It should come as no surprise to see any gimmick return in the Generations portion of the Transformers toy line, given that in recent years we’ve had Combiners, Pretenders, Headmasters and even the Clones. Yet it was still a shock to see the Duocons resurrected for Power of the Primes. Especially shocking as Hasbro still haven’t officially announced Battletrap – he just appeared one day hanging around toy shelves in some far flung part of the globe. Hasbro, mate, if you are struggling for a marketing team then drop me a line – I will work for Rum and toys.
A new line later and here we are with our first true Duocon in 30 odd years – Battletrap. Flywheels did turn up in Titans Return as a Titan Master but it wasn’t the full blown resurrection of the Duocons we all wanted. Battletrap is exactly that. Or is he? Continue on to the review below to find out if he’s bought sexy back….
The tale of this particular combination of plastic, begins in earnest with two bots who are on the surface as different as can be, yet are quite literally stuck together for all time. Battletrap’s vintage character was formed from two independent vehicle modes with no individual robot modes to call their own but for the Power of the Primes incarnation he was split into two separate Legends class figures. Battleslash, the helicopter, and Roadtrap, the truck.
Names which both sound like early 90’s MegaDrive games.
So each vehicle is upgraded to a full “sleeve” (yes, I have been watched Altered Carbon) and the results aren’t bad (neither is the show). Yes, the key here is to get to a combined Duocon form, but the compromises to allow for three modes aren’t whacking you over the head. Almost all signs of a combined form are neatly hidden away within the two reasonable robot modes. Battleslash is the robotic incarnation of the Michelin Man, but his bot mode carries an air that makes you imagine it could have been a possible G2 Megatron in another timeline. Roadtrap stands besides the Crankcases of this world as a small angry looking bot who just wants to moan about chocolate bars being smaller than they used to be. Hasbro have consistently knocked it out of the park with the head sculpts in recent years and this pair are no exception. Each is distinct too, one having a mouth and eyes and the other having a face plate and visor, with the Battletrap head later on fusing one element from each. Both get nice paint that brings out the form of the faces whilst the eyes deepen due to the lovely red colour. It’s almost a shame that one head will rarely be seen again and the other will spend most of it’s life jammed into the stomach of the other as a makeshift waist swivel…
Third parties like Iron Factory may imbue their small bots with the kind of posing ability that is fresh out of an anime, but Hasbro tend to be more basic with their Legends Class figures. Even at this size this pair aren’t the most articulated bots you’ll find but each has the fairly standard array of joints and you don’t feel like they are especially limited when compared to their peers. Shoulders, elbows, hips and knees are all ball joints so you can get some nice, natural looking poses. Considering most people are going to bypass these modes for the most part it’s not much of a bother and for Legends characters toys they may seem a little bland but there is a charming, brotherly team up vibe to them. I am not sure what it is, but they both exude that sort of classic duo feel of a more fighty Morcombe and Wise.
Each vehicle mode is an accurate reflection of it’s vintage predecessor. Both are the same types of vehicles with Roadtrap especially hewing close to the original toy. He takes on the job of recreating Battletrap’s car components Ford F-150 camper truck (thank you TFWiki) mode admirably – from the front. A sculpted, painted grill improves on the vintage toys sticker detail whilst the red windscreen carries over beautifully, and any temptation to go with clear plastic windows is thankfully resisted. I’ve always been a sucker for a red windscreen. There’s something so profoundly 80’s about it, and it reminds me of the old Transformers toy catalogues which often had lovely red gradients for the backdrops. There’s a nostalgia to details like that which for me takes precedence over modern trimmings. So looking at it squarely from the front it works, it’s passable, but less successful is the roof, which unfortunately is quite obviously the bot modes chest. The odd thing is the chest could have been sculpted to look more a roof of a car like so many Transformers before it and it would suited the vehicle and combined form better AND traded even even more heavily on the franchises past. The back end of the car mode is where Hasbro just gave up and went to play on Street Fighter II for a couple of hours.
Battleslash is a little less successful with his take on the Apache Helicopter – but he is no 1995 OJ at convincing you he’s something he’s not. Clearly that’s still a helicopter and the distinctive winged cockpit is right there, but the rest just sort of comes together in a helicopter shape. In 1987 all he had to do was fold in half so it was much easier to make a fairly accurate whirly bird in those times, and Hasbro still famously struggle when it comes to helicopter alt modes. Even though the packaging makes no reference to the combined Battletrap form, the alt mode gives the game away with the gaping square hole making him look like he flies around gobbling up everything in sight like the Airwolf/PacMan crossover we never knew we needed.
The blades do spin, however the clearance isn’t great so you have to pull the blades up a little so they can spin freely.
1987 Battletrap had a straightforward combination where you jammed the helicopter on top of the car and it sprung to life as a robot. Broadly speaking the idea of 2018 Battletrap is similar, Battleslash folds in half and Roadtrap turns into a pair of pants but it is a much more involved exercise. The spring loaded action from the gimmick laden late 80’s era of Transformers is out, and millennial complexity is in.
Something that struck me, which I’d never considered before as a total non Unicron Trilogy fan, is how the Duocon process is a forebear to that Powerlinx gubbins. I suppose if they want some non Flywheels retools they could revisit that era? For me it can stay in it’s ugly Minicon shaped tomb. MICROMASTERS FOR LIFE YO.
IDW artwork has in the past influenced Hasbro toy designs and Battletrap’s overall look has a very Nick Roche feel to it – especially that noggin. To say two Legends toys are crammed together here it’s impressive how well this pulls off a well-formed robot mode. If you just stepped out of a Delorean from 1987, and only knew vintage Battletrap, you’d look at this and have no inkling that there were two separate robot modes hidden in there. It doesn’t feel like the compromise of producing two Legends figures, rather than one deluxe, impacts negatively on the look of the bot mode. Each half of Roadtrap’s chest is clearly visible on the legs, looking for all the world like Battletrap has just been caught by surprise on the toilet with his pants down around his ankles, but it does a decent job pulling double duty as leg detailing. Battleslash’s huge turkey drumstick legs now make sense as the arms of Battletrap and help give him proportions that are fantastically cartoonish and athletic. This guy wants to get out onto the Basketball court and use his flying abilities to recreate a 1980’s Teen Wolf montage.
Battletrap’s colours have always been an interesting Vulcan mind meld of opposing forces and they work just as beautifully in 2018 as they did in the before times of 1987. Replacing the grey of the original’s helicopter with an off white is an interesting choice that goes against the grain of accuracy but it takes nothing away from the figure. The one compromise that is forced is with the arms that are now white instead of the original blue. Hasbro are frequently guilty of being stingy with the paint brush, but as they’ve dabbed the hands in blue paint this feels like more of an aesthetic choice than the big H counting those beans. Especially considering how nicely paint has been used across the rest of the figure.
Articulation does not suffer massively for the sake of the gimmick. As a bonus, the feet use Roadtrap’s knee’s and transformation joints to get a wicked range of motion that you wouldn’t usually expect to see on a Deluxe toy. This does come with a large slice of fiddliness as Roadtrap’s chest halves cover the knees and like to move about when you move the knees. You can remedy this somewhat by locking Roadtrap’s arms into vehicle mode position but it’s at the cost of some of the ankle tilts range. For once Hasbro have convincingly solved the conundrum of how to store helicopter blades without turning them into swords (ironic given Battleslash’s card art shows exactly that), but it does block the waist swivel which quite horrifically makes use of Roadtrap’s head. Peaugh offers a solution to this with an alternate transformation for the back which sits the rotor a little further back and allows it to spin in G1 style and gives you a funky ab crunch.
The only negative, QC wise, is one of the arms on mine doesn’t peg into the chest securely but it’s nothing that can’t be solved by not caring about it.
You will notice no weapon is included with either bot, so Battletrap is weapons free…but not in the way he’d want. On the surface of it, Legends figures don’t often come with weapons so it’s not a shock, but another reason for it may be that his hands will struggle to hold most weapons. You can see in the pictures he has fist holes which are compatible with your regular 5mm peg weapons, but Battleslash’s heel spurs leave little room for the majority of guns to actually go in there. It’s the one time where the solo robot modes actually impede the combined form in a meaningful way and it’s a small, annoying thing that there is really no reasonable justification for. If you don’t mind the solo Chopper Dave Battleslash robot mode standing like a wobbly drunk then you could just trim those spikes off the fists and go about living your life.
Me, I sit in front of a picture of the Hasbro logo listening to sad music asking: “Why Austin, WHY?!”
Battletrap feels like something of a labour of love for someone on the Transformers design team. It’s not a perfect toy but there is a surprising level of effort and care put into it to ensure the Duocon gimmick is a success. And it is. None of the modes are especially hampered by another, you can completely ignore the separate robot modes if you wish, the transformation is more involved than usual but fluid and fun, and the toy trades heavily on repackaging nostalgia. There is a feeling that this figure is a message, that no matter how silly or obscure a gimmick from Transformers history might seem – it isn’t off the table. Which is itself a lesson we should already have learned after the return of Autobot and Decepticon Clones.
So can I have Turbomasters now, Mrs Hasbro?