Wait For It…

The message board I originally posted all these on was a Transformers message board.  This next one is best read with some knowledge of Transformers toy lines in the early aughts,  but the key take away is that there was a subline of Transformers called Alternators that were 1:24 scale licensed vehicles that were hellishly difficult to transform.

I haven’t done a toy review of any sort in forever. And I always liked doing them, and I’m really liking Alternator Smokescreen, so I decided to make him the topic of my glorious return to reviewing.

Yes, I know he’s already been reviewed by numerous people for many months, but to them I say: Screw you! It’s Mike’s time to shine, damn it!

Vehicle mode
First let me start off by saying how surprised I was to find that there was not one twisty tie to be found on the packaging of this guy. Instead, he was encased in a molded plastic bubble. I don’t remember the last time that’s happened.

Hell, I don’t remember it happening ever at all. Go figure.

Now obviously the emphasis of this toy is on the realistic vehicle mode. This is clearly indicated by the packaging, which seems to declare,


(Oh, by the way his name is Smokescreen)

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how amazing his vehicle mode is, but guess what, I’m going to anyway. The amount of detail on this thing is phenomenal… all four doors open, the hood opens, the trunk opens (Although granted they don’t open very far, but still that’s way more than they had to do), there’s an actual engine under the hood… It’s just… god damn.

And that’s not even getting into the little tiny details that they probably could have left out like the gear shift and parking brake in the interior, to say nothing of the AC vents, turn signals, and COIN TRAY on the dashboard. And they even made it have quasi-functional steering, implemented in a pretty ingenious way with magnets. Seriously would anyone have noticed it if it were missing? There was no reason to do this other than for boasting rights about how much they kick ass.

And kick ass they do.

I only have one complaint about the vehicle mode, and I’m not even sure it’s a valid one. That being that the front doors don’t have windows of any sort. I don’t know if the actual Subaru rally racer doesn’t have them (In which case it makes perfect sense), but it seems odd to not include them, yet have the back door windows and both windshields present.

Ah well, I can always pretend they’re just rolled down or something.

Transformation to robot
Smokescreen here definitely hails from the Autobot Brothers school of design, only carried out to the Nth degree.

I know people have been railing on Hasbro for their lackluster instructions for the Alternators, but honestly I didn’t find him to be THAT complicated. Sure, he gave me a few head scratching moments to figure out what to do, but just a few glances at the pictures on the box was more than enough for me to figure out the vast majority of it. The only things I missed were flipping the roof of the car over (Which seems to be little more than an extra step added for the sake of adding an extra step), and the black pieces in his feet that keep his toes from collapsing (Not that they were doing that in the first place.).

So yeah, he’s complex, but nothing that can’t be figured out.

I would have gladly sacrificed the steering alignment in the front wheels if it had meant that I could transform the arms without so many contortions to work the little bit with the magnet on it around the edges of the hood and all.

Robot Mode
For a line that’s basically seemingly built around the old school G1 character given new and modern upgrades, to me it seems that Smokescreen has retained the most of the characteristics from his G1 form. It seems that with each unveiling of a new Alternator, they seem to be drifting further and further away from their G1 counterparts, whereas Smokescreen is firmly anchored in all kinds of nostalgia.

Granted, he no longer turns into the same kind of car, but his robot mode maintains the same shape and much of the details such as his head and forearms. Yeah, he no longer has the red-orange color present anywhere on him, and he doesn’t have shoulder mounted missile launchers (Even though there’s two holes that would be perfect for holding them right behind his head on the gray bar his windshield is attached to), but practically everything else is spot on. Hell, even his gun is a reasonable interpretation of the original’s, given the limitations of the fact it had to turn into an engine.

His articulation is fairly impressive too, featuring articulation in the hip, knee, ankle, waist, head, wrist, fingers, elbow, and the shoulder. However once again the curse of the steering gimmick strikes again in SEVERELY hampering his lateral shoulder movement since the little bit with the magnet butts up against the chest. Once again, I’d have gladly sacrificed the steering gimmick for an easier time transforming the arms and more movement. He also lacks any ability to swivel his arm at the elbows, but that’s a lot easier for me to overlook compared to the shoulder thing.

Still, otherwise an utterly fantastic robot mode.

Transformation back to vehicle
I really really REALLY hope you paid close attention to what the hell you were doing when you were turning him into robot mode, because now you’ve got to reverse it all.

Doesn’t sound that hard, but getting each and every little individual bit to line up juuuuuuuuuuuust right is kind of a pain in the ass. It takes much fiddling and fiddling and fiddling to get everything perfectly aligned.

And I don’t know if this happened with anyone else’s Alternator Smokescreen, but as it turns out mine was apparently actually a puzzle box that opened a portal to Hell.

I know this because after trying to get everything in perfect place for 20 minutes, I finally succeeded. And immediately the room was cloaked in darkness, and a bunch of chains came flying out the shadows to hoist me off the ground, and who should appear but Pinhead and his Cenobite friends.

“What the hell!” I yelled, “I didn’t open the box!”

“True,” said Pinhead, “but we’ve been branching out into absurdly complex transforming toys. Many little Japanese children have had their sooooooooooooooooooouls torn asunder.”

“That would explain the goblins that would show up every time I try and transformed Dinobot Slapper,” I mused.

“No, that’s just because you do too much LSD,” he retorted. “Now we shall tear your soooooooooooooooooooul apart.”

“Do you always have to say it like that?”

“Say what? ‘Apart?'”

“No, ‘soul.’ It’s only one syllable, not like… eight.”

“Oh do shut up. We have such wonderful torments to inflict upon you–”

At that point, without warning something came flying out of the dark and embedded itself firmly in the forehead of one of the Cenobites. “Ow…” he mumbled as he collapsed into a leather-clad heap.

Wait, what is that in his head? Is it? Could it be?


Suddenly, BATMAN leaps from the shadows and starts laying the smack down on the remaining Cenobites. Fortunately for him, their outfits aren’t designed for quick movements, and Batman is the master of martial arts.

The fucking MASTER I tell you.

So pretty soon it’s just Pinhead and Batman, and Pinhead does that thing where he just stares all evil like and the chains come to life to try and hook themselves in Batman’s flesh. But Batman just can’t be caught man, he just can’t be caught! He dodges left, he dodges right, he does a triple reverse back flip through the air, and before you know it… He’s holding all the chains with their hooks.

“Oh bloody hell…” muttered Pinhead.

“You got that right,” growled Batman, who then proceeded to beat the snot out of Pinhead and string him up from the wall like a duck in the window of a shop in Chinatown.

“Wow,” I said, “I never knew that collecting Transformers could be so dangerous.”

And just like that, the Cenobites were gone, and Batman took off into the night. Of course I went and exchanged my Smokescreen for a non-soul damning version, since obviously I can’t always count on Batman to save my ass.

It’s still a pain in the ass to get back in to vehicle mode though.

Awesome vehicle mode, awesome robot mode, and pretty darn reasonably priced at 20 bucks given his size. Go buy ‘im.