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Elite Wheeljack - Construct-Bots - Figure Kit

Number of Pieces: 55

Release Data: Released July 2013 at an MSRP of $14.99.

Author: RAC

One of the things that disappointed me about Kre-O kits was the fact that you didn't transform them so much as reuse the parts to make one of two models. Which is not a bad idea, but I really do feel that Transformers are at their best when they transform. Enter Construct-Bots!

(While Hasbro seemed to be referring to these as "Construct-A-Bots" internally, the packaging, SDCC placards and Hasbro's own website uses "Contruct-Bots," so I have to assume that's the official brand name.)

Wheeljack is an Elite Class figure, which is the middle price range for Construct-Bots. Scouts have fewer parts and Triple-Changers more. There's also an "Ultimate" set with Optimus Prime and Megatron, which ExVee will be reviewing for TFormers shortly as of this writing. The set comes in an attractive red carry-case with an Autobot emblem set into the cover, and a nice little squarebound set of instructions.


The Build

The three kinds of connection present are ball-joints, 5mm pegs, and C-brackets similar to the "Miyake Joint" seen on the 2010 Transformers. The ball-joints are rubberized, which I'll admit concerns me in the long run. They create friction that holds the joint in place very well in most cases, but this type of material is prone to deteriorating over time, which could render Construct-Bots fragile or unworkable given enough time. Admittedly that's years, but it'd be a pity if they became unusable in the distant future. The rubber also creates tension against the piece the ball is mounted on in some cases which also makes me fret a bit. 5mm pegs mean that the weapons and other parts- like the Autobot badge for one -are compatible with something like 90% of Transformers ever made. On the other hand the C-joints are a size unique to Construct-Bots; Miyake Joints are 3mm, and these larger than those but smaller than the 5mm pegs, so I'm assuming this is 4mm or thereabouts. The rails for the c-joints are also octagonal for a sort-of ratcheting effect.

There's nothing here too difficult, and nothing much that Transformers toy fans haven't seen in the context of other toys. I like how the hip joint attaches to the torso, using a c-joint and a shallow-socketed ball joint to keep the hips secure but swiveling- though the ball alone is a bit loose, there's only a brief step in transformation where it's even an issue. The only tough part was sinking the ball-joint into Wheeljack's head- getting it deep enough was a bit tricky and pressing on the piece via the c-joint was a bit pokey. I can see some kids needing parents' help with that, but that's the only part. Separating c-joints once they're attached can be tricky too, but if you pull straight out it works.


The Frame

While following the instructions in order gets you a finished Wheeljack, it's worth looking at the bare frame since to my knowledge it's common to every Construct-Bot. The frame features a double-jointed neck, ball-joint shoulders and hips, hinged elbows and knees, and double-jointed wrists and ankles. The neck has both a ball and a hinge joint, and that combination gives a range that seems more natural to me than a lot of Transformer head articulation. He can look anywhere from straight up (a bit behind himself, actually) to straight down. Shoulders are about the best a ball-joint can get, extending straight out to the sides and having a full range of swivel. Elbows are hinged and the shape of the frame lets you flex the elbow to a very tight V. The forearm armor on the finished figure restricts this to more like a 90-degree range. The double-joints for the wrists give you a lot of range though most of it is best used for transformation. In terms of realistic function, they have a pretty human range of motion with how they turn inwards. The nature of the hip joint gives a hint of swivel, but the shape of both the torso frame and the armor pieces means it's not really much of a waist joint. The hips otherwise have range equal to the shoulders. The knees don't flex quite as far as the elbows because of the shape of the clip-on armor for the thighs, which I'm taking to be part of the basic frame. The ankles are great- the hinges give all the front-to-back range you'll ever need and the ball joints give enough side-to-side range to be helpful. Overall the basic frame has great articulation- obviously a lot of thought and care went into what will be the most-reused parts in the line.


The Figure

Once you've got the frame you add armor to the front and back torso as well as forearms and shins, attach wheels and fender assemblies to the forearms and plain wheels to the lower legs, and then decorative bits to the shoulders. Don't forget the Autobot emblem for his chest- it's a separate piece, which somehow is really neat. The overall aesthetic is similar to Lego's humanoid figure-kits like Hero Factory and Bionicle: artfully-placed open space to provide connection points and control plastic costs. Overall it's a pretty slick-looking Voyager-sized figure and definitely recognizeable as Wheeljack, with a distinctly Prime-inspired head. The red and blue of the chestplate and the green of the shoulder fins and cannons really help that resemblence. The armor restricts him in two places: the elbow, as I mentioned before, and the neck, where he loses the ability to look down. Otherwise he's just as flexible as he was naked. The only part I'm not thrilled with is the huge sectors of arm kibble. The back end of the Vehicle Mode is stored on swivel arms attached to the back of the forearms, so Wheeljack has a pair of tires sticking sideways off of his forearms. I guess you could look at them as arm cannons of some sort, but it's a little bit on the inelegant side. Of course if you want you could always take them off for Robot Mode, so it's not a huge deal. Or you can put them both on one arm and make a giant hammer. Your call!


Vehicle Mode

Transformation is simple enough: open the torso and stuff the head inside, pull up the backplate so it meets the front armor plate, swing the hips down and rotate them 180 degrees, lock down the arms and legs, fold up the hands and feet. Nothing that'll give young children any trouble. You'll probably also want to move the Autobot emblem to the backplate's forward-angled socket so the hand-blaster can plug into the top of the car, but like everything else here that's up to you. As I mentioned before, the hips do kind of like to fall off in the middle of transformation, but they're perfectly easy to reattach.

The end result looks like a heavily-armed dune buggy. It doesn't look like any version of Wheeljack I can remember, but in a toy like this I don't think that's too important. It rolls super-smoothly, also a plus. The front bumper is made from the feet and reminds me a bit of a train's cowcatcher- I really like how the feet thread together. It looks neat overall. I do wish the rear wheels locked into position in some way, but they just swivel into place and leave you to align them with the front wheels by hand. But what they don't do is fall off, which in a construction toy would definitely be the greater sin.


Weapons

Wheeljack comes with a pair of identical guns whose default use is as shoulder cannons, and one handheld blaster. All have 5mm pegs and sockets, so using them with existing Transformers is pretty easy if you need some extra gear. The matched set of guns also have C-joint rails and the big blaster has a socket, so you can combine them in a variety of ways. If you prefer a G1-styled Wheeljack with a single shoulder cannon, you can turn the big blaster backwards and connect the spare cannon to it to become a much larger hand weapon. And then if you pull the superfluous decorative fins off of Wheeljack's shoulders and the two arms that attach the shoulder cannons, you can go nuts. Then if you pull in that arm kibble...

...you can make Wheeljack a pet!




Closing Remarks

So far I really like what Hasbro is doing with Construct-Bots. Wheeljack is fun, easy to assemble and strip down to his frame, and easy to transform. The frustrations and fidgety parts are minimal, and nothing requires super-precise alignment to work. It's neat toy, looks good, and is durable, and the extra parts lend themselves to a lot of creative combinations. Overall that earns a rating of Very Good on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale.

I'm hoping to get some more of these to see how much variety they can get out of the basic frame. I'm also hoping that Construct-Bots doesn't fall into the Kreon trap of not introducing enough new parts quickly enough; the fact that entire heads have to be produced instead of reusing helmets that kinda-sorta match the character may help with that, but I think a steady stream of new weapons and smaller decorative/combination parts would be best. Either way, this is a great concept and a fun toy- I think buildable Transformers that transform is a toy that could do great with people outside the Transformers fan community as well as inside.



ReviewerRAC  
DateJuly 29th 2013  
Score 8 stars (8 out of 10)  
Reads6725
LinkConstruct-Bots Wheeljack Gallery  


Construct-Bots Wheeljack Gallery Image Gallery


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