Height: 11cm (robot mode)
Articulation: 17 total points - Ball joint neck; 4 points each arm: Ball joint shoulder, double joint elbow, swivel wrist; 4 points each leg: Ball joint hip, ball joint knee, hinge toe, hinge ankle.
Colors: Molded black, grey; Painted black, silver, blue, red, gold (Tailpipe and Pinpointer) Molded grey; Painted black, skin tone, olive drab (Sgt. Noble)
Accessories: Pinpointer, Sgt. Noble
Tailpipe is the figure that finally made me get up and start paying attention to the Human Alliance toys, because it's one of the more interesting concepts in DOTM's Basic Human Alliance range. Like a few of the larger counterparts it includes not just the human partner figure, but also an additional transforming robot buddy. Getting two Transformers and a human partner in one $10 package is quite a value any way you look at it! Plus I think it made a kind of gateway between Two-Pack Power Core Combiners which I adored and their movie-line replacement, by once again including a "Mini-Con" in the deal.
While Tailpipe's motorcycle mode is smaller than most any other small Human Alliance robot in terms of overall mass. As a motorcycle that difference is a little harder to realize right away just because it's expected to be smaller than other things around it. Tailpipe's size is in a weird place, actually. It's too large to scale with the human figure, but not big enough for anyone else to ride, either. It's a collision of elements, between having to use a standardized size of rider, being a vehicle that's expected to ride in a certain way, and being of adequate size as the headline of its set. It's all valid factors, but it doesn't make things look any less silly when you have any of the human partner figures try to ride Tailpipe.
Having development split with a Mini-Con means Tailpipe had to be a little more simple in design. For vehicle mode, this means not everything has a place to lock in to. The rear wheel is allowed to essentially float just on the basis of that it's not able to bend off to the sides, just up or down. So you won't get the wheels skewing off alignment from each other, but you can find the rear wheel scraping under the rear seat because it got pushed up too high. Similarly the exhaust pipe, while having a limited range within which it can move, can move freely within that range. This is benefit and drawback since the exhaust has a peg added that makes a fine kickstand, but an additional hinge a little farther up makes it entirely too easy to push the exhaust against the rear wheel just by handling the toy. The affected portions do have places where it's clear they're supposed to come to rest, so with care you'll be just fine in keeping the motorcycle the way it's intended to look. It might just be a little bit of doing and doing over to keep it there.
Rolling is a little hard. The right side of the fork on the front wheel is not attached to the wheel, and just rests in that position, but the fit is tight and the piece drags on the wheel and resists free rolling. But the rear wheel spins okay, so maybe they can just drive everywhere while popping a wheelie. Tailpipe has two 3mm clip rails in the back, though in light of everything else included, the toy doesn't have any compatible add-ons itself. However, Whirl's cannons look great on there. ...and anywhere else you might want to use them... Tailpipe has two 5mm ports below the gas tank. They're recessed a bit, so you'll need a weapon with a little longer handle, but it's certainly possible to mount some Mechtech or other compatible weapons you might have on hand. Because remember, there's no kill like overkill!
Converting to weapon mode is trivial, since it's essentially the motorcycle body with both wheels thrown out in front. Sgt. Noble can even still ride the toy just the same way when in this mode! Tailpipe's weapon mode is to be carried by the peg on the exhaust. Sadly it's stuck offset with no possible way of centering it to the weapon. But thanks to the swivels and hinged along the way, whatever toy gets the weapon can hold it at all kinds of different angles. Cutting blades deploy from both tires, on a geared system so all the blades open together. The wheels can still be spun freely like this, and in the case of what was the front wheel, it moves much easier when arranged in this mode. The wheels have a little flexibility in how they're positioned, but it mostly comes down to being nearer or farther from each other. Too close and the blades will hit each other, too.
Despite the simple design, the transformation has its tricky bits. Mainly in working out how to maneuver the torso and chest panel together so everything can close up. The major part of the process is just stretching out the motorcycle and folding all of the elements that can't directly be incorporated against the back. Normally that's not a point worth calling out specially, but on a toy that's small like this, it kind of seems important.
Between the facts of being a motorcycle as well as not being as large a toy as the others from its line, Tailpipe ends up as a pretty slim robot. Because the mass of the body is itself so low, it ends up with a back-heaviness from all the motorcycle left behind there. Altogether, you get both wheels, the moving armature connecting them, the console and windscreen, and the exhaust pipe hanging from the robot's back. It makes up a good third or more of the toy's mass. It's not all a loss, though. The wheels can be arranged in different ways because all of the points of movement are open in robot mode. You might not be able to get the cutter blades in a useful position, but you can easily do things like fake a flight mode (if you're imaginative enough to see the wheels as hoverfans or somesuch), modify the center of gravity by keeping the wheels nearer or farther from the back, or just change the outline of the body. Plus all those hinges and such are tight enough that whatever you do with the backpack, it's not going to act like a floppy mess for you. The best optional element is one that works so well I have a hard time believing it wasn't done on purpose: The exhaust pipe ends up in just the right position to be swung over the toy's left hip and sit as a gun. Even better, the large swivel hinge it's attached to looks in this orientation like an ammo drum. It all comes together so perfectly like this, it's difficult to imagine as being by accident.
Tailpipe's face is interesting. There are four cylinders, kind of like stacked up night vision goggles. They're probably supposed to reflect the arrangement of the motorcycle's headlights. Interesting is that you have two options with the face: Leaving the gas tank panel pressed against the back of the head, the face becomes just those scopes, giving Tailpipe something of a drone look. But if you pull the gas tank panel back, an actual face comes in to view, though just barely. Sculpted is all the details for eyes, nose, and tooth-bearing mouth, but none of it is painted, and so it just disappears in to the black plastic. Being recessed as it is and under the scope cluster, it's almost always in shadow, too. No wonder people initially thought Tailpipe didn't have any kind of face. But in truth, I really prefer the drone style - at least that has some color so I can distinguish it from its surroundings!
Tailpipe's arms have an appearance of being stubby, but that's mainly because they're really thick. They're about the right length proportionately but look so short for being wide set at the shoulders and on average bigger around than the legs are. The articulation is good, with a combination of ball joints, hinges and swivels that work well together and give you as much arm mobility as you'd really expect of a Scout or Basic size Transformer. Heck, with the swivel wrists, it may even be a little more than that! The fists can hold 5mm weapon handles, but even a Mechtech weapon is enough to mess with the figure's balance, so you'll have to be careful with the included "Targetmaster" Mini-Con!
The legs are deceptive in a way. The knees look like they should be double jointed, but one is a transformation joint and only bends the wrong direction. Oops. But the truth is the actual knee joint, a ball and wide open socket can perform all the same range as any good double hinge. And with a little help of that backward transformation joint knee hinge, the figure can kneel - in this case a practical concern, since holding a heavy weapon would be a lot more stable like that! What I really liked from Tailpipe's legs is the toe and heel set up. The back heaviness I mentioned to start with can be dealt with somewhat just by adjustments to the heel angle. And what's important is that the toe and heel tend to move separately, though around the same swivel. So the heel can be adjusted without having to reset the toe. The heel is also really solid, making fine adjustments for balance easier and more likely to stay where you put them. The adjustable elements of the foot also allow for a range of stable posing even once the backpack is taken in to account. I'm sure it's all helped in no minor way by having such a small, light figure to support, but it still all works really nicely!
Okay, I'll admit this was the thing that made me want to get Tailpipe to begin with. I love Mini-Cons that serve as Targetmaster style weapons. You have to admit it makes more sense to plug a gun on to a bigger robot than it does to attach a sportscar. Pinpointer sort of has three modes. First is a robot mode ...which kind of betrays all the weakness of this toy at one time. It's really to do with the arms more than anything else. They were compromised to allow for a more solid appearance in the weapon modes, so the arms are burdened with huge panels that obstruct what already little movement the arms would be capable of. One solution is to swivel the forearms backwards and make those huge panels be the arms. They have vaguely fist-ish detailing sculpted on the ends anyway, so it's not much of a stretch. In truth it only allows a small amount of extra mobility and in any case does not greatly help the appearance. Plus the intended hands have much more detailed hand sculpting, including thumbs. The other problem is a back heaviness similar to Tailpipe, this due to the gatling guns needed for the weapon modes which can't fold flush to the back at all, and can't even get close if you have Pinpointer transformed non-obscenely (check the gallery for that one, it'll be hard to miss!). Add to this that the feet are sculpted with a slight backward pitch relative to the line made by the legs and the toy is set up to fail. Or at least fall over. The lower legs look like they were supposed to be able to kick forward just slightly to offset the problem, but it didn't really work out since the legs overall cannot sweep back far enough to get all the way under the center of mass. Moving beyond that, I like the style of the robot mode. Heavy boots, huge forearms, he looks like a little bruiser, which is cool. The head has a sort of bat-ish quality, with structures that look like huge ears and beady little blue eyes. Really cool to look at, I just wish the execution worked as well.
Pinpointer's weapon modes are a plural I use loosely. It's the same weapon, but it's alternately possible to transform it with an exposed handle, or not. Where and how you want to use Pinpointer marks the difference between them. With the handle out, it's a Targetmaster gun, albeit huge, boxy, and with two miniguns. This can be used by pretty much any toy that can accept a 5mm peg. The peg handle looks like a Powerlinx hardpoint with the hole in the center, but it's not made to the same precision as those and wouldn't fit any of the Mini-Cons I tried it with. Just as well, since all it'd accomplish is having a wolf stuck to Pinpointer's butt. The alternate configuration without the handle exposed is just for mounting to the motorcycle through two tabs that fit over Tailpipe's rear seat. Reportedly, early examples of the toy wouldn't let Pinpointer stay attached like this, the grooves would force the tabs out. No idea how widespread that was, but mine works fine as long as you press it in firmly. Done like this, Pinpointer becomes a turret for the motorcycle. And there's just enough room left under the guns for a human driver to sit. Because I know I'd want to be right between two gatling guns on a motorcycle in the middle of a warzone. For an alternate take though, Pinpointer's robot mode is a little bit better sized and just as capable of riding Tailpipe's bike mode as Sgt. Noble.
From the same engineering as Whirl's buddy and all the other human figures. It has the simple but surprising level of articulation given the size, plus detailed sculpt and fair paint job. Setting aside the eyes not having been painted on quite evenly on my example, Sgt. Noble has a very wide-eyed look. I can only assume it's the expression when somebody told him he'd have two gats over his head. Design-wise I like Sgt. Noble a little better than Whirl's Major Sparkplug, and it's mainly for the addition of a helmet, and getting black boots and gloves. It really helps the overall look and seems to tie it all together. And a helmet is going to be important when riding a ten foot tall motorcycle, I bet!
Tailpipe is the result of some ambition. With three figures in one package it is the most visible value for money in the subline. More impressive to me is that the main figure did not especially suffer to make this happen. Tailpipe only ends up being smaller than usual, but for a motorcycle it works in his favor. And in truth I wouldn't necessarily have minded it being even a little smaller yet - so long as the value of material was redirected elsewhere in the set. Pinpointer is not the best little buddy robot to have come along in the last couple years, but still manages to adequately serve his tasks. With this being among the common to find batches at closeout retail as of this writing, Tailpipe can be had for a mere few dollars, making an already good deal even better. On the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale, Tailpipe with Pinpointer and Sgt. Noble scores Very Good and would surely be Excellent if Pinpointer had been a little stronger in robot mode. It's a shame that these toys were not recolored before the line came to its end; with the optional drone face, Tailpipe would have been a good basis for a set of multicolored motorcycle robots, whose shoulders don't hurt nearly so much as the Arcee-sisters.
|Date||April 3rd 2012|
|Score||(8 out of 10)|
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