Me and Sandstorm go way back. In the mid 80’s I became obsessed with owning his Generation 1 figure, actually obsessed. When my Gran finally relented and offered to buy me the toy (she was always the easiest relation to convince that a new toy would change my life), it felt like the end of the end of Return of the Jedi. So of course when I finally got to the shop I promptly changed my mind and got something else instead. Something so memorable I have no recollection of what it was. Hmph.
All these years later and I still haven’t scratched that near 30 year old Sandstorm itch, so when the kind folks at TFS Express offered to send me Unique Toys take on the character, Sworder, I jumped at the chance to possibly finally lay that old ghost to rest.
Unique Toys have produced some solid work of late, aiming to grab space on your shelf with the recent Buzzing (Blurr) and Provider (Octane) all being well received.
So how will Unique Toys Sworder stand up to those? Let’s find out!
Please keep in mind that this is a test shot, so there may be some variances from the final release of this figure.
What the heck is this?
Sworder’s car mode isn’t Sandstorm’s traditional dune buggy. Instead it appears to take its cues from Hasbro’s Generations toy with that large, chunky aesthetic. If the wheels weren’t there to intimate that it was a car you’d assume it was stuck in mid transformation.
Kinda reminds me of one of those Duck bus/boat things you see rumbling around London, stuffed with a gaggle of tourists eagerly throwing away their money – but I’m not sure that is what Unique Toys were going for.
Actually this mode makes more sense if you think of it more as the middle mode between Sworder’s robot form and his helicopter vehicle mode. Car mode ends up being a sort of dumping ground for those parts, arranged in a vaguely automobile like shape.
Or just think of it as Batman’s summer holiday Batmobile, cause that is exactly what it looks like it should be.
We’ve been conditioned to explain away anything that doesn’t look like a regular Earth vehicle as “Cybertronian”, usually excusing a designer or toy companies laziness. You could apply that here, if you were being kind, but the curves and details all have an Earthen quality to them even if the shape that brings them together does not.
You may be craving Orange juice, or a Solero (note to self: remember to pick some up next time I’m in ASDA), but there are some cool details to pick out and once you’ve transformed it then it becomes quite clever seeing how those details blend into the other modes more seamlessly. Even the bits that only exist for the car mode end up fitting better in the other modes.
The only elements that feel designed to tell you that “yes, this is a car” are the wing mirrors, fog lights and very pretty wheel trims. Just like any car there is a wind screen, and a molded door is present on the side, or more accurately half a door as the yellow pontoon like side cuts half of it off.
Unless it’s only very little people getting inside this vehicle, maybe it inhabits the same mad scale world as Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus.
All of Unique Toys Sworder’s weapons can attach somewhere to give him the vibe of a hyper armoured rolling bundle of violence that happens to be carrying a set of ski’s on the back. When you add in all that bright colour it seems oddly cheery in spite of such pain dealing accoutrement’s. It would be the ride of the most frolicsome character in a Mad Max movie.
None of the weapons truly look like they belong, other than oddly the swords on the back which look like Sworder is a big skiing fan. This silliness becomes a strength of this mode as when you look at swords on the front it starts to feel like an old TMNT vehicle with all the wackiness that brings. Can we name another Transformer who has a ski rack?
Especially one which is coloured like the frickin Sun. Maybe he’s into water skiing? We know the Autobots certainly had a penchant for that in season one of the cartoon.
As all of the swords point in the same direction, only one pegs in properly to the hood of the car, owing to a lack of clearance with the fog lights. Just another layer of absurdity on this madcap orange and banana feast.
What Sworder’s car mode requires you to do is suspend your disbelief. You’ve just got to give into it and buy into what it’s shilling. Fun, wacky, bonkersness that makes for a fun solid chunk of a toy that is more to be played with than displayed as the centre piece of a model car collection. Nothing about this mode feels like it was ever honestly designed to be a car – just to exist and make the best of it.
If you can’t overlook that really it is just some car shaped bits stuck to the sides of folded up helicopter and robot parts, then this mode isn’t for you and to be honest there will be nobody on this rock that will display it in this mode anyway. Maybe me just to prove myself wrong.
It’s not great, and not even close to being a Masterpiece Sandstorm but in hand it’s more forgiveable as it becomes a toy and you are stuck with it.
Here we go, this is more like it.
Sworder converts from dubious rolling thing into a much more palatable looking helicopter that nicely echoes Sandstorms original Generation 1 chopper mode, complete with the floats on either side. What we have is some form of rescue helicopter and as ridiculous as those colours look on it they aren’t too outlandish for a coast guard vehicle.
It’s a world away from the car mode which in no way resembles the G1 dune buggy or anything real.
In fact it is the polar opposite – it’s extremely faithful.
Crucially it actually looks like a helicopter and that goes a long way to clawing it’s way back towards that dusty spot on your Masterpiece shelf. If you didn’t know there was a folded up car trapped inside, then Sworder doesn’t make it obvious. Nothing from the car is egregiously sticking out or reused to fill a gap. Everything is contained very tidily within the whirlybird.
Every panel and piece snaps together and locks in so slightly that despite being massive, it feels just as compact as the car did. Each of the parts come together in a far more cohesive colour layout than the poor car mode ever achieves. Yellow and orange wash over Sworder again, but this time they aren’t repeatedly broken up in such a patch work way.
It’s not just the way the parts connect that feels solid either, the actual plastic used is pretty thick and feels very similar to that used on Mastermind Creations Feral Rex, if I had to think of a comparable toy. It’s certainly not weak, it just feels different to your standard Masterpiece figure.
Perhaps it’s the absence of paint as so much of the plastic is bare, that gives the materials such a toy like quality and the lack of the sort of finish you would expect from Takara, Fanstoys or Maketoys.
Sworder is even well scaled to those melty face Masterpiece minifigs. Look at the cockpit, and you will spot a small door carved into the side that isn’t too far off something you’d expect those minifigs to be able to clamber into. You can even see the line where the bottom half of the door is cut off in car mode. Here it makes sense!
So much detail from the car reappears but this time it’s more fitting and you can tell this is what those elements exist for. The rivets feel more at home on the side of a large helicopter and the floats attached to either side house small rolling wheels that flip out, with a small catch for your nail to pull on. I love thoughtful tricks like that which stop me bending another pair of pliers.
Large intakes look fantastically heavy duty and there is even a traditional Transformers style arrow in place just for the sake of it. Least now 5 year old me doesn’t have to try and work out where that sticker I was just trying to apply has disappeared too.
Weapons, again, all have a place in this mode with the gun pegging on to the side of the helicpoter. It looks utterly daft but no worse than say the MP Lamborghini’s having laser rifles on their roofs. That never happened in Miami Vice. The rotors hang down like giant swords sagging over the roof because that is exactly what they are – Four swords pegged on to the rotor assembly….and yes they do spin.
Sworder shines brightest in this mode. It’s fun, it captures the original and it doesn’t feel as heavily compromised as the car mode. It’s not Masterpiecy with it’s accuracy to a particular vehicle but coming on the heels of that crackpot car mode it’s a much easier to accept.
If I owned this toy it would probably live forever in this form….and not fit on any shelf.
I feel like I need to go into depth when discussing Unique Toys Sworder’s transformations, but I’m not sure I’m ready – the ordeal still feels too fresh. Many of these complaints will be moot by the time it’s released as thankfully it will come with instructions which I didn’t have.
Very little of the transformation to any of the modes feels intuitive. It’s not often you transform a couple of pieces during it and it all feels like it make sense. Quite the opposite, any time you start feeling like you are getting to grips with it, there will be something that needs to rotate into a very specific position but a very slight clearance issue makes you think you are wrong. It may only be a very minor clearance issue, but when you are trying to figure something out, you naturally to follow the most comfortable steps so it throws you off.
A good transforming figure leads you through the transformation and makes you feel proud to have figured it out. Sworder makes you shout into the air a lot.
I will say that getting him to robot mode is probably the easiest of the modes to get to and on my second run through the modes it was a little easier, but I’ve never come across another toy I’ve so actively dreaded having to transform.
“Sandy, beauty is pain”
After you have bested the many trials of Shazam, Sworder ends up being surprisingly large, which should be no surprise considering both alt modes were pretty monstrous. There’s a cognitive expectation of MP car bots to be a certain size and so anything that goes against that is a shock. Both alt modes are large, but do a good job of being compact and keeping the robot parts hidden that you kind of expect that to carry on with some physics bending way of making the robot mode smaller.
Place him next to your Masterpiece car bots and he looks like he has been struck by a serious case of gigantism. Stick him side by side with MP Rodimus Prime however and suddenly he looks perfectly sized. Sandstorm may not spring to mind as one of the tallest bots in the Transformers universe but when he did appear in season 3 of the G1 cartoon he was shown to be a similar size to Octane so there’s your rationale.
Octane, the Danny Zuko to Sandstorms Sandy.
For something that has to span three modes Sworder’s robot mode is remarkably clean. Much of the kibble is very cleverly hidden with the floats acting as knee pads being a clever example and the cars lights becoming a bling belt.
G1 Sandstorm was a flat, bland looking kind of bot and Unique Toys could have taken their cues from the animation models solid wall of black and orange. Thankfully they’ve thrown in a couple of paint apps that bring out some detail, sparsely as he could have done with more. The blue on the chest to indicate side windows feels almost apologetic.
Sworder’s head is well done with a wonderful face sculpt that I absolutely love, but the head feels so small on the enormous chest, which in turn makes the arms look like they are out a bit far, and his giant feet provide great articulation and balance but are massive and curvy on a robot mode that is otherwise mostly blocks attached to blocks.
I need to emphasise that it’s not a bad looking robot mode, it’s just awkward and the lack of paint or detailing doesn’t help.
With any test shot you expect there to be a few quirks or quality control issues but Sworder came in issue free. The rare indulgences of paint are all neat and tidy, especially on the gun, all of the joints are tight but not too stiff and the ratcheting elbows and hips work but are quite soft.
I’m scratching my head a little at this point because after reviewing test shots of Fanstoys Willis and Forager I am quite used to explaining that something was already broken or feels like it’s going to break and advocating caution. Sworder feels solid and all of the panels feel like you can handle them with a bit of roughness and they’ll be fine.
Don’t do that though, because then you might break something and prove me wrong.
Articulation on Sworder is pretty good with extending hinges on the feet allowing them to go in every which way but loose (they turn me), waist swivel is in there, heads on a ball joint and the shoulders are on flaps which can give you some extra range if for some insane reason you need it, but it all comes back to his proportions with the mighty chest and really high up elbows preventing his arms moving well across his front.
Being such a large scale figure his hands have extra articulation at the index finger rather than just the opening hand most MP style fingers get stuck with. You can pose him beckoning people over to have a moan at them….if you want.
If you were to run through the check boxes of great articulation he’d put a big orange tick in virtually very box but it can take a bit of work to get a great pose out of him as the blockiness doesn’t lend itself to looking all that dynamic.
Sworder is fairly well armoured up, coming with a black rifle and four swords.
Cast in black plastic with some lovely silver paint to highlight the grating, the rifle is your fairly standard G1 affair. It doesn’t look like Sandy’s G1 gun, it’s a little bit more Rodimusy, but it’s fine, it works, it’s unassuming and totally does the job.
His swords are a teeny bit more interesting in that they can fold up and store in a few different spots upon his frame . I’m not a big fan of Transformers having swords when so many of them are literally living guns, but we’ve come to accept that if you are a robot who turns into a helicopter – you are going to be nifty with a blade.
Nobody usually makes an effort to have the rotors store as actual rotors, and if they do it’s usually just that they can sit on the bots back splayed out, blocking the poor bot from walking through door frames. So my mind imploded into a whirlpool of orange and yellow when I realised that Sworder can accomodate the rotors folding up on the back each of their spokes can be adjusted so they can sit on the back quite neatly. I can’t believe it *glares at FOC Vortex*.
Not only that, but there are ton of other places to peg the swords if you want an cleaner looking back. But why would you when you have this novelty option? When you place the swords in his hands they lack the tab the gun has so aren’t secure which is baffling considering how much work has gone into pegging them everywhere else.
All of Sworders modes are still goofy but there’s an element of fun to the car mode which comes from it looking like such a state that you kind of try to make the best of it. The helicopter mode does a fine job and the robot mode is alright but just alright and I enjoy it more when playing with it as a toy than I do displaying it – which goes against every reason for it to exist.
The transformations are horrendous and are a masterclass in how to make you hate a toy, but I say that with the qualification of not having instructions. So it’s hard for me to have too much rage in my heart or take a pop at it for that reason.
This is not a Masterpiece Sandstorm no matter how forgiving you may want to be, but once you throw away all pretense of it trying to be a Masterpiece figure then you can find some fun in it.
Please do remember that this figure is a test shot so may not be reflective of the final product.