Cliffbee.com: Armada Thundercracker Toy Review

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Individual Review




Name: Thundercracker
Series: Armada
Allegiance: Decepticon
Alternate Mode: Jet Fighter



JET MODE
Height: 7cm Length: 21cm Width: 24cm

   A blue fighter jet with red, black and silver highlights, that looks like it's inspired by real life jet features, but clearly isn't a real model. The canopy is a light orange, which gives away that this toy is clearly meant as a homage to the G1 toy of the same name. In the Armada cartoon, this is an alternate colour scheme for Starscream, although the toys are distinct characters. This is a great colour scheme in its own right, and looks a little better than Starscream's in my opinion. It's also a lot more faithful to G1 Thundercracker than Starscream is to his namesake.

   He has purple Decepticon logos on his wings, and it's a lighter shade of purple than the one Starscream sported, but annoying the entire logo is painted _again_, not just the raised parts. On the underside, he has no front undercarriage as such, but below each wing is a block with wheels, these blocks have Decepticon logos on them - they added paint to these logos for Thundercracker, so at least they got it half right this time. Despite having no nose wheel, he stands up okay, and rolls along about as well as you'd expect.

   Zapmaster can attach underneath the cockpit, and pretty much looks like a car stowed underneath the cockpit, which is a little odd. Adding to the play value are twin missile launchers, that flip forward when you attach Zapmaster (or another Minicon) to a live hardpoint on the fuselage. They're big and heavy with powerful springs so it's a fun gimmick.

   There are four sound gimmicks on this toy. Pulling back on the hardpoint on top will produce a swooping sound, holding this trigger back will create a whirring sound that's meant to be some sort of flying sound - not that jets have propellers. Pressing down on the cockpit produces the sound of rapid gunfire, and if you do this with Zapmaster stowed underneath the cockpit, it'll make the sound of a bomb exploding.

   Despite having four distinct sounds, I'm not impressed by the sound gimmick. The quality of the recordings is well below par, to the point that it's hard to tell what they're meant to be. The cockpit button is way too easy to activate, to the point where you'll activate it three or four times every time you transform him - the bad sound gets old fast. I've taken the batteries out of both Starscream and Thundercracker, since I got sick of the sounds very quickly - they're the same on both toys.

   Despite the rather underdone sound gimmicks, this is still a fun toy. The missile launchers are very cool, and the missiles will shoot over a metre. Aside from the two spots already mentioned, you can attach Zapmaster to the two wheel blocks under the wings, giving him four attachments points, three of which can fit any Minicon.

   This is a nice looking jet mode, and there's a very detailed sculpt which is partially hidden by the blue. Something that really impresses me is that the paint job is not just a straight substitution of Starscream's colours. Starscream's jet mode is a mix of grey and red, but Thundercracker's is essentially blue. This is all achieved through the paint mask, since all the grey plastic of Starscream is now blue, and the red is now silver.

   With better colours than Starscream, I prefer Thundercracker's jet mode. I always preferred G1 Thundercracker to Starscream anyway, and this is certainly faithful to that colour scheme, so it makes sense that I'm a fan of it again. Colours aside, the missile launchers are a lot of fun, so this is a good jet mode, despite the failure of the sound gimmicks to really contribute.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   The rear wheels fold out to become the robot legs, the wheel blocks underneath the wings fold out to become the arms. The head pops out when you clip the groin into place (and it's possible to leave it out in jet mode). The wings rotate to form robot mode wings, and the left wing can detach to form a sword, something I strongly recommend _not_ doing - in fact I've left the transparent elastic that it's packaged with on so it the wing won't flop loose. The nose folds down to become the robot chest, and the missile launchers can deploy over his shoulders in robot mode. It's a fairly involved transformation, although not a difficult one.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 19cm Width: 21cm

   Still mainly blue, Thundercracker has silver elbows, feet and thighs, the feet are actually painted a very shiny silver which is a different shade to the rest. The canopy on his chest is orange, in keeping with the G1 Thundercracker - as are the silver air intakes on his shoulders. his hands are black. The wings now sit behind his shoulders, and the two purple Decepticon symbols are clearly visible, I just wish they weren't flooded with purple. All in all, this is a good colour scheme, again better than that of Starscream, and it's just dripping G1 Thundercracker references.

   Continuing the G1 homage is the head, which is very similar to the G1 cartoon version in mould, if not colour - it's black with a red face and silver eyes. With that red face he looks decidedly evil (or sunburnt, I suppose), and gives him a different facial appearance than that of Starscream. Thundercracker has purple Decepticon logos on his elbows, which were unpainted on Starscream, and this is an obvious improvement.

   Thundercracker has two ways to arm himself in this mode. Firstly, you can attach Zapmaster to his backpack and deploy the missile launchers on either side of his head, which tend to overwhelm his head, although they wont reduce his field of vision anyway since the air intakes act as blinkers anyway. The missiles, as previously mentioned, will fire over a metre away, which is cool. The other way to arm him is to detach the right wing and unfold it into a sword.

   You might remember I recommended against using this sword. There are three things I don't like about this sword. Firstly, it's a pretty strange looking sword, since it's little more than three strips of plastic. Secondly, it leaves Thundercracker with only one wing. Granted, the show kept this one-wing look when he was wielding his sword, but that doesn't change the fact it looks awful. Lastly, the more you use this weapon, the weaker the rivet style joint on the wingtip becomes, meaning the wing will fall apart in jet mode - and it's not worth it for such a stupid weapon.

   Despite the poor sword, Thundercracker has pretty good play value. Zapmaster can attach to either forearm as a sort of shield, and three of the four sounds can be activated - Zapmaster wont fit under the cockpit now. Sure, the sounds aren't very good, but it's nice that they're accessible. The holes in Thundercracker's hands are too small to hold the Star Sabre, but he can hold his missiles as clubs, although they're a little loose. I wish the designer had thought to detach the launchers and plug them into the holes on his hands.

   Thundercracker's shoulders rotate out to the sides and hinge allowing him to lift his arms forward, but he can't lift them above horizontal, since they attach underneath his wingstubs. His elbows are double hinged, so overall the arms are quite poseable. The hips swing, the knees both rotate and bend, so his leg poseability is pretty good. The electronics are stowed in his considerable backpack, so it's a good thing he has big feet and heelspurs, giving Screamer stability in a wide variety of poses - including standing normally.

   It's not really part of the poseability, but I should mention that the tailfins stick out of his knees. The designer was smart enough to make these out of a soft plastic, avoiding both brittle knees and kids stabbing themselves with a hard edge. It also gave Hasbro more options when retooling Skywarp, since the tailfins are separate pieces of plastic.

   A decent robot mode even if the poseability is a little patchy. There's a fair bit of play value, although I recommend against the sword. The sound gimmicks aren't as obtrusive now, although they're still not that great in themselves. His inability to hold the launchers in his hands is a clear missed opportunity. The colour scheme here is more vibrant than Starscream and is a stronger G1 tribute, despite the red face. The Decepticon logos on his wings still look terribly, sadly.


Name: Zapmaster
Allegiance: Minicon
Alternate Mode: Racing Car

CAR MODE
Height: 1.5cm Length: 7.5cm Width: 2.5cm

   A small silver formula 1 style racing car with a black engine block and blue air dam, Zapmaster's lighter colours don't look quite as well as Swindle's dark colours. The wheels roll, although the rear wheels are actually really narrow with false wheels inside them (these are the robot shoulders). Losing either the blue or black would have helped this toy - the dominance of the silver would have worked better with either black or blue - not both. I think they were trying to make him different to Swindle (both the air dam and engine block are black on Swindle), but I'd have preferred a straight colour swap here.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Split the front section and fold the air dam back to form the feet. Slide the spoiler forward to become his chestplate and reveal the robot head. The side fenders lift out to become the arms.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 5cm Width: 4cm



   Still sporting the same basic shape as his car mode, Zapmaster has a silver chest, silver forearms and legs, black groin and shoulders and blue feet. His head is black with a painted silver face that looks pretty good. The overall effect is of a punk little Minicon, and it really contrasts with the darker Swindle's robot mode.

   His poseability is minimal - the shoulders and elbows hinge sideways as part of the transformation, but that's it. The feet have built in heelspurs, being the air dam, so he stands very well.

   Lastly, I'd just like to go on record that Zapmaster is a silly name for anything without a giant laser gun on it somewhere - and even then it's still a bad name.


VARIATIONS

   Thundercracker and Zapmaster are repaints of Starscream and Swindle respectively. Skywarp is a retool of the mould (but with a brand new Minicon).

OVERALL

   A decent set, especially in the context of Armada, but then this series has some lowpoints. Thundercracker has great colours and a lot of play value. The wing sword and sound gimmicks are duds, but he still displays well if you leave the wing attached. I'd much rather a wing that didn't have to detach to turn into a really bad weapon. Zapmaster's colours aren't so good, but he's still a decent Minicon who suits Thundercracker fairly well, despite the extensive silver. While the mould has a few problems, it's not without merit. Thundercracker is an improvement on Starscream, so if you only get one of the two I'd get Thundercracker - 7/10

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