Articulation: 21 total points - Swivel neck; 4 points each arm: universal joint shoulder, upper arm swivel, hinge elbow; 6 points each leg: Ball joint hip, triple jointed knee (double hinge plus swivel); hinge + ball joint ankle.
Colors:Molded brown, grey, black, clear blue; Painted silver, black,
orange, white, red, brown. (Whirl)
Molded dark green; painted flesh tone, brown, light brown, grey, tan. (Major Sparkplug)
Accessories: Major Sparkplug; C-clip gatling cannons x2
While I didn't buy as many of these as I should have, Basic Human Alliance figures were sometimes a nice substitute for the then-recently defunct Power Core Combiners two packs. Somehow it never seemed to hurt quite so much to buy a Scout size figure for $10 when it came with a Mini-Con, despite that I could never bring myself to just buy a Scout on its own for $9. The little humans might not have the same degree of interactivity, but sometimes the Transformers seemed to make up for it in how much they could do instead. What I liked was there was a seeming range of design gimmicks. Whirl here could turn in to a pretty decent gun for bigger toys to carry. Others could be exosuits for their human partners, or sometimes even do both. There's a lot of potential to these toys, and I'm all at once regretful I didn't buy more of the ones I had access to, and sad I never saw roughly half the line in local stores thanks to sluggish distribution of the final two waves. On the other hand, that has led to nice clearance prices and some cases hitting places like TJ Maxx and Marshall's in the US, so I can at least double back on a few that I skipped originally...
Whirl is a small, single-occupant, open-cockpit helicopter of fictitious design. It's very much down to the essentials; Landing skids, tail mast, main rotor, and a seat and canopy for the pilot. Just the small solid mass behind the seat gives any notion that there could be an engine in this vehicle at all. There's a search light on the front of the rotor mount, though being top-side as it is and behind the canopy, it's not going to be exceptionally useful. There are equipment rails on the sides above the landing skids which can mount 3mm clip weapons, and the rails themselves are made to look like small missiles. Attached at the nose are a pair of machineguns which can swivel up and down.
Despite being reportedly cast in clear plastic, the canopy is completely painted over in silver. That certainly makes things look ...interesting. Although the pilot's visibility has been compromised by the canopy being fully opaque, it's not an entirely lost cause, as there is a small hole right in the middle that surely one could look through! ...right? But really, I'm not sure why the canopy was painted like this. The silver contrasts against the brown plastic the majority of the toy is cast in, but surely a clear, colored plastic would have the same kind of result and not look so silly?
It's pretty easy to knock the landing skids out of place, since there's a couple ball joints between them and the helicopter body. It's especially bad when trying to spin the rotor, since the "legs" are a natural place to hold the toy when going for the blades. The rotor does spin very well, with a smooth movement and very little of the wobble found in other helicopters that can hinder the free spinning of the blades. The only thing to watch out for is that the blades are hinged, and it can be pretty easy to push one or more up a little bit, and makes the spin less stable.
The pilot figure can be secured in the canopy by a peg in the back of the seat. Sadly from that position, if you have the canopy placed correctly, it's not possible for the human figure to reach the controls inside. Not only do they blind him, but they make it so he can't even steer. Good thing this is a robot and the pilot doesn't need to be able to fly the helicopter himself!
The difference between modes is in general pretty minimal. Vehicle and weapon modes are probably the closest with the biggest difference between them being the orientation of the toy. However, even the robot mode is very close to the vehicle form, essentially just being a function of unfolding the limbs. It's to such a point that if you wanted a mech suit mode for this toy, it can be done easily by just not compressing the canopy down when transforming to robot mode. But ultimately the packaging photos will be plenty to go by to get any of Whirl's modes.
Whirl's robot mode is very ...squat. It's also thick from front to back because of the way the cockpit collapses on to itself, but it's not very wide at all. What makes it look weird is how so much of the torso mass is far in front of the line between the hips and the head, and the space between those points is mostly empty space. But since the proportions are otherwise normal, nothing really looks immediately wrong if you look at the toy just from the front.
Thanks to having the skids for feet and wide open ball joint ankles, Whirl can be made stable in a great range of poses. Mind, he looks goofy as everything with those ski-feet, and somehow I find it to actually be worse when the feet are rotated so the long end sticks out the back. I guess there's no winning on the looks in this case, but it's hard to argue with the practical benefits they give. The leg articulation overall is quite good. Transformation necessitates a knee that can double the legs over, and while there is a second hinge in the knee with limited movement, you'll never realize it since the lower knee hinge can do all the work of a double joint by itself. The hips have a fantastic freedom of movement by being attached on the sides of the body; little is left in the way of their poseability up, down, or out to the side. Added to the solid knees and big feet, Whirl becomes a surprisingly agile figure, able to do much more than you'd ever think to just look at it.
Whirl's arms are less remarkable. They hit all the basic notes, but don't do anything interesting or special as happened in the legs. Whirl's hands are molded detail on the inside of panels, and so can't hold anything. In exchange, each shoulder has a large rail to mount clip system weapons to, plus a small 3mm peg on the side of the elbows, so Whirl would have no want for being able to carry an arsenal around. Because of how the toy transforms, the arms feel like they're set a little far back on the body, and in fact the hands can't even entirely clear the chest thanks to the excess bulk of the folded-in cockpit.
The helicopter rotor hangs off the back, which is basically the only thing it can do failing having another hinge worked in to allow it to hang down in its weapon configuration. If it bugs you though, the rotor can be easily removed and reattached when needed later. The helicopter's nose guns can be flipped up in robot mode and look really awkward on the robot's stomach, but are probably best left folded in. The head is a really nice design. Very simple, with something of a mecha quality to it - there's definitely elements to it that remind me of Gundam styling. It's a faceplate with a visor strip and what could be taken as eyes on the far edges, or just as easily be seen as another pair of small guns joining the other two pair on the face and helmet, depending on your preference. While has really good light-piping, but it takes a strong, direct light to get through the dark blue plastic. However, once it does, the glow is very even and strong, and helps the eyes to stand out very clearly. If this face isn't simple enough for you, and you want a more "classic" Whirl head, just leave the face turned around backward with the search light facing front. It may not be the old style TV camera deal G1 Whirl had going, but it's a step in the right direction!
As I said before, this is mainly taking the vehicle mode and turning it a different direction. The blades clip together to make a barrel, the landing skids get rotated around, and the cockpit gets reworked slightly to make a seat and controls for the gun. The arms/tail are supposed to stay extended in vehicle mode position, perhaps to act like a blast shield for a Transformer carrying it. But with the human figure seated at the controls, if you bend the arms back, it makes a decent platform to set this up as just a gun emplacement rather than a gun for a bigger robot to haul around. And that's really a benefit of this toy's weapon form - it's flexible enough that there's a lot of ways to customize it to suit your own preferences. For one example, the entire weapon mode can be flipped upside down and modified slightly to then be carried under-hand like a minigun or other heavy weapon that would be improbable and impractical to carry and use hand-held. The clip system rail even has a thicker section that can help it hold in some larger toys' open-style hands.
Compared to some of the wackier chainsaws, buzzsaws, industrial fans and other such concepts seen in Human Alliance weapon modes, Whirl's gun mode is actually pretty well executed. The rotor blades as the barrel are arranged in a way that puts me in mind of magnetically-accelerated weapon concepts, and truthfully any chance I get to say my Transformer is carrying around a railgun is fine by me! Plus with the high carry capacity for the C-clip weapons, all kinds of extras can be stacked on to add to the overkill. It's a little bit heavy though. It'd be best served by a larger toy, but no matter the case otherwise it needs something with strong shoulders and elbows. Any weakness along the way and this is not gonna be worth much as a hand-carried weapon. But that's why it's no nice it can pass as a turret too!
One of the better expressions of the C-clip/Miyake Joint accessory system, they're a matched pair of multi-barrel machine cannons. The clip is long enough to allow clearance on a great many toys besides Whirl, and the cannons articulate freely around a ball joint. But that's not the whole of what makes them good - the cannons have 3mm rails so that they can accept weapon add-ons themselves, supporting the potential to chain several pieces together around them. Plus since Cyberverse figures use the 3mm thickness for their weapon pegs, open-handed figures could also carry these weapons. Not just really cool looking, but very very versatile without even considering all the places they can be attached on Whirl across his modes!
A typical example of the human part of the Basic-sized Human Alliance figures. Standard articulation at the shoulders, wrists, neck, hips and knees, so the figure can pose more than you'd really expect of a figure only about an inch tall. Major Sparkplug has a dark green jump suit, with a brown and dark grey equipment harness sculpted on. The hands are painted the same skin tone as the face despite clearly being sculpted with the intent of being gloved hands. Sparkplug can be seated to operate either Whirl's vehicle or weapon modes, but the controls on the toy are a little too narrow to let the figure grasp both handles at the same time.
This human figure can't stand unassisted very easily, thanks both to the feet being a bit bent up and the torso block not being made exactly straight. The figure's posture is slumped forward a bit, and at this scale it's enough to throw the balance off unless you pose it with the knees bent or other awkward looking accommodation. And while some of these figures with exposed faces are known for ending up with expressions of Dull Surprise or other unintended consequences of having to detail paint something that small, the worst Sparkplug suffers is from very slightly low-set eyes.
The large amount of brown plastic bothers me. It is occasionally one of those problem colors, and while no one has mentioned any issues, it might just be too early for them to present. Not just for that reason, but I do wish that a G1 inspired blue redeco had been possible before the line quietly came to an end, because I think this would have looked really good in blue and grey. Whirl is one of the better examples of the Basic Human Alliance line in general - extremely good articulation, a stable build in robot mode, transformations between each mode that can be done quickly and easily, plus versatility in the weapon form. Things like a painted wind screen and goofy looking feet might seem to hurt it, but they're very unimportant compared to all the positives. And since as of this writing, the assortment containing Whirl and Tailpipe are known to be appearing at discount retailers in the US, it's a great time to go back and grab a good toy you may have missed the first time! Whirl measures up as an easy Excellent on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numerical Rating Scale. Plus it doesn't hurt that it comes with some of my favorite clip-on weapon accessories so far!
|Date||March 19th 2012|
|Score||(9 out of 10)|
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