Kickback - Generations Fall of Cybertron - Deluxe Figure

Height: 13cm (head height)

Articulation: 17 total points of useful articulation - Ball joint neck; 4 points each arm: Double jointed shoulder, ball joint elbow, swivel wrist; 4 points each leg: Ball joint hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee, ball joint ankle.

Colors: Molded purple, dark grey, light grey, clear purple, yellow; Painted gold, purple, gunmetal, dark grey, pink

Accessories: Gear Shredder, disc

Release Data: Released in the United States in December of 2012 at a retail price of US$14.99

Author: ExVee

As the leader of his own squad of Decepticons, Kickback is more independent than most of those under the command of Megatron. He uses his freedom to surround himself with friends, who he then blackmails in to becoming his servants.

While Fall of Cybertron may not be perfectly Classics in styling, it's generally close enough that I don't have to worry about fitting them together. And so I'm being afforded some opportunities to add things I probably wouldn't otherwise. Such as an Insecticon. These guys have had problems getting done over ever since remaking G1 has become a Thing within Hasbro. Now, while I kinda prefer the goofy square block insectoid tank-things the G1 toys were, well, I can accept change. Heck, if I get a nice toy out of it, a little design revision never hurt, right?

Robot Mode

Kickback has only the most passing similarity to his namesake, being that he is not square and overwhelmingly black and yellow. It almost feels like a displaced Beast Machines toy (which I mean in only a positive way, mind you) in that there's distinctly organic styling applied to still obviously mechanical elements, and it makes a fairly distinct visual impression that seems exactly right for the guy who turns in to a bug among all the jets, space cannons, and other assorted self-propelled death-boxes. The reference is probably fairly obscure by now, but it reminds me more than a little of the mecha in Aura Battler Dunbine - hardly a stretch given they were typically insect-themed bipedal thingys. But it kind of furthers the point that this figure has a style that I think is kind of distinct within today's Transformers toys: The huge boots with clawed toes, the wide shoulder pads against a slender torso, arms with ridiculously huge gauntlet pieces. It all feels like a design course in Japanese piloted robots wadded up in a single toy. The head is a little bit interesting. It's a visor and faceplate deal, but the jawline is made of parts meant to emulate insect mandibles, filling out and giving some variance to the shape of the face. The antennae are just about perfect to evoke Kickback. It's just about the only thing that really shouts that out so that you make the increasingly more vague connections elsewhere.

Kickback is largely purple, but most of it gets accented in gold paint which looks fantastic. Though aside from some of the pinkish "glow" paint in a couple of spots, the gold really accounts for the far majority of obviously visible paint applications. The rest of the body fills in with light and dark grey, which contrast each other nicely as well as giving a necessary neutral offset to the purple elements. I like the color layout on the robot mode, since the purple looks like ornate armor elements, which gives a sense of cohesion to the color scheme. It's not clearly and obviously Kickback colors on paper, but when you're actually looking at it, it just ends up working.

There's a kind of clever execution of the shoulder joints to permit movement of the shoulder while accommodating the way the shoulder armor needs to interact with the arms. It's a double jointed shoulder set up, with a hinge connecting to the torso and a ball joint at the arm. The shoulder armor is attached on top of, and acts to restrict the shoulder ball joint by being made to snap down and lock on the stem between torso and shoulder. Surprisingly this is actually a helpful move that against all intuition makes a ball joint behave like a universal joint. So the shoulder armor travels in perfect alignment as the arm is rotated, or just sits still and keeps out of the way while the arm is lifted to the side. A lot of Gundam action figures had shoulder armor mounted in a similar way, but I recall it being very rare for it to interact so seamlessly with the increasingly complex shoulder joints those figures came to employ. If you need to for whatever reason, the shoulder armor is easily and fully removable and can be just as easily replaced later. Less awesome is the odd "sub-shoulder" armor pieces, riveted to the front of the torso. These mostly relate to the insect mode, but the way they're meant to be flared out to the sides in robot mode really does make them look like adding shoulder covers in front of shoulder armor, in a process of the "yo, dawg" type. All at once I hate it and am glad for it. They make the upper chest look more full and wider, which helps smooth the transition to the arms, but they don't really stick in any given place, just kinda having to hang out. And they get in the way. At least until something pushes them way far up or all the way down where it just looks really wrong.

Kickback has ball jointed elbows, whose failing I will explain in more relevant detail a little later on, and swivels at the wrists, though the utility of those is debatable at best. The gauntlets fully block one side of the hands, and the main accessory is too big to work carried with a turned hand. They're probably supposed to help with using the wing membrane pieces as weapons, but I'm gonna be totally honest here and tell you that looks dumb. Put a longer handle on one of those and it'd look like one of those huge feathers he should be using to fan someone. Incidentally, the hands are an open type, with slightly spread fingers. It makes the hands look more interesting and kind of organic, but it also guarantees the hands can't turn palms-inward and attain any degree of disguise in the alternate mode.

The legs turn out mostly okay. For one thing, the huge toed boots give Kickback quite a platform to stand on, and there's serious ankle ball jointing, so the feet can pivot all over the place to give flat footprint in a range of poses. The heel spur even sticks far enough out the back that an exact center of balance isn't a big concern at all. The knees don't get quite as much range of motion as I'd like to see, but they manage pretty well. They're the cylinder style as well that looks solid at all times, which is a plus. The hips can move more than enough to accommodate anything the other joints in the legs can support, which when you come right down to it is all you really need. Being ball joints, they don't have the same sort of free movement as, like, Starscream's universal joints, but they're far from being Vortex hips either. Damn skirts.

Kickback has an extra set of limbs on the back, the remnants of the insect mode wings. Of course, the wing membranes can be left attached in robot mode too, but there's no way to usefully pose them as wings for the robot. Instead, the intent is to utilize them as an extra set of clawed arms. But the same limitations that prevent use as wings limit their use as extra limbs too. The ball joints at the base start out having a limited range of movement, and the "arms" themselves coming off the stems at an angle immediately just makes the problem worse. They can kind of reach forward either under the regular arms or over the top of the shoulders in a kind of Baxter Stockman way for anyone with memories of the original Ninja Turtles toys. I was also disappointed to find the claws themselves were not articulated at all, but these limbs just seem to be packed with let down.

Kickback's head is on a ball joint, and gets decent movement forward and backward, but the shape of the neck socket blocks any sideways tilt. The antennae are able to swivel for expression. Be mindful that while they may appear to be able to move independent of each other, they are a single connected piece through the head and trying to move them individually will eventually result in the soft plastic piece breaking. Kickback appears to be designed with lightpiping eyes in mind, but someone messed up. The entire back half of the head is translucent purple, like the wing membranes. The visor is translucent purple. But when you hold it up to a light, the visor stays dark. I've discovered this is because the back of the head and the visor are two separate pieces of plastic. Were this all a single, solid piece, the visor may very well glow, at least a little. But no matter if they were pressed tightly together, there's going to be a major loss of light transmission in the jump from one piece to the other. Especially in this color, it just CAN'T work. And I am at an utter loss to figure out why it would be designed like this.


There's something neat about the way the transformation essentially reverses the direction of the body by having it all split and fold around the shoulders. The necessity of doing much the same thing with the head and neck was not quite obvious to me just looking at it, but it is able to wrap under and come out the other side to reach its correct placement. Talking about correct placement, the package art and instructions advise you to do the rear legs incorrectly, attempting to use the robot's heels as the insect's "toes". It's not only ridiculous looking, but it makes some joints in the legs be absolutely useless. The robot's knee spikes are what the insect mode should be standing on. It's consistent with the hook shapes on the front leg pairs, and gives a much more natural looking grasshopper shape to the rear legs.

Insect Mode

Whatever I may have felt about the robot mode, the insect form really irritates me. The central body does for the most part hold itself together, though the robot hands under the abdomen are really obvious no matter what you try to do. But the main sense dominating this is a feeling of instability. The rear legs are the largest portion of the body with freely moving parts in this mode, and they will move freely. The front leg pairs are mostly tabbed in place and are not actually articulated anyway. But Kickback's rear legs retain use of all their joints and absolutely do not lock in place anywhere. The robot hips have to bear the weight of the leg, and while they might manage fine for robot mode, the strength of the ball joints is a quality that falls sadly short in this mode. The robot pelvis halves are even supposed to kind of snap in place in the sides of the insect body for stability, but that barely works at all either. It should be made clear, Kickback has no useful poseability in this mode. There's only one position of the legs to let the toy properly stand, so there was nothing to gain by allowing the legs to retain any freedom of movement. It does nothing but hurt the toy. The wings can move a little at the base ball joints, but the midpoint hinge is rendered effectively useless by having the membrane pieces attached. The only thing that remains would be the antennae, which can raise and lower as you like with no immediately apparent detrimental effect anywhere else in this mode.

Now, points to its credit, I can easily see the idea of a robot grasshopper or locust in how this mode is laid out. In some qualities like the proportions of the body segments, I think they actually did pretty good on it. And when you transform the rear legs the correct way as opposed to what the instructions depict, even that starts carrying the idea the right way. While the head is definitely a more advanced style than a G1 Insecticon, the the yellow antennae in the specific shape and style keep it unmistakably Kickback. And a combination of tabbed pieces and relying on natural joint locks manages to produce an insect figure that is able to stand and support its own weight. This has in the past been a challenge to say the least, so it's something that will always tend to stand out with me. At the same time, that is nothing that could not have been accomplished with a bug mode engineered to have all the limbs securely lock in place for stability. Achieving that here feels more like a happy accident than intention in design.


So, just as the other figures carry game accurate weapons, Kickback is armed with a Gear Shredder, complete with firing disc. So, it's a pressure-driven disc launcher, which is not exactly a new idea in firing weapon accessories. A combination of a heavy disc and the plastic of the launcher not having quite enough give to build up force mean the disc will only fly a couple feet if you're really lucky.

In robot mode it's meant to be hand carried, but in my experience, the elbow joints are not strong enough to reliably hold the thing up unaided. A bit of a shame. 5mm pegholes on the sides of the weapon give you a place to attach the wing membranes and make this in to a kinda-sorta-squint-at-it crossbow. Or cross disc, I guess. If you ask me it looks like it grew giant feathers.

There's undocumented storage for the weapon, where it fits to hooks on the wings just over the midpoint hinge. This looks really absurd in insect mode, since the weapon sits a considerable height above the body, as well as tending to point downward. The connection is really solid, though, so it's possible to also utilize this storage in robot mode without the weapon slipping out of place. But, dumb as it may look, at least they gave it somewhere to go instead of just leaving an orphaned weapon when Kickback isn't in robot mode. That's something I just can't abide in modern Transformers.

Closing Remarks

Every once in a while, you get a toy with ideas or executions that just come out really well. The unfortunate part is when those good aspects are buried with things that work so much more poorly that they act disproportionately to sour the overall impression of the toy. That's kind of what happens with Kickback. Like I pointed out in the review, there's parts I'm legitimately happy with in the design, and if it could end there, I'd be thrilled. Fact is, more than most I think Kickback is defined by the alternate form. A lot of toys if they transform in to something that came out awful, it can just be ignored. But without the insect mode, there's no particular point to Kickback. In visual terms the insect form isn't terrible, but push any deeper and it goes downhill pretty fast. It casts an unfortunate shadow even over the favorable parts of the robot mode.

Kickback is a toy I really wanted to like, especially as each successive toy this week has built my optimism for the Fall of Cybertron series. Sadly, Kickback is going to leave the week ending on a sour note. The toy Could Have Been Better, according to the Non-Numeric Rating Scale. There's just too much of greater importance working against the smaller positives to come to a better score. It's a shame, too. I'd been so looking forward to a potential Ransack recolor that might have been passable as an updated Transmetals 2 Scourge. Sad ExVee.

"Got Decepticons?"

DateDecember 21st 2012  
Score 4 stars (4 out of 10)  

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