Cliffbee.com: Retrax Toy Review

Toy Reviews
Individual Review




Name: Retrax
Series: Beast Wars
Allegiance: Predacon
Function: Desert Demolition
Alternate Mode: Ball Bug



BUG MODE
Height: 5cm Length: 20cm Width: 9.5cm

   A dark transparent green ball bug, with a tennis-ball green spray on top which fades towards the bottom, Retrax has ten black legs, two curved yellow mouthparts at the front, along with black antennae and black compound eyes with orange arrowheads paint on them for some reason. There's a large yellow spine at the back and various moulded spines over his shell, making Retrax a rather unsavoury crustacean. There are various names for this type of creature, but it's basically a segmented groundcrawler that rolls up into a ball when threatened. The colour scheme is both unappealing and appropriate so I'm not going to complain about it.

   I'm not entirely sure what a creature like this would be demolishing, nor why it'd do so in the desert. Apart from the a likely lack of demolition candidates, ball bugs tend to live in moist locations like underneath leaf litter and decaying logs and the like. I'm not entirely sure that bright green is the best camouflage in a desert environment either - so let's just ignore his function all together.

   He's both detailed and confronting in his appearance, with lots of texture, little legs with moulded joints and hinges between the seven segments of his body, so if you push him down or slide him along the body will wiggle to some extent. The feet tend to sit just above the table with Retrax resting on the robot parts underneath, which isn't ideal but doesn't ruin him either (whilst walking at least some feet would be off the ground).

   There are three spring loaded action features here, and I'll cover the two lesser ones first. All are activated by small yellow buttons on his back. Pulling the button on his tail segment towards the front will cause the curved spine on his tail to spring down into the ground (or any Maximal that's unlucky enough to be there, I suppose). The button on his head pulls back, causing the mouthparts to clamp together, biting his prey. OK, so ball bugs aren't really vicious predators, but in these colours it works for Retrax. Incidentally the antennae on his head and all ten legs can lift up and down.

   The final spring loaded feature is the central gimmick of the toy, and largely defines Retrax. There are two yellow buttons in the middle segment, pulling them towards each other will cause the entire toy to wrap up into a ball (hence the seven jointed segments). You'll have to fold away the legs and antennae yourself while the yellow spine and mouthparts will stick out, but Retrax is more or less spherical. He's about 7.5cm diameter - about the size of a tennis ball, and while the various protrusions will prevent him from rolling along the overall effect is still quite impressive.

   An ugly creature by design, Retrax isn't going to appeal to everyone's tastes. The play value revolves around the ball gimmick which is quite well executed for what it is, but if it doesn't appeal to you, this mode isn't going to take your fancy. I appreciate it for what it is, and it certainly gives Retrax something unique, and on that alone I find this am interesting and worthwhile beast mode, if not a brilliant one.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Fold away the legs, turn the bug over. Unfold the robot legs, which sit in the middle of the underside and deploy to what was the right side of the bug. Fold down his feet, waist and chestplate and flip up the head. Detach his hands from the tail and head sections of the beast mode if you like (it's optional),

ROBOT MODE
Height: 14cm Width: 20cm

   A black and white robot with some yellow here and there, Retrax carries a giant transparent green shell across his back. The left hand plugs into the tail of the beast mode while the right hand plugs into the head. The chestplate is transparent green and the waist black with one beast leg hanging over the groin for a rather disturbing look. The colour scheme here no longer sets out to be revolting, but the mix of solid black, white and yellow with extensive transparent green is pretty messy. It's not helped by the giant white plates behind either hand (the undersides of the beast head and tail), the left side plate does sport a rubsign, though. The head is white with fluorescent yellow face, red eyes, black pupils and mouth and two black antennae that seriously evoke Unicron. Why they went for fluorescent yellow on a toy that already has yellow and white is beyond me. It's not a total mess but this colour scheme is far from unified.

   As you might guess, Retrax is a serious shellformer. The hands are moulded into cupped palms, you can unplug either the head and tail sections or the hands themselves, set off the gimmick and watch him clamp or clap. This gimmick is far less convincing now - I get the distinct feeling the designer wanted to make sure that Retrax's core feature had something to do in robot mode. The end result is unposeable arms with an odd hug of death feature.

   The head is on a ball joint, the hips are ball joints with swivels below them and the knees and ankles are hinged. There are heelspurs, but despite the respectable articulation in the legs there's only so much you can do here since Retrax is so top heavy. With no hand weapon or in-built projectiles (which would have done a lot here), Retrax is sadly quite limited.

   If it displayed well, I'd be more positive about this robot mode. Sadly, Retrax has mish mashed colours that can't possibly save him from his lack of meaningful play value. The leg articulation is good if wasted and the body proportions are actually quite good if you ignore the shell running across his back. This robot mode was clearly designed to fit into what they were doing with the beast mode, and suffers for it.

VARIATIONS

   None as such, although the mould was renamed as Powerhug in Japan, who sported a brighter but far more unified green, red and white colour scheme.

OVERALL

   Based around a single gimmick, and like most toys in that group, Retrax lives and dies with his gimmick. The ball gimmick _does_ work, but whether or not you'll like him depends on what you think of the idea. Those who like Beast Wars for its articulation might find him disappointing, but if you like the idea of his rather unique gimmick, Retrax is a fun, if flawed, toy - 5.5/10

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