough, if you are thinking of buying this figure be extremely careful when converting from car to robot and back again

You start by pulling the sides away and instantly the thin plastic feels very weak. Even at this point, you may be tempted not to go any further, but you can get through this - trust me, I am a survivor.

When you separate the backpack, you notice the hinge is very tight and again it is thin plastic that does not feel very strong.

The next few steps are the most terrorising, and where I believe most people suffer breakages - it a series of hurdles made from paper mache that you have to jump over in a hurricane with an army of ninjas throwing stars at you. Dramatic? Wait till you try it.

The car fenders have to rotate up into the backpack, and the first step to that is to fold them down to the inside. It is a very thin piece of plastic on a minuscule hinge that is really tight. You need to hold this with your thumb to support it, or it will probably break.
To rotate  them up and into position, you have to bend them around the arms, and yes I mean actually bend the plastic.
wheelie back

It is a really bad piece of engineering, and whilst I have done it successfully 3 times, it is still scary each time - but that is where you encounter the most mind boggling piece of design I have ever come across in all my years of collecting toys. The bit which rotates has a tiny hooked bit molded onto it - why?!! It is not something that you see in either mode, nor does it lock anything into place or serve any discernible purpose. What it does do is block the rotation, as it catches on the underside of the car fenders so you have to force it past and that is scary, and has lead to most of the breakages.

Fear not though, because that can be easily fixed by even an impatient guy like me. You need to unscrew the fenders, and then just shave off the little hooks. I did it with with a file, and it took a couple of minutes. Once you reattach them, they should move freely, and make the transformation 50% less painless.
Next up though, you have to slide them into the backpack, which should be a simple enough task....if the rail they were not fixed to was not an incredible skinny plastic rail. Again, you need to hold it with your thumb, just to brace it and take some of the pressure off it, as it is another of Ollie's "quirks" and famous for breaking. After transforming mine once, I could see stress marks, and I am not convinced it will stand up to many attempts. X-Transbots really should have caught this in the design process and come up with something far better.

wheelie height
Once you have got past the terror of the torso transformation, Ollie unfolds quite easily. The legs fold out, the hands flip out (one of mine has a bit too much paint on, so likes to stay tucked in) and then the car parts fold in snugly, and the backpack folds into the back cavity. The wheels attach to clips on the sides of his chest to lock it into place, but again you are bending plastic, and it all seems unnecessary.

What is a very well thought out transformation, and should go down as one of the cleverest and most brilliant sadly ends up tormenting you. It is a very small figure, so you expect the parts to be small, but when they cost as much as Ollie does you expect at the bare minimum for the transformation to work without trashing your figure and also you expect the materials to be strong.A bit more time should have been spent on ensuring all of the weak points fixed and strengthened.

Now I have done it a few times, and fixed the rotating side panels problem, it is not that bad and I can handle it - but there is no excuse for this mess of QC from X-Transbots. Sigh.

wheelie slingshot transformers
On a more positive note, once in robot mode Ollie looks every part the Masterpiece toy that he is intended to be.

Coming in about the size of a Robotmasters figure, this is a carbon copy of Wheelies animation model. Every single detail has been recreated, and yes I did spend ages looking at pictures to make sure.
Now my eyes hurt.

Wheelies was one of the new movie characters introduced in 1986 and his animation design was nothing at all like his toy.

The movie characters were all made to look more curvy and futuristic than the original Diaclone based toys, so did not translate into toy form so well. X-Transbots Ollie somehow manages the rare achievement of getting all of the proportions exactly right, with a robot mode that does not truly look like it is formed from vehicle parts. In fact, if you took away the wheels on the sides of the chest, there would be no visual clues that Ollie did transform.

wheelie face
The colours are all perfect with a mixture of Oranges and grey complimenting each other and there being a fair amount of paint on display.

The face gets a lot of grey, and there is a dash of blue for the eyes. It is a nice facesculpt, and as it is so small they can get away with less detail and the thickness of the paint covering what detail there is.
Of course it would not be Ollie without a QC issue staring back at you, and as you can see on mine, his left eye looks like he has gotten into a fight with The Cobra Carl Froch. A bit of excess plastic from the mold is visible around the eye, and it is lucky that it is so small it is not that noticeable with the naked eye.

QC is a real problem in a few places, with his highs being so loose that the spin freely. I fixed this by taking them apart and applying 3 coats of clear nail polish, but it is not something you should have to do with a figure like this.
Also, the legs cannot fully straighten, due to an excess bit of plastic under the shin which blocks the lower legs from going fully flush. Stability then goes out the window, as it makes him back heavy, so it can be tough just to get Ollie to stand up. More problems!

x-transbots ollie
The waist plate blocks any forward leg movement, so your posing options are quite limited. Ollie has a lot of articulation, but on the lower half the body it is almost always compromised.

The waist plate does not move up, but oddly they could engineer the butt flap to do that - brilliant. The car grill sections fold in behind the knee cap, which blocks almost all bend here.
It is a shame, because his legs have ball and swivel joints all over the place that should give him fantastic articulation. But some crazy engineering choices serve to prevent them being useful.

You can swivel the car grills out to get full,fantastic knee articulation, but then you have car kibble hanging off the insides of his leg.
X-Transbots are giving you a choice of functionality or aesthetics, which is a theme of the whole figure, but should not be. The waist plate in particular feels sloppy and is something that could easily have been fixed.

Ollie's upper half is a completely different story, with excellent, unhindered articulation. There is a waist swivel, ball jointed shoulders that have a great range of movement, bicep swivels, wrist swivels and even opening hands! The elbow bends, but is very tight, requiring a bit of force to bend it fully - just don't snap it.

x-transbots ollie rifle
The hands can hold his Slingshot and gun very tightly, and the pegs slide into the groove in the palm. With the gun, I found it to be too tight, and when the gun is removed from the hand it is missing paint from the handle.

Fortunately, the knuckle hinge is so tight that Ollie can grasp the gun handle just by the hand being clasped shut - which is a small relief.

It may just be the handle on the gun being slightly thicker, because each time I have removed the slingshot, the paint has stayed intact.

Both weapons are nicely sculpted, and the slingshot is his iconic weapon - I have no idea if the gun is accurate or not? I don't remember ever seeing it in the show, but it looks cool and Ollie is dynamic enough to pose brilliantly holding it.

ollie transformers generations springer
This is probably the most text I have ever written on a review, and I have spent a lot of time going over Ollie's faults, of which there are a great many - but I thought it important to cover all the issues in case you are thinking of purchasing the toy.

I have to say that despite all my issues and concerns, I am really pleased with this figure.

Sure, it feels like you are transforming a hand grenade, and there articulation is annoying, but it looks incredible and I would be surprised if Takara could ever get a robot this cartoon accurate.

The transformation is ingenious in design, but terrible in quality control but it does not stop this being a wonderful toy. I got him and Masterpiece Wheeljack, and Ollie has taken far more of time and not just in fixing him up to make passable.

That is probably the best way to sum it up - if you don't mind doing a bit of work, Ollie is a worthwhile purchase. Mine only cost me £20 so I can be a bit more forgiving, but at full retail price I would say in my opinion it is only worth it if you desperately want a Wheelie that scales with your Masterpiece figures. This Wheelie was designed to look great, but not so much to be played with.

I bet he would have said all of this in rhyme.

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