Boy Hasbro just loves to play with the fans. Springer in Alt mode, Springer in Bot mode, Springer in color, and they name him… Bulkhead. What a tease. Oh, well. Can’t spend our lives living in the past I suppose. Springer is dead. Long live Bulkhead!
This review is of the “Not For Sale” dealer’s sample of Energon Bulkhead. This should be fairly close to the final product, as all the paint apps are present, missile launchers are functioning, and even the electronics are in place. The purple Autobot symbol will obviously be changed, and hopefully some joints will be tightened, but otherwise this is likely to be the final product.
Blades: 19.0cm (diameter)
Bulkhead’s alt mode is a futuristic helicopter reminiscent of the Apache. The main body is primarily dark green, with green-yellow, black, orange and yellow highlights, especially on the wings and weapon pods. The undercarriage is mostly light gray with some orange. The four main rotor blades are green-yellow, with a black rear stabilizing rotor. Cockpit windows are translucent blue surrounded by a black frame. There is one sculpted Autobot insignia between the rotors and cockpit, and a spark crystal on the port weapon pod.
Despite the futuristic design, the sculpt is believable. Small details are worked in, but not overdone. There is a pilot’s seat visible in the cockpit along with a control panel. Look closely and you’ll see Bulkhead’s robot face where the rear seat should be.
Even in normal mode, Bulkhead is armed to the teeth. There are twin missile pods under each wing, and a gun pod above. A turret is sculpted on the nose cone (though I suppose it could be a camera/sensor). A total of four energon weapon mounts are spread over the vehicle, one on either side of the cockpit and the last two on the tail. A minicon peg sits opposite the tail stabilizer, but the main rotor blades are so long that they will smack into most minicons. Only those minicons with a powerlinx hole close to the front or rear, like Bonecrusher, will be able to stay clear. Thankfully most energon weapons can be mounted there without being in the way of the rotor.
Bulkhead comes equipped with fairly standard gimmicks - firing missiles, retractable landing gear, and a spinning rotor. The trigger for the rotors is cleverly disguised as the rear landing wheel. There is very little resistance, and the blades spin quite well. There is almost no reset time, so you can keep the rotor going so long as your fingers can stand it. This is a much more effective set up than what we saw for Armada Cyclonus.
My big complaint about this mold is the obvious fact that the gun pods are Bulkhead’s robot arms. There is no way to hide them, no place to peg the arms flush up against the body. They’re just sort of held out over the wings, silently praying “don’t notice me.” The only other noticeable flaw is that the front end is easily misaligned, but it can be realigned almost as readily.
Powerlink Alt Mode
When Bulkhead images first appeared, his accessory seemed to cause a great deal of confusion. No one knew what it was, or what it was meant to do. Now that I have it in hand, I can say that I still haven’t a clue what it is, but its functionality is more obvious. In vehicle mode, at least, it’s a sort of rocket sled that plugs into the helicopter’s undercarriage.
A big, bright blue (robin’s egg? cerulean? Where’s the Crayola big box when you need it?) horseshoe or U-shaped… thing, the “sled” borrows all of Bulkhead’s other colors for highlights, along with a healthy dose of silver. There are two large translucent blue and black cannons in the front and a pair of large engines (reminiscent of pod racer engines from The Phantom Menace). Both the cannons and the engines can rotate up and down.
The sled also contains all Bulkhead’s electronics, which are as annoying here as they are elsewhere. Noises include a “rat-a-tat-tat” for the cannons (which light up red when the sound is triggered), and two classic transforming sounds. I couldn’t find any other noises, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I have already yanked the batteries out, for reasons which will become obvious.
Unlike Landmine, who’s gear is an integrated part of his vehicle mode, Bulkhead’s accessory is just… extra. It doesn’t blend into the overall design; it’s not even something that is supposed to be on a helicopter. It just looks like extra baggage, an extra payload to boost speed and firepower. In large part this is due to the sled’s brilliant blue contrasting the helicopter’s more subdued hues. Is this an issue? It may be for some. I would have preferred a more complimentary mix, but the fact that the add-on looks like an add-on isn’t a deal breaker. It just makes Bulkhead look like a big, bright, happy machine of death. If you’d prefer a more normal looking helicopter, just leave it off.
Color aside, the only problems I have with the powerlinked helicopter is that the engines tend to sag a little, and the connection doesn’t hold together well at all. I fully expect the second to be fixed in the final product, and hopefully the first will as well.
Lastly let me say that this is only the “official” powerlinked mode. The sled’s versatility is sure to lead to a number of fan modes.
Chicken Walker Mode
The accessory has to do something when not being sat on or carried around. Rather than send it to the same null-space as Prime’s original trailer, Hasbro’s toy designers have turned it into a cute little walking weapons platform.
On each engine is a spring-loaded green panel hiding long, green, multi-jointed limbs. Pull these out, open the “toes,” and the engines are converted into a pair of bird-like walking legs. These legs are wonderfully articulated. A knee hinge, thigh swivel, and universal shoulder joint give a near complete range of motion. A rotating plate attaches the limb to the body, further expanding its flexibility. Finally the feet have partly articulated toes, and are connected to the legs with a restricted ball joint. Honestly I think this one accessory has more joints in it than the entire first wave of Armada toys.
With its bright colors and big orange “eyes” the chicken walker is silly, but I find it all very cute in a twisted sort of way. Sort of ED-209 in Candyland. It’s certainly a more creative extra than yet another base mode. I just wonder if Bulkhead has this thing following him around all the time.
Transformation Nice, effective, but nothing to wet your pants over. For legs, bring undercarriage, rotate, flatten feet, rotate hips. Fold down cockpit to reveal the head. Swing the missile launchers around to the outside of the wings. Fold in arm panels, and open forearms to rotate out fists (ala Energon Jetfire). And that’s about it in a nutshell. You can also remove the rotor assembly, but this is optional.
As with the helicopter mode, Bulkhead’s robot mode just screams out “Springer,” at least until you remember that Springer was really just a lime green brick. Bulkhead has arguably the best robot mode out of all the Energon Autobots, only rivaled, perhaps, by Landmine. Coincidentally these are the two toys that didn’t have to make major compromises in order to powerlink.
Bulkhead’s colors are much brighter in robot mode. Most the upper body is bright green-yellow instead of the copter’s dark green and his hips and legs are light gray with orange on the thighs. The arms have orange and yellow-green shoulders, black upper arms, and green-yellow lower arms with dark green “cuffs.” His spark crystal now rests on his left forearm. Vibrant, even cheery, but not nauseatingly so. By sticking largely with a green and gray motif, it’s easy to see Bulkhead as a soldier. A bright cheery soldier.
His head design is nice, sharing some of Springer’s features (notably the helmet design), but some new stuff as well. The helmet is green-yellow with a dark green brow, with a small yellow square in the center. The face is two shades of orange, a lighter shade being used around the mouth to give the illusion of a mustache. His eyes are translucent blue with good light piping, and these are covered be clear “goggles.” A pretty sweet detail, made doubly so because they serve no purpose but to add some character to the toy. Overall, Bulkhead looks to me like Springer’s older, wiser uncle. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is played as a veteran in the cartoon.
Bulkhead’s articulation is second only to Mirage. Swiveling neck, universal joints on hips and shoulders, hinge knees and elbows, along with swivels above the knee and below the shoulder. He can point his feet up or down, and has slight sideways movement in the ankle, making it easier to support a variety of cool poses. Sadly the tail kibble keeps him from using a waist joint involved in his transformation, but beyond that it’s hard to complain.
In this mode his weapons are limited to his hip mounted missile launchers and his still-functioning rotor blades. The entire rotor mechanism may removed from the chassis and held in his hand by a small peg (which is a real ***** to get out). Note that each individual blade may be swiveled up to 90 degrees to the right or left of its standard position, allowing each blade to close together with one adjacent to it.
With all his flexibility, and almost no vehi-kibble (confined to the tail hanging off the back), this is almost the perfect robot mode. I say almost because there are a couple of issues with joints. Bulkhead’s hips are very loose, which is a problem in the very heavy Brute Mode, but the bigger issue is the tendency for his shoulder panels and torso to pop free. I’d be willing to bet the hips will be fixed, but I’m not so sure about the rest. The pegs for the torso just seem too small, but this is a much smaller issue than the shoulders. There is a small hole in the shoulder panel that seems to serve no purpose other than to be fit over a peg, but no such peg exists. Perhaps they didn’t want a peg just sticking out of the cockpit in helicopter mode, but I think that would be a far preferable alternative than an arm which unhooks every time it is moved. Again, it is possible that all of this will be fixed in the final version. I can only pray, as these issues are enough for me to knock the robot mode down from an A to a B.
Whether you left the rotor there or not, the sled can be slid over Bulkhead’s rotor housing and carried as a very big, very smurfy backpack.
If Landmine’s Brute Mode evoked Ripley and her power loader from Aliens, Bulkhead’s should immediately conjure images of Mifune and his APU in The Matrix Revolutions. There is a lot of added firepower here. The translucent blue guns sit perched over Bulkhead’s head, and the engines extend from the torso on long posable arms to become a pair of massive cannons. Thanks to movable “fingers” and a small ball joint in the wrist these cannons can also serve as an extra pair of hands (though they can’t really grab anything). In fact the overall accessory may have a variety of uses. For instance, with the “hands” on the ground, the backpack provides Bulkhead with an extra set of legs, able to lift his entire body off the ground Doc Ock style. Withdraw the arms, and the engines turn the backpack into a jet pack. Once again I expect inventive fans to be kept busy for hours coming up with new modes for this toy.
Partly because the robot mode has an overall lighter color, and partly because the most of the blue is hidden and more green is revealed on the extra arms, the color clash isn’t so bad as in the helicopter mode. Again, there will be those who just can’t get past the bright springtime coloration, but given Hasbro’s track record I wouldn’t hold my breath for a more subdued redeco.
Gripes for brute mode would be that the back pack is too heavy for his hip joints (as mentioned above) and I would have liked to see a way to connect the cannons to the arms, but really this is just looking for something to bitch about. Most annoying is the fact that the robot head presses up against the button which triggers the cannon’s “rat-a-tat-tat” sound, so this end up getting unintentionally played over, and over, and over again, hence my removing the batteries.
This is a surprisingly versatile mode, and I think the toy’s best. He’s going to look impressive on almost any shelf, but he’s so fun to play with I don’t see him sitting there for long.
Bulkhead is walking a fine line right now between being an awesome toy, and merely a good one. If the joint issues get fixed (and please Lord let them be fixed), this will be a spectacular figure, and could end up the most popular figure in the Energon line. The one road bump is his color scheme, but I suspect the awesomeness of the toy will shine through whatever odd paint jobs Hasbro has lined up for him.
Tentative Grade: A-, could go as low as a B depending on how problems are addressed in final product.
|Reviewer||Michael T. Dunleavy|
|Date||May 9th 2004|
|Score||(10 out of 10)|