Articulation: 22 total points - Ball joint neck; 6 points each arm: double joint shoulder, bicep swivel, hinge elbow, hinge wrist, wrist swivel; Swivel waist; 4 points each leg: universal joint hips, thigh swivel, hinge knee.
Colors: Molded green, yellow, dark grey, light grey, clear blue; Painted yellow, green, silver, light grey.
Accessories: Rotor blade/sword, missile launcher, 2x missiles
Release Data: Released in the United States in May, 2013 at a retail price of US$19.99.
Autobot Springer was built to be a tough guy. Everything about him, from his nickel-plated blaster cannon to his bad-boy attitude, is calculated to communicate exactly what he wants it to - that he's a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners kind of guy. He prefers to fight alone, trusting his skills and luck to get him out of tight spots, rather than relying on his fellow warriors. After all, other Autobots fail. Autobot Springer never does.
While Blitzwing was a case of waiting for any update at all, Springer has had a series of Classics takes as recolors of existing single-vehicle-form molds. Satisfaction on these was ...variable, let's say. But I don't think anyone was disappointed when Toy Fair 2013 revealed a new Springer that was a full representation of the character's status as a triple changer. It became more impressive shortly after when the Hasbro reps went on to reveal that Springer had been under development for two years to get everything right. For having twice the design and engineering time as the average Transformer, this has got to be something pretty fantastic, right?
There's no denying Springer looks completely fantastic as a robot, being heavily inspired by Nick Roche's art for the character from Last Stand of The Wreckers but taken to a more stylized degree. In contrast to prior media depictions that usually favored a wider body shape, this Springer's build makes him look taller and more athletic, and as a result gives an impression of a younger Springer. More action hero, less seasoned veteran. I'm cool with this. In a more general sense, I like that we're starting to get to a stage where IDW designs for characters are being used as the model for new toys and just generally a closer relation between that particular media and the product is being pursued. Starting with a design taken from one of the most popular comic miniseries certainly can't hurt as a kick off to this direction either. Springer is faithful to Nick Roche's design as much as is possible while still functioning as a transforming toy. The points of divergence are practical considerations and surprisingly small, like parts of vehicle canopy added to the forearms. But quite honestly it's amazing how faithful the robot mode turned out for being based on a design that didn't have to worry about real world applications.
I really like the way the head has been done. The helmet has the exaggerated angles and features consistent with the original art, while the face has been refined and toned down a bit, but still looks like a Nick Roche face. The eyes are lightpiped blue and have a nice, subtle glow. It does take light to be somewhat direct behind the toy, but it works pretty well in average room lighting. Be careful in selecting a Springer to purchase, though: Just in the two cases worth I found, most had the lightpiping elements bent or otherwise distorted so they didn't correctly line up with the eye sockets. I've heard other reports of the same thing as well. Thankfully you can identify this in package just with some close examination.
The poseability is good, but has a bit more overall restriction than I'd like to see. The knees and elbows are ratcheted joints, and can only bend to 90 degrees, but won't quite make it if the ratchet decides it doesn't feel like catching at that last point. The shoulders are ball joints, and I'm not especially thrilled with that choice to begin with. I think a universal joint (ideally with ratchets as well) would have better served what the joint needs to do especially since the joint is halfway there already by having the stem of the ball hinged. The shoulders are very close against the torso, and even with the shoulder hinge to add some range of movement, leaving the ball joint less deep in the arm would have helped get the arm some more flexibility. Particularly for sword wielding characters I think a greater degree of mobility in the arms is really important. Thanks to the needs of transformation Springer does earn an extra hinge at the wrist, so if you rotate the forearm the toy can point its sword forward, or in a normal forearm orientation the hand can be turned inward.
The hips can only raise 90 degrees, and even though I don't really think it's vitally important for Springer as a character to be able to raise his foot above his head, it just feels restrictive in the toy. And below the knee there's no real poseability happening. The movement around the ankles is only for transformation and can't be utilized in any way for the benefit of the robot mode. In fact, the weight of the robot on the feet is what's intended to stabilize the ankle hinge by forcing the toe and heel apart, pushing the heel against a panel at the back of the leg to prevent it rocking too far back. Clever bit of design, but totally unhelpful for extra poses. Springer does have a waist joint, but the back panel limits its freedom of movement to only a few degrees in either direction. It can help in the right kind of pose, but most of the time you'll probably forget the joint is even there. Finally, the head sits reasonably high on its ball joint and so gets a good range. This is something to be mindful of though; the socket is toward the back of the head, and sometimes the toy does not come with the head fully seated. If you get one that tends to bobble-head a bit or you have trouble passing the head through the chest during transformation, have a look and see if the head might need to just be popped in a bit more.
Springer is a little light on paint in robot mode. This doesn't stand out terribly for the most part, and is only something that seems to draw attention on the chest armor. There's just something about that particular yellow plastic that just sits there and screams at you to pay attention without something to break it up a little. I think it might be just a couple of shades too bright. Going a little closer to the orange end would have probably subdued it nicely so it's not such a retinal assault. Plus about half the yellow on the toy is done with extensive paint cover, and the colors really just don't match between them. Yellow paint is generally just awful, and this is no exception. No painted area on the toy is free of spots where the base plastic color bleeds through because the paint did not apply or cure to an even thickness. The only temporary salvation is the biggest yellow painted surface is covered in this mode. Another common flaw to look out for when buying has the Autobot tampograph on the torso at a noticeable angle. Only one example of the four I found had a correctly aligned insignia, so be sure to check for that if that's something that will bother you.
It's a mixed result. The engineering, the way the transformations have been designed, they're easy to follow along without needing the instructions for reference. Even the neatly designed way the forearms expand out in to a length of flat panel just makes sense while you're doing it. It hits some bumps in the way things actually work in executing those designs. The head potentially has just enough space to clear through the chest piece, but if something is off by the tiniest margin, you may end up having to remove the head for transformation or else risk damage in trying to force the parts past each other.
It's things like this where the toy tries to precisely account for the movement of individual parts, but can't accomplish it because the manufacturing precision did not quite meet what the design calls for. This is present in transformation for all modes, and shows through to some degree in the vehicle modes as well once you get there. It can get to be kind of a downer, honestly. I wish this had been able to work right. Not just for the sake of the toy's function, but because I'm impressed just seeing what was intended, and would be blown away if it had worked out to match that.
We've had helicopter Transformers before that have left off the tail rotor, and there's a real type of helicopter that works without one too. But I'm having trouble overlooking Springer lacking it. I think maybe it's because there are already huge chunks of cylinder in the tail mast that could have been detailed to at least suggest a fantail design, but since there's not it feels like an obvious element of the vehicle mode that's just been skipped. It's an okay looking helicopter, and works visually as an updating of Springer's design but it has weaknesses. Unfolding the forearms goes a long way toward disguising that the robot's arms are left just hanging off the sides, but none of it really seems like it integrates with the helicopter, especially as the flattened out forearms wrap around the make the wings and the angles clash with the lines of the rest of the vehicle form. It just gives the strong feeling of "nowhere else to go" that can ruin the illusion of an otherwise not bad mode.
The core vehicle structure holds together okay, since it's mostly still locked in to the robot mode positions which are quite stable. The wing pods are another matter. They attach securely with a single tab each to the side chest pieces under the helicopter's fuselage. ...pieces which are themselves double hinged and have no means of securing in any position. So while the wings are technically tabbed in, they're attached to freely moving parts. You might find a Springer with a good joint strength and never see this to be a problem. But it could be just as likely you'll get one with really weak hinges and never be able to keep the helicopter completely together. It's the kind of problem you hit when the stability of a mode is very much dependent upon the friction of a joint. I find it hard to pick the toy up in this mode without one or the other wing pod falling off alignment with the fuselage. That's by itself a very minor inconvenience, but the reason it's able to happen is frustrating. There needed to be a way to securely tie these parts in to the central body structure. One more tab and slot on each side is all it would have taken, and it bothers me that it was left as it was.
Springer has landing gear that unfolds from under the cockpit and tail. And besides a free spinning main rotor, that's all the moving parts involved in this mode. The tail wings and vertical stabilizers can be moved, but that's a product of lacking a way to lock in position rather than a design feature of the helicopter mode. On that note, mind the angle you have the tail at. If it's too high, the rotors will hit the top edges of the stabilizers. The knee joints have an extra click of forward movement in order to flatten the tail out and let the blades move unobstructed.
It's a feat enough that a land vehicle form for Springer could even be styled in such a way as to make me care about it. Botcon 2007 certainly didn't accomplish that, and as for the G1 toy, I'm less convinced that was a car and not just a crashed helicopter. Yes. G1 Springer triple changed from robot, to helicopter, to crashed helicopter. But this thing actually makes a nice looking car. Like, paint it black and you could convince someone it's a Batmobile. If we're to use Deluxe Autobots as comparison, this is a very large car, but I think that's been accounted for in a way by looking kind of armor plated. Somewhere at the core of this would probably be something closer to a typical car.
This is the vehicle form that actually has things made to lock in place, versus the helicopter operating with the intent of friction maintaining the shape. I say "made to" because the actual practice works less well than the theory. An issue of material tolerance, or maybe imprecise assembly, I don't know. But I have never been able to massage, fight, or beg this mode to completely line up, secure together and have all the panel lines closed. It just doesn't happen, and I know I'm not the only one. The locking tabs are pretty small, and the difference between secured and not is literally fractions of millimeters. It's a level of fine adjustment that the toy simply will not support. Trying to push split panels together gets you nothing but sadness as they settle back apart because that's where the toy has decided it wants to rest. Tabs, flanges and notches will do nothing to save you here, for they have no power.
It's too bad too, because I really like the way this mode looks. It looks the more put together between the two vehicle forms, and I keep finding that I look to it as the "default" vehicle form. That by itself blows my mind, since in all these years of Springers derived from other molds, I'd gotten myself comfortable with the idea of Springer being a helicopter primarily. It then says a lot to me that my perception could be so quickly changed by seeing the ground vehicle form realized in such a pleasing way. And if you're able to overlook panel separations that are not perfectly flush and gaps may not quite close, the armored car is still well functional and structurally pretty stable. It's not going to slip apart or go to pieces on you just because you wanted to play around with it. Your tolerance will matter as much for this mode as the toy's own, ultimately.
Springer has a big gun. And it's cleverly designed as well. Using a single slider, the two missiles are launched in succession, rather than simultaneously. What makes this remarkable is the use of pressure-launch missiles instead of springs. The method to do this is very simple and apparent when you stop and think about what's going on, but even knowing how the magic works I dig the effect.
The launcher is intended to interact with both vehicle forms. For the car, it can peg on the roof to act as a movable turret. To that end it has a hinged handgrip, allowing it to angle up or down a little. The hinge movement is stiff enough that you shouldn't need to worry about it sagging when held in robot mode. The helicopter connection is less comfortable. The bottom of the launcher has a flanged ridge that matches a space under the cockpit. You have to snap this in place, and then snap it out when you're ready to remove it. The flanges are really small and thin and just from a single attachment and removal I found a stress line on the inside corner of one of the flanges. You may not get to see the launcher mounted to the helicopter mode in my gallery because I'm very concerned about how much this will take before breaking outright. We'll see how risky I feel when I start the photography.
I guess I felt risky after all.
And of course in robot mode, it's simply hand carried. The launcher is light, so there's no problem posing with it. It looks a bit awkward used one-handed though, because of where the grip is placed. Poses using the off hand to support it are easy to manage, even ones similar to the boxart aren't a problem. Or you could use an under-hand grip, which while no less absurd in real world consideration at least doesn't look as clumsy for the toy.
I like this just about as much as the missile launcher. Of course this is the helicopter rotor, and it's not the first rotor blade set that's been made to be a sword. It's a really good execution of the idea, though. There's teeth around the peg just below the blades. When you hinge the green cap down, a groove on the inside surface catches one of those teeth and locks the blades stationary. Since it's done like a gear wheel there's no specific alignment of parts to consider either, it'll fall and sort of correct itself on to a tab if it should miss. It's amazingly hard to do this wrong. So from there the rotor blades fold up and tab and slot together as a sword blade. By the time it's done, you have an amazingly strong, solid blade that looks really good.
If not being held in a hand, the 5mm peg on the hand guard allows the sword to be carried on a peg hole in Springer's back. Or you can peg it on the missile launcher to turn a huge gun in to an insanely oversized bayonet. As an alternate take that's more to the side of absurd, you can use the bayonet combination, but put it in Springer's hand by the sword handle and turn the launcher in to a giant hand cover. That fires missiles along the blade. Like that makes any less sense than a sword-length bayonet on a missile launcher. For the car mode, the sword stows in the underbody, but it's less than obvious how to do it. The handguard is used to attach to tabs in the helicopter landing gear struts, and the blade is to slide through a narrow notch formed between the side-chest pieces. Of note, only one side of the sword blade is made to catch in that notch because the ridges running along the length of the blade are offset from each other. So don't tear your hair out to try to get it perfectly in there. The storage works fine, but it may feel a little fiddly getting there.
Springer is the subject of a lot of hype, and circumstances of its release being as they are I think an exaggerated image of the toy's quality has been generated. I'm not going to rule out either that a chunk of the strong positive reaction may have had more to do with the comic whose art this emulates than the actual quality of the toy. Springer isn't bad, but it's certainly not flawless either. I think the things I like about it probably outweigh what bothers me, but even going in trying to keep reasonable expectations of it, I was a bit let down by the reality versus the general praise.
To wrap this up, I need to draw some comparisons to Blitzwing. Because what I realized as I spent time with these toys was the very different styles at work. Blitzwing is a lot like Soundwave, Blaster, and Grimlock in being big and chunky, with the moving parts being on the large side to make up the different forms. Springer meanwhile is more like something you'd expect out of the 2010 Classics lines. There's a greater instance of small bits and more complex arrangements to form each mode. But that kind of thing needs a certain level of precision both in manufacture as well as assembly. That was being met in the 2010 lines, but it simply isn't present in the currently produced stuff. Springer feels like a more involved toy, and on a casual level it's very impressive seeing the intricate parts of the design. But a lot of things won't work quite how they were intended in actual practice. In comparison to how Blitzwing mostly works right with just two particular problems to get around, Springer has no single severe flaw, but instead is a constellation of small issues all over the toy. Given a choice between the two, I'd much rather take the Blitzwing model.
I think overall Springer is Good, which is also its score on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale. I really like the execution of the robot mode, and one of the two vehicle forms would be great on an example of the toy that's willing to lock together a little better. The third mode is mildly unfortunate, but I've sort of learned to expect that with Classics Triple Changers by now. Though, I think on average I ended up enjoying Blitzwing's vehicle forms more than Springer's. Talk about an unexpected result!
And yet their vehicle modes are very close in size...
|Date||May 21st 2013|
|Score||(7 out of 10)|
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