Articulation: 14 total points - Ball joint neck; 3 points each arm: Ball joint shoulder, bicep swivel, hinge elbow; Swivel waist; 3 points each leg: Ball joint hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee.
Colors: Molded red, purple, black. Painted purple, yellow, red, black.
Accessories: Swords x2
Release Data: Released in September 2012 in the US at a retail price of US$14.99
Few Autobots fear a fight against Vortex. What they fear is being captured and at his mercy. He uses magnetic grapples to haul helpless captives high in to the sky. There he treats them to a terrifying series of swoops, loops and dives before dropping them to their doom.
Vortex brings us the the mid-point in the Combaticon series. I have to admit, Vortex has always been something of a non-entity to me. Swindle is of course Swindle, and Blast Off is the one who figuratively and sometimes literally looks down on everyone else. Brawl is the one whose personality the other characters don't even care about, and Onslaught is the one who does all the planning. Which leaves Vortex as ...that helicopter dude? Well, I guess it at least gives him some sort of distinction among the other Decepticons, right?
(Until Spinister came along, anyway)
Oh, where do I start? Vortex departs somewhat from classic colors, trading all grey in for red - a trait that becomes far more pronounced in vehicle mode. Vortex keeps some resemblance thanks to the purple torso with bits of red and yellow that are at least somewhat accurate. In this case they're arranged on the torso such that they look like huge eyes. I'm sure with some added paint details you could bring out an entire face on Vortex's torso. The arrangement of purple and red on the toy is overall very eye catching, which is of course the entire point. I don't have a real problem seeing it as being Vortex despite coloration differences. In the fact, the colors are the least problem I have!
Something about the head sculpt feels off. I know one element is how flat the visor and face plate are, having little definition between them. But in a more general sense, there's something about the shapes and angles involved, they just don't feel like they fit in. The head looks out of place on the body. The articulation of the neck ball joint is a bit limited. Turning side to side is impeded by the collar structure, leaving only a few degrees of movement to either side. The head can tilt all the way back to look straight up, but this doesn't seem especially helpful on the whole.
The arms are just kinda weird. Just by the numbers they come across like they should at least be average. And it's true, the shoulder and bicep swivel are basically okay. The elbow is where things go wrong. Let's start with the elbow itself is skewed to the back and so in practice actually looks backward. This is an element of how the transformation is designed, and in that sense at least we're not looking at a case like Blast Off's arm structure. And while the arms can easily double over on themselves if you bend them backward, when moving in a more normal way (that is to say, bending forward) they can't even make a full 90 degree bend. There does not even account for the blemish specific to the left arm. And by blemish I mean helicopter rotor. Now, I may just be peculiar, but I would tend to expect an arm mounted rotor set would be placed on the side of the forearm to keep out of the way and maybe even be useful in some way. Place it on the bottom if necessary. But no, no. Vortex wears his rotor on his sleeve and so it's hanging out on the top of the left forearm. Now, while it's not getting in the way of poseability (what there is, I mean) it's a close cut. And if Vortex carries a gun on the left and the arm is bent just a little, it will actually lock the rotors in place and make sure they stay out of the way. It's just baffling me that it would be designed with this placement to start. And the only thing dictating it all work like this is the fists being sculpted in a particular orientation. They could just as easily have been incorporated in those pieces facing the other side, getting not just better movement, but a more natural appearance, and keeping the rotors off the top side of one arm. These are the kind of things I have a hard time getting my head around, when there seems like such an easy way to get a better result and it's not capitalized upon.
In contrast, the legs. Now, here is a case where you have a range of normal
joints, with no odd structuring choices to make them not live up to their
potential, and even a functional double knee if you bring a transformation
joint in to play. And then they slap a big piece of rigid skit on the front
that blocks almost all useful movement of the hips, crippling the rest below.
Vortex's loincloth is a consideration for Giant Foot mode, where it serves
well. However, there is a decided cost to the robot in making that so. By
necessity, the loincloth can't move enough to give the legs any kind of
clearance, so you are very much losing practical function of the legs. This
doesn't even address the very exposed big hand in the hollows of the lower leg.
There's not much point, since you'll rarely have a chance to pose the legs so
that it will be meaningfully exposed. And really, when you don't look closely
at it, the hand and to a lesser extent the vehicle gun on the other side help
make the space look more filled, which I can't complain about. Vortex has big
feet, with the potential to support good poses. But there won't be much chance
for it to happen.
"This represents the limit of forward hip movement."
While others may prove worse in specific elements of their transformation, I
think Vortex has the worst robot-to-vehicle transformation overall. The process
builds from back to front, and is rigid not only in the sequence of events
(itself not so unusual) but in a very precise alignment of parts necessary to
make the vehicle mode come together. There's no degree of tolerance, you either
get it exactly right or it does not happen at all. Not helping anything is the
relative angles of the body sections not ending up where you'd naturally
expect, making so much more difficult to find that one magic spot to lock in so
you can move to the next part. This hasn't been my greatest frustration in
evaluating the Combaticons, but it's up there.
The problem I have with the vehicle mode is how out of alignment it looks. At its best it looks like the tail and cockpit section have been bent downward, if you accept the rotor base as being perfectly horizontal. If you want to assume the cockpit or tail is supposed to be level, then you get the whole remaining body length much more deflected. Given all the difficulty in transformation, I spent a while trying to figure out a way to "fix" whatever I had done "wrong". But no, the wrong I'd done was assuming there was a straight line to be had. I think perhaps if the nose gun was not so distinctly aimed downward, the overall effect could be far lessened, but that really helps make the line your brain will use to decide what angle the cockpit section sits at. Although you do have the option of leaving that folded inside while you're transforming Vortex in case it drives you extra special nuts.
Vortex isn't as clean of a vehicle form as Blast Off enjoyed. Using inner surfaces facing outwards helps disguise some of the robot elements, but for instance the legs are very obvious in the vehicle structure, especially with Vortex's fancy loincloth deal hanging out under the helicopter to draw attention to them. But largely it's more cosmetic stuff, like obvious panel edges and the odd hollow gap, the things that just work together to make a vehicle form feel not like a solid unit but rather the arrangement of separate parts it really is. Some toys give at least the illusion of rising above that, but Vortex just isn't there. That's not to say I totally hate the vehicle mode. It has an insectoid quality - in no small part thanks to the cockpit "windows" being placed like eyes and the gun being more than a little like a small proboscis. If you really want to push the example, there are also three visually distinct body segments to Vortex just like an insect has, but that's certainly a coincidence more than design intent. In any case, I think it helps add some aspect of personality to the vehicle mode, as well as making a degree of sense from the right frame of reference. After all, flying insects are the closest thing to living helicopters in how the flight mechanics work, so why shouldn't a living helicopter have insectoid characteristics?
Vortex continues his departure colorwise from G1, but thanks to the
transformation engineering reversed from being mainly purple now to mainly red.
A neat trick to be sure, and much more eye-catching than a medium grey
helicopter. Or a medium grey anything. With the purple still scattered
around the vehicle mode, it's almost like having a preview of Swindle from the
Amazon exclusive G2 Bruticus set coming out soon.
So, these are some kind of gun-swords. I'm sure the primary intent is to be short swords as that element is strongly emphasized, but there's secondary pistol grips and small barrels running a bit along the "blunt" edge of either blade. With the blades painted yellow over purple plastic, you get a very nice effect of accentuating all the sculpted lines along the blade because the paint is a little bit less thick along corners and edges. It's not quite a glowing appearance, though that might have been what was intended. In any case, I do wish that the gun elements had been left unpainted to distinguish them from the blades more. These also plug in on the vehicle mode to increase its armament. Or I guess you could attach them sideways and have a melee attack helicopter. If only real helicopters had built in cutting blades!
The real shame with Vortex is that just giving it a quick glance, you might think it would be the best of all these toys. That potential was definitely present here, but a number of strange or just bad choices really took away from what it could have been. Someone assumed by the end of this review series I would proclaim Brawl as the worst of the Combaticons. I did not answer, and I suspect he might be surprised to see that Vortex has earned his way to that standing instead. I don't hate the toy. Even with everything I see as wrong or strange, there are things I can find to like, even if it's just in aspects of visual styling.
On the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating system, we usually call a toy like this Could Have Been Better, because we see what it might have been if just for some different circumstances. Vortex really wanted to be a nice figure, and it makes me sad to see that it just really didn't work out. ...and then comes that moment of realization that I'll have to have this toy at least two more times before I might be finished with it. Sigh.
|Date||September 28th 2012|
|Score||(4 out of 10)|
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