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Simon Hall (Shipley, West Yorkshire, UK)
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LEGO Castle 70403: Dragon Mountain
LEGO Castle 70403: Dragon Mountain
Price: 27.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Beware The Firey Terror That Lurks At Dragon Mountain!, 11 Mar 2014
Outwardly, there doesn't look to be much to this set, but its packed full of details. The main bulk of the set is the prison tower where the beautiful princess is held (oh no!) at the mercy of the evil bearded wizard (boo hiss!) and a dragon knight acting as a guard. The evil beardy wizard has used his magics to control a powerful red dragon (roar! and actually a very nice bit of kit, despite my own personal misgivings of bunging in fantastical beasties into a historical setting) whom breathes fire! And has flappy wings, an articulated neck, tail arms and legs. And an opening jaw. Beneath the prison cell and down a nicely designed spiral staircase (clever) is the guards chambers where he can have a wine and cheese evening by himself. Or with a rat. Above the cell is a small chamber with the crystal of evil all glowing red on its upturned dish, and then you have the roof where the bearded one can wave his staff around and do evil conjouring or bellow at passers by, as the fancy takes him. Across a small bridge (taking in a small catapult which is the signature weapon of this series of Castle) brings you to dragon mountain, where there is space for the dragon to land, a bit like a medieval helicopter pad. Beneath this is a secret cave, cleverly hidden by a spider's web (hinged, so you can get in) which has all manner of occult bits an bobs - a skeleton's foot used as a torch and two suspicious jars of stuff. In here, you will also find the keys to the tower to release the imprisoned princess! Or, if you're of a more mercenary pursuit, you could just go around the outside and nick the treasure (which - hoorah and huzzah sees a return of the coins last seen in the original Pirates line). Two brave and steadfast Lion knights round out the set and have come prepared to do battle with a mighty ...catapult (yay!).whilst the catapult is of a good size and works well, it's a shame the crank handles on the sides are purely decorative. And that it comes with just one rock to fling at the dragon, so your aim had best be true!

I am sure there are a billion better Castle sets out there than this, but I really like the character packed into this set and the play opportunities it represents. And this is before you get to breaking it all down and building something else. Great fun.


LEGO Castle 70400: Forest Ambush
LEGO Castle 70400: Forest Ambush
Price: 6.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Ambush! Protect the gold!, 7 Mar 2014
Here we go again for a further run around with Lego Castle theme. Just five sets in total for the theme, which is disappointing, but affordable (especially now they're all being reduced). No doubt Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit , which mine similar territory, are largely responsible for this low turn out.

Anyway! This entry level set is basically another take on take on the old expansion set which previously featured a handful of good and evil knights, or peasants and, on occasion, Robin Hood (sorry, forestmen). So here we have two cheery Lion Knights lumping a chest of jewels and gold back to the keep, along with their faithful hound when they are set upon by two louts from the Dragon Knights side of the fence whom have been hiding behind an apple tree (complete with apple. Cute.).The four minifigures are all great, really nicely detailed with expressive faces (and two each at that - these guys all featuring reversible panic-stricken/ determined faces). I especially like the cackling Dragon Knight with toothy laugh. There's a nice mix of weapons too - from the traditional broad sword and shield and spear to the newer flail w/spiked mace and axe.

The handheld cart is a nice build, but I would have preferred proper handles for this as the single bar means that any minfigure is dragging this about at an angle, which means it'll take them an age to get where they're going as they'll spend most of their time going in circles. The ambush outpost is good fun. As well as a falling tree, crossbow and shooty thing, it also features a bit of shrubbery which you can tilt out the way to reveal the enemy.

It is a good little battle set to much about with, but there's no getting away from the fact that these new Castle sets don't offer the same value as similar priced City, Ninjago or licensed sets. There's no new pieces used or created for the set and whilst the front and back tampographed prints to both the minifigures torso and faces will no doubt add to the cost, I am scratching my head to justify the price. The clue is in the manufacture with components sourced from four different factories in different parts of the world. I am sure from Lego's point of view there is some merit in this kind of set up, with some factories churning out more bespoke parts and whatnot, but it doesn't make it very easy to swallow as a consumer.


Transformers Prime Commander Class Beast Hunter Shockwave
Transformers Prime Commander Class Beast Hunter Shockwave
Offered by Tiddlers way
Price: 19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Logical Solution, 15 Dec 2013
= Durability:2.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Taking their cues from IDW, the creators of Transformers : Prime re-imagined Shockwave not as a calculating Military Operations warrior of great power and strategy, but the science guy whom crosses all sorts of moral and ethical boundaries in the pursuit of science. Were it a totally fresh take on the character, I might get into a bit more. As it is, it's another indictment of the sort of lazy `for the fans' hack job that Prime has delivered. Just what does a science guy need a massive cannon arm for anyway? The character was a physically impressive , if dispassionate and slightly lifeless addition to the Decepticon ranks in the Prime TV show, where he spent a load of time engineering a batch of Predacon clones, only for Megatron to pull the plug on the whole thing. Which was a wretched waste of the build up of the sub-plot that gave the third season the whole `Beast Hunters' title in the first place.

The character has managed two toys. A large Voyager figure which hasn't shown up at all in Europe and this smaller Cyberverse Commander class toy. I bought one because beggars can't be choosers. The RRP is a joke though. Recession or not, there's no way this 4" toy is worth 9.99. Somewhere along the way, this seems to have become an acceptable price point for all action figures of this size. It's no wonder the shelves are choked with these things.
Despite his inverse relationship with actual manufacturing cost and retail price, Shockwave is a blinder. He's an absolute corker of a figure and makes up in no small way for the lack of the larger toy in the way that Legion Breakdown utterly failed to do. His robot mode has a pleasing bulk and a more thoughtful colour palette than the larger toy, so those ridiculous feet don't look quite as daft as they otherwise would. He's this lovely sparkly lilac shot through with deeper swipes of purple neatly accented with blacks, silvers and greys. And then there's his lovely beady red eye.

Articulation is decent, on a par with other figures of this size. The sweep of his legs does mean he's best posed as standing straight he looks uncomfortable. The only real problem with the robot mode is the slightly silly and compensatory gun arm. It's bloody huge and quite awkward. The underside is pretty hollow too, so leaving it resting at his side looks cack. The kinetic launcher is pretty good fun though and easier to work in robot mode than tank mode. If he had the requisite hose, he'd be pretty much perfect.

For a small figure, Shockwave packs in a fairly complex transformation that belies a rather obvious looking alt mode. It's quite surprising to be greeted with such a fiddly transformation and so many small moving parts. Great fun if you're an adult, but probably destined to be broken by the target age group.

The tank mode is the dull replacement for the iconic Ray Gun alt mode and a boring carryover from the Dark Of The Moon version of Shockwave. It's also one of the most crushingly predicatable choices Hasbro tend to give bad guys if they don't turn into a jet. Unlike the DOTM version of Shockers though, this is actually pretty decent, if not actually terribly convincing as anything, despite the tank treads. In the main this down to the alt mode being just a pile of artfully arranged robot limbs passing itself as an alt mode. Given the amount of moving parts in the transformation, it's one of those where there's a bit of a wobble to the thing as various parts don't clip properly where they should or sit flush next to each other. I hesitate to use the word over-engineered, because he really isn't, it's just that there's too much going on in this small scale to really be workable. The chest as windscreen isn't a favourite of mine either.

I like Shockwave, he's impressive but there is just a little bit of a feeling of him ultimately being not that much better than the Cyberverse version of Megatron.


Transformers Prime Commander Class Beast Hunter Trailcutter
Transformers Prime Commander Class Beast Hunter Trailcutter
Offered by Midco Toys Ltd
Price: 5.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Homage That Cuts The Mustard, 15 Dec 2013
= Durability:2.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
In the last few years, various iterations of Transformers have settled on a core `repeat' cast of Optimus, Bumblebee and Ratchet. Along the way, various Prowls and Arcees have been added. The one thing that these have in common? They are all cribbed ultimately from first generation Transformers, and with that comes the expectation of what those characters will look and act like. Essentially, we're getting different versions of the same character but with a different aesthetic. It's interesting, but all a bit dull and predictable. What this means is that any `new' version is going to have to measure up to the old version. It also means there's precious little in the way of innovation. Transformers : Prime is particularly guilty of this, with only a fresh new take on perennial secretary Arcee to add something new to the mix of familiar character tropes. Which brings us to Trailcutter here.

As any bore will tell you, Trailcutter is the new trademark for the robot formerly known as Trailbreaker. A fairly unremarkable first generation character, he's had a bit of exposure recently as Hasbro singled him out for an upgrade. Initially, he showed up sporting his new name in their Reveal The Shield line as a pretty average Legends toy and now as a proper deluxe toy in their Generations line of G1 upgrades.

Frankly, with an appearance in a fresher line than Generations, its much easier to divorce this Trailcutter from all that rubbish and think of him as a character in his own right. This isn't the character formerly known as Trailbreaker for boring trademark reasons, this IS Trailcutter. And he's great. He's also a slight retool of Cyberverse Ironhide, but lacking a stupid geewun head, Trailcutter fits the aesthetic of Prime much better. Also : definitely a mould that is superb at this scale, less so at the deluxe size, as poor old Sergeant Kup will attest.

In robot mode, he's a big sprawl of arms and legs, with these big stabby bits and huge great beetle crusher feet (they are bigger than his head!). He's decently posable too with a bunch of joints to put him a fair few poses. Behind his noggin sit a couple of brutal looking canons and what is obviously a homage to Trailbreaker's forcefield projector, but I think it does something a bit more interesting than be a boring and inevitable `geewun' homage. Also: Just look at that bonce! Isn't it great? All huge red specs and chin. He also comes wielding a kinetic missile launcher that looks a bit unfortunate.

Transformation is a pleasing fiddle, although its hard not to be a bit impatient with it - I just want to get to the flipping truck, do I have to faff about with the arms like this? The wheels also seem to fall off this retool very easily, another own goal for the current cost cutting that sees problems like this commonplace amongst Transformers toys at the moment. Perhaps Hasbro should be going down the `less is more' route and spending their money more wisely. Hand on heart, I can't say I really needed a Prime Trailcutter, good though he is. Nice dollops of red on him too.

Still, vehicle mode's a treat. A nice made up truck of undetermined typed, its a boxy little pick up with some frightening firepower on the front. It looks like one of those things the A-Team would knock up when they'd get locked in a strangely well stocked warehouse. Rolls nicely and looks a bit silly. It's little bland in terms of paint apps, with just some flashes of gold and silver, with painted blue windows, but it does the job.

Trailcutter then is a very good little toy. He's let down slightly by ultimately being a tedious geewun homage/ outright copy, a silly RRP (9.99?!) and being utterly irrelevant to the main meat of the Prime line, which is what you see on screen. It's still miles better than that ugly fart of a thing that's popped up in Generations though.


Transformers Beast Hunters 10cm Cyberverse Commander HARDSHELL
Transformers Beast Hunters 10cm Cyberverse Commander HARDSHELL
Offered by bubble n squeak
Price: 13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Another 'Not Quite Right' Triumph For Hasbro, 15 Dec 2013
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
So. Hardshell then. A representation in toy form of the huge and imposing Insecticon drones from the Prime show, Hardshell is `the boss' of them - i.e. he has more than two brain cells to rub together and can speak instead of doing that weird shrieking thing. He's not a toy that anyone was particularly clamouring for really, which is perhaps why the toy has limped out in the Cyberverse scale. And with Hasbro's current keen eye for detail, he's come out in totally the wrong colours, jettisoning the browns and purples of his onscreen appearance for a palette old farts will recall from the Deluxe Insecticon Barrage. No idea why, but this seems to be Hasbro's bag at the moment. Settling on a particular palette for media appearances and then going `blow it', for the toy. Its an admirable could care less approach, but not one that will probably sustain you in the long run. Kids notice these things you know.

Hardshell is a bit of a straggly mess in robot mode. He's all hunched over and quite leery, his porky legs that are an awkward pile of joints that can't really do much and his arms which repeat the cardinal sin of a lot of Beast Wars toys in that he can direct traffic but not much else. His head lurches out on this weird stringy neck and he's all jangling teeth and point bits in the face. The wings are in the way on the back and his quite fun kinetic missile launcher is just in the way all the time. He's outwardly terrible, but there's some good weight too him and he's the workings there of a good toy, but he's just horrible to play with `cos you just can't get at him without him feeling like a slumped drunken mess. The green and yellow isn't totally horrible, but it's not what I was wanting or looking for in a toy that only in the mind of the most anal fanboy has to live up to some geewun character from 28 years ago that was only available in America, capital of the world. Just why is this a homage? Because its an Insecticon? Do kids care? NO. Can't we, for the love of God, just have something that looks like what it does on the telly or in the video games without some G1 paint scheme being applied because that's be all and bloody end all of the franchise? Just quit it with this Hasbro, its tiresome and its not funny or clever and just makes you look like prats whom can't move on. Stuff the aging fanboys, they'll moan whatever you do. Just get some good toys out to kids and let that do the talking.

Transformation is steady away, does the job and isn't complex and is probably one of the best robot to insect jobs out there. Bit of a fail with the robot hands waving away from the knees of the beast mode, but what are you doing to do with those at this scale? Not bad, all told.

Beast mode is a tidy compact rhino beetle and looks pretty horrible, as you'd expect. The mainly green works pretty well in bug mode and I like the big toothy mouth (with painted teeth!) at the front there. There's minimal articulation in insect mode. He can do the wings and wiggle a couple of his legs, but that's your lot.

Honestly, I like Hardshell a lot more than this review makes out. He's a good toy with some fun detailing. He's just a bit of a clumsy mess in robot mode and there's that silly G1 inspired palette that totally messes him up. It's a shame, as he'd be quite good otherwise.


TRANSFORMERS AIR VEHICON LEGION CLASS BEAST HUNTER
TRANSFORMERS AIR VEHICON LEGION CLASS BEAST HUNTER
Offered by lego loco toys
Price: 9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Purple Rain, 20 Nov 2013
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
The Cyberverse and Legion scale has been the size class in which to pick up Prime toys. It's turned out some real gems, of which Legion Jet Vehicon is another. It is, of course, the only way Western consumers can pick up the figure. As with Breakdown, Takara were happy enough to produce a larger figure for the Japanese market, whilst Hasbro just hoped no one would be particularly bothered by missing out on another on-screen character. In fairness, no one really has and there's not really been the same level of wailing and gnashing of teeth there was for Breakdown.

Anyhoo, Jet Vehicon is the airborne version of the cookie-cutter stock trooper that pads out the Decepticon ranks. In common with the land based Vehicon, its purpose is cannon fodder, frankly. He comes packed in robot mode and what a little corker it is. He's this glorious purple burst accented with sinewy black limbs. He's totally chiselled too. Just look at him, he looks like he's been carved. There's a tasteful dollop of silver across his chest and head, topped off with a thin red stripe of evil for the eyes. There's a pleasing shape to him too , with these wings forming a kind of fancy cape, making him look like some bad ass space vampire. And he has a mad chainsaw gun too. Articulation is pretty standard for the range. He can wave his arms and legs about and that's that. His main purpose is to stand around looking pretty.

Transformation is outwardly quite nifty and clever, until you notice all you've basically done is fold the wings down on his back. The entire robot mode is still clearly visible on the underside which is poor. It wouldn't have taken much to improve this - just being able to tuck the robot head inside the chest (as with the vehicular Vehicon) would have made a big difference.

The alt mode of a flying car is pretty nice, but the dominance of the purple stops it looking as interesting as it perhaps deserves. Okay, there's a few apologetic stabs of pink along the sides but that slick looking alt mode doesn't sing as much as it should. It is a really nice looking thing, like a flying Batmobile, but it the blanket use of purple conspires to make it a bit dull looking.

Despite a rather feeble transformation and the drab colour palette on the alt mode, he's a much nicer and better looking toy than the car based Legion Vehicon. Makes you wonder if the Deluxe scaled version is as good.


TRANSFORMERS BLIGHT LEGION CLASS BEAST HUNTER
TRANSFORMERS BLIGHT LEGION CLASS BEAST HUNTER
Offered by lego loco toys
Price: 7.52

4.0 out of 5 stars Blot On The Landscape, 20 Nov 2013
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Blight is a right little rotter. A huge, powerfully built little thug, he's the beefiest of these Legion scaled Predacons. Riffing off the old 1980s Terrorcons, Blight is an homage to Blot. He's a cool looking toy with some nice detailing and a fair amount of paint apps and different colours going on that give him a bit of impact. As does his hammer, which I bet he bops folk on the head with. A lot.

The robot mode is a pleasing chunk and has some decent articulation. It's nothing to get excited about, this being a legion toy. He can waggle his arms and legs about and that's pretty much it. The head is a nice looking thing, with its `ears' and that toothy chin strap. He's also the fiercest looking chap ever to rock a bit of lilac.

Transformation just involves Blight doing a handstand really. Quite nicely done, and a bit more imaginative than is the norm for these kinds of beast Transformers. Just watch out for the robot head falling off, which it will do all the time. Another triumph for Hasbro's corner cutting.

Alt mode then is pretty awesome. Way better than Blots walking nose or whatever it was supposed to be. Shame about the robot hands flapping about inside his heels, but what are you going to do? The detail elsewhere is excellent, nice sharp claws, big toothy face with awesome blonde Mohawk - he's quite the looker, in a grim scary monster kind of way.

Easily one of the best Legion toys around, Blight is only let down by his robot head falling off. He even justifies his 4.99 price tag, he's that good.


TRANSFORMERS PREDACON RIPPERSNAPPER LEGION CLASS BEAST HUNTER
TRANSFORMERS PREDACON RIPPERSNAPPER LEGION CLASS BEAST HUNTER

3.0 out of 5 stars Ripper Snaps, 20 Nov 2013
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Rippersnapper. Ripper. Snapper. One of the things that made the original Terrorcons so awesome (er, even though their toys were sadly lacking) was their names. Rippersnapper isn't a cuddly name and is very much a statement of intent. This new Prime namesake undoubtedly lives up to the name moreso than the 1980s version, being a rather savage looking upright dino-dragon thing. Bascially, he is all spikes and claws and pointy teeth.

The robot mode he comes packed in is proper hench looking - and bears more than a passing resemblance to Beast Wars Depth Charge- all powerful arms and muscle chest. Or pigeon chest, if we're being unkind. He has quite lithe and muscley legs and there is a slight impression of top heaviness, but he looks pretty cool all the same. Only the lower legs with their sad jumble of beast parts ruin the look of this brutal barrel of badness. Colours are lovely, a nice teal balanced with greys and yellows. The serrated armour look is pretty boss too. Articulation is , as one would expect, pretty limited in a figure of this size but Rippersnapper looks so damn cool just standing about that this is irrelevant. He has a great big crossbow weapon which really suits him, unlike some of the other Legion toys. The only fatal flaw is a robot mode head that falls off during transformation.

A clever transformation gets around the usual yawn fest of beast Transformers by doing something a bit different with the familiar pattern of tipping the robot mode over. The resulting beast mode is a right little rotter, all scowling, seething sharp points ready to pounce and Rippersanpper you to pieces. It really does make good on that brilliant name. The croissant shape to the body does mean he doesn't quite look as terrifying as he should and he's a hair's breath away from the upright goofiness of Grimlock's apron clad T-rex waddling about, rather than the natural horizontaql pose he should have, but its still a massive improvement over his namesakes landshark alt mode.

In short, Rippersnapper is brilliant. Just a pity Hastak have cocked it up a bit with the robot head falling off as it does. Wouldn't be Transformers without some point of dissatisfaction in addition to the silly RRP, though.


Transformers Prime Robots in Disguise Voyager - Thundertron
Transformers Prime Robots in Disguise Voyager - Thundertron
Offered by YUK
Price: 13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Star Seeking Space Pirate, 20 Nov 2013
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
According to his bio, Thundertron is something of an unhappy fellow. Bitter at the Autobots and Decepticons for their war devastating his home planet of Cybertron, he abandoned them to their war and now travels the stars vowing vengeance on any luckless Autobots or Decepticons that cross his path. Given this background, it's somewhat puzzling that he's been given the rather prosaic moniker of a `Star Seeker', which makes him sound like he's on some kind of galactic pleasure cruise.

He's also the latest non-entity Hasbro have padded the Prime ranks out with, as if to make up for the distinct lack of Breakdown - a character that features in the biggest source of advertising ; the cartoon. Yes, I will keep banging on about this because it's annoying. Along with a fair bunch of other shipped-too-late-to-make-any-impact toys from the line, he's quickly found his way to clearance outlets up and down the land.

Out of his box, Thundertron is quite a pleasing looking fellow. He looks incredibly piratey, with parts of the beast mode forming a sort of duster-coat and those ornate shoulder pad thingies. He's incredibly beardy too. The box photography shows him with a peg leg, but he does technically have two feet, it's just that one of them can be removed to create the pegged leg look of a pirate whilst he gets to clamp the foot to his wrist as some sort of unconvincing shooty blade weapon. He also comes with a terrible Mech Tech weapon which is just a big blue blade on a set of gears. As ever, it's no fun to play with and a right load of guff. My example doesn't seem to work properly either with the gears jamming leaving the thing poking out all over the place. He'd have been better off with a cutlass.

He has the repeated flaws of a lot of the Prime Powerizers (Voyagers. Or Mega, if you're old school) in that the robot mode, whilst outwardly good looking, doesn't feel terribly stable, especially in the shoulders. Here, the arms do their usual flapping about not locking into place. This is quite annoying on Thundertron because as well as that, you've got the beast mode legs around the shoulders compounding the moving-the-arms problem. The waist and legs are fine with all the usual articulation and stability, which just leaves the messy chest with its beast mode head sullenly sunken into position. There are a few too many problems with the robot mode to make it a great play thing, but it does look very good. I couldn't get a decent pose out of him for toffee when doing the photos, though.

Transformation is the usual bend the robot over for the beast mode me do, but has some silly fiddly nonsense with the way the beast mode front legs are formed. The robot mode arms tuck inside the chest of the robot mode once the beast head is out of the way. The shoulder sections then clip onto the skeletal front limbs and then these pancake flat paws extend from the shoulder pads. The end result rather spoils the beast mode as it ends up looking like a pantomime animal. The front legs are also incredibly awkward to move or put any kind of pose, so you just end up with the sort of static beast mode you used to get during the Beast Wars era. It's not a bad thing, but it's not a good thing either.

The beast mode itself is pretty cool, but also slightly dorky in the same way Steeljaw's attempt to be a lion is. It also looks very much like one of those Zoids toys from ten years ago when that went all anime on us. Overall though, it is nice looking and a good antidote to all the cars and jets the line has given so far. Just a bit of a shame that he's become the template for the Beast Hunters toys, which all show a similar lack of imagination in turning a robot into a beast.

I honestly wasn't expecting much of Thundertron, but he's surprised me with a quirky design, some solid characterisation and a decent alt mode. He's easily better than nearly all the later shipping Beast Hunters toys (dragons - boring!) and is good fun. But he's not a Star Seeker. He's a Space Pirate. Arrr.


Transformers Prime Robots in Disguise Voyager - Ultra Magnus
Transformers Prime Robots in Disguise Voyager - Ultra Magnus
Offered by YUK
Price: 16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ultra Gear, 15 Sep 2013
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
The Powerizer version of Ultra Magnus from the current Transformers : Prime line wasn't a figure I was desperately craving. I'd bought the Cyberverse version and he wasn't that great and from the looks of him, his larger toy was going to be a similar bundle of unimpressive so I thought I'd wait on the Beast Hunters version. As time has worn on, and Hasbro seemed to have cleverly filled out the Beast Hunters line with pretty much just Predaking (great way to saturate the market and kill any interest), the chances of the Beast Hunters version of Ultra Magnus showing up in the UK are looking increasingly slim. I'll probably be wrong and he'll turn up at a discount retailer about six months down the line, just like this earlier version.

The bio for Ultra Magnus is the usual tiresome yawn fest we get from these things these days "no battlefield on which his armoured feet have stepped has ever been yielded to the Decepticons" blah blah blah and his stats are all above average, except for Speed. Just on the tech specs, `Fireblast'? Really? Eesh. Is there really no one at Hasbro whom can inject a bit more life into these things? Surely everyone can't be the biggest, baddest, meanest fighter there is otherwise the war would have been over in five minutes, instead of five million years. Boring!

Out of the box, Magnus is a pretty impressive chap. He's got a good, athletic look to him and nicely riffs off his Animated Counterpart. He is mostly blue which does exert a lot of force on the senses and he has that slightly cheap feeling clatter to the plastics, which I am now accepting as part of the charm of the Prime toys. Although given the declining quality over the last few years, whatever mainline comes next will probably be comparable to pound shop bootlegs. He has some decent articulation in all the usual places, although I do find his shoulders are stuck out quite a way from his body. The vehicle halves as imposing armour on his shoulders don't work so well as they are quite empty, but I do like the missile pods poking out of the tops. Some sturdy ratchet joints in his elbows also help him with his silly mech-tech hammer. As with all the Prime toys, the design and engineering is first rate, its jus t a bit of shame that they have ended up feeling a bit cheap.

There are a couple of accessories that Ultra Magnus comes with. A missile (sadly just one) to evoke the feel of his original counterpart (unnecessary) and a silly mech tech weapon . This does at least lock into place to form a hammer, but it looks really goofy. The hilt is just too big and chunky and the head of the thing is just too flimsy and with it all lit up it looks more like he's waving a stadium light around than a weapon. It can also be wielded in its `resting' state as a very large gun but this still isn't very convincing.

Getting Magnus to his vehicle mode is a joy though. It's a really well thought out and clever process with some great touches. I love how the rear halves of the truck chassis are folded around his legs and how they fold out and swing around. The way the arms sweep up and together and panels fold out of his forearms to form the sides and front of the cab is also very impressive. What's really great about all this is that it all feels really organic and smooth and it all goes together with no fiddling or faffing about. I am very impressed.

The vehicle mode isn't bad, its a sensible, practical boxy missile truck of some kind. It's not very convincing as such in bright blue. The roof is painted red which does draw the eye away from the slightly messy rear end. Given that he's a sensible no-nonsense type, his vehicle mode does make sense for him and I prefer it over the Beast Hunters toy.

Ultra Magnus is a surprisingly good toy. He's got a nice design, a cool transformation sequence, some daft weapons and a boxy little block for an alt mode. He's quite a charming piece and I actually like this much more than I thought I would. I'd even go so far as saying this should have been the model for the show. I'm not sure why it was changed. I like Magnus being an individual. There's no need to constantly make him look like Optimus. As he's on clearance at the moment, he's worth a punt too.


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