Wednesday, 17 February 2016

REVIEW: X-Transbots MM-VIII Arkose

"Like if you need geology-type info, hey, just call on yours truly Beachcomber! I dig projects that don't require conflict, you know."

I've mentioned before that as a lad growing up in the UK, I didn't exactly have easy access to a lot of the G1 Transformers cartoon. Though it was sporadically shown on terrestrial TV, most of my exposure to the series came through owning several VHS tapes of particular episodes (as well as the 1986 movie), which were much-loved and watched on repeat.

It's perhaps no surprise then that certain scenes are more burned into my mind than others. One of those tapes was the two-part season 2 extravaganza Dinobot Island, which remains among my favourite Transformers adventures to this day, and one moment that always springs to mind is the interaction above between Chip Chase and a certain blue Autobot.

I always liked that there was a large range of differing personalities in the Autobot ranks, and especially in the season 2 cast. Though yes, it's good to have your classic jock types (I'm looking at you, Sideswipe) I appreciated that there were also scientists, artists, inventors and medics.

Not only that, but these characters weren't just played for laughs or there as mere stereotypes - they were often the centre of attention or portrayed as the heroes in various situations. So, a peaceful nature-loving geologist Autobot with a distinctly soothing voice was one that immediately caught my attention.

So it was that I was tremendously excited when X-Transbots first unveiled Arkose, a Masterpiece-styled homage of Beachcomber. It's been a long road since then, but now finally he's here, arriving directly on the heels of XTB's other minibot releases, Boost and Hatch.

If you've read my first impressions on those figures (and if you haven't, you can here), you'll know that I had some misgivings when it came to certain aspects, despite liking the overall result. How does Arkose fair in comparison?

Well, straight out of the box, we have a very striking little blue dune buggy, that I have to say is really quite eye-catching at first glance. There some lovely detailing going on here, whether it's the level of moulded detail or the shiny finish. The initial first impression of Arkose is certainly a good one.

Perhaps in keeping with the aesthetics of the official Masterpiece line, Arkose's vehicle mode is a much more 'realistic' version of a dune buggy than his cartoon appearance, which was quite heavily designed after his G1 toy appearance. This thing looks for all intents & purposes like a real vehicle that would actually exist, and the level of detail in the design really helps to sell that.

Technically, the sides of the vehicle are supposed to tab into those peg holes just in front of the rear wheels, but they don't always stay!

The proportions are really good, and given that there's barely a whiff of robot mode kibble evident, Arkose does look really impressive from pretty much any angle.

As I say, closer inspection brings out some lovely details, too. Of particular note is the engine piece at the rear, which is loaded with intricate moulding and is nicely finished in chrome, which really helps the figure to pop overall.

Everyone loves chrome, right?

The interior is also really well done, with a nicely-moulded steering wheel, gearbox, and other tiny little details such as the crosses on the back of the chairs.

Superbly detailed

Colour-wise, I'm not quite sure where to fall in my opinion on Arkose. Boost has caused all kinds of controversy when it comes to the final colour choices, though I guess most just accepted that Beachcomber was blue and that's that.

I'd say this guy does a pretty good job at recreating the shade of the animation model, though arguably it could even be a little darker if anything. Still, the finish is pretty nice, and I was pleased to see a lot of the blue is painted.

One slight conundrum here is where to place an Autobot symbol for a healthy dose of cartoon accuracy. The obvious position would be on the bonnet, but due to the way it splits during transformation, that's going to be a difficult operation, and will leave traces of the symbol on the robot mode legs. Can't really blame the design for this one, of course, but it is a shame nonetheless. I was wondering which way TakaraTomy would go if this was their design, but I'm still undecided.

Beachcomber's animation model

What is really neat about this mode is that you're able to put some of the smaller human figures in the seats, which adds a boatload of play value. Test shot pics of Arkose showed him carrying the Dr Wu Partners, but I actually found that MP-10 Spike was a great fit here, not to mention the mini-Blaster figure that came with MP-25 Tracks!

I get so jealous of Spike sometimes

There's also a bit of handy weapons storage in this mode, using a small clip on the interior of the buggy to hold his robot mode rifle. It certainly makes him look uncharacteristically ready for battle!

He really is a pacifist, honest!

Arkose also looks good alongside other figures, even if he's actually a little bigger than I might have expected. It doesn't bother me at all, but I can imagine that some folks are going to wish that this minibot was more on the mini side in vehicle mode, especially as he's just slightly larger than Masterpiece Bumblebee.

With MP-26 Road Rage and MP-21R Bumble red body

How well this works is of course up to you. Personally, I think he looks great in formation with other Autobots, and especially Optimus Prime!

With MP-10 Optimus Prime

Yep, he fits!

Well then, so far, so good. Vehicle mode is really nicely done. Onto transformation then, although unfortunately this is when some of the issues with this figure become apparent...

The transformation itself is, at least for the most part, relatively simple. There's nothing quite like Boost's rather bizarre lower leg conversion going on here, and generally speaking everything sort of happens like you would expect, at least in principle.

The problem is that on my copy at least several bits repeatedly pop off, causing a distinct degree of frustration, particularly on first attempt. The most obvious example is one side of the front bumper, which splits into two and rotates towards the ankle. Unfortunately my copy is missing part of the pin that holds this piece in place, and consequently it will never fail to fall off during transformation.

It can be put back in place easily enough, but my only real solution here will be to write to my retailer to request a replacement part, which is annoying.

There's also the matter of the engine piece. One of the white pipes on the side continually falls off as well, though the one on the other side is fitted securely. I can likely solve this easily enough with a small dab of super glue, but it's obviously not great either.

I will say that I'm also not a big fan of the way the engine piece itself transforms, and I was pretty worried about it the first time round for fear of scratching the chrome. Fortunately that doesn't appear to have happened so far though.

However, the biggest offender here is no doubt the roll cage. There were numerous concerns raised about the cage before release, and we were reassured that it would be made of diecast in order to ensure it was sturdy. This is indeed true, and thus far mine hasn't bent out of shape at all, but still the whole thing feels just a little fragile, like it warrants a bit of extra care when transforming this figure.

The biggest issue is still pieces popping off though, and this includes both the smaller plastic pieces on top of the roll cage in vehicle mode, which continually unpeg and need to be reapplied, and the whole front section which is supposed to fold underneath, but slides out of place with barely a harsh glance in its direction.

To be honest, it's just as easy to accept that everything will pop off and then just reapply it all in a different position for robot mode! I've also started to see faint signs of paint rub on parts of the roll cage too, which for my money equals a real oversight in terms of design.

So, I'm perhaps being pretty damning regarding this figure's transformation, but that's not to say that there aren't some clever bits to admire. I do like the way the sides of the buggy unfold and clip into the back of the legs, and generally speaking the whole thing is pretty clever, even if it's probably better in theory that in practice.

I suppose I think it's partly that some bits are just too fiddly by their very design (same as with Boost), and other bits suffer from poor execution in the production itself.

Still, the good news is that once you're done, you're left with an incredibly handsome robot mode indeed. I'd even argue that both modes are nice enough that going through the transformation is just about worth it overall, although if you're one of those fans who just prefers to perpetually leave their figures in 'bot mode then there's probably not too much to worry about, either. Arkose is a striking looking 'bot, and no mistake.

Nicely proportioned, super articulated and incredibly handsome, there's a lot to like here. Not to mention, this figure does a great job at representing that gentle geologist, Beachcomber.

In truth, there are a couple of elements that differ slightly from the animation, and it's up to you whether or not this is enough to prevent you from describing Arkose as being truly 'cartoon accurate'. However, it's all stuff where it's difficult to know how XTB could have handled it differently, such as the oversized tyres on his shoulders. There's an extent to which certain aspects sort of have to be the way they are in order for this guy to transform.

Beachcomber's animation model

Not 100% accurate, but pretty close

I suppose arguably Arkose is a little more athletic-looking than Beachcomber's animation mode, but personally I don't think it matters. When I look at this little guy, I immediately get a sense of the intended character, and so in that respect I think he really works. I can almost hear those smooth, dulcet tones whenever I glance in his direction.

It helps that faces remain one of the huge strengths when it comes to XTB's designs; this guy is sporting the very definition of a great looking face sculpt. Of course, if cartoon accuracy is not your thing, this figure does also come with a more toy-accurate face, though it's not one I plan on using, personally.

An attractive noggin, no mistake

As I mentioned, there's some really welcome articulation going on here, and Arkose is incredibly dynamic when it comes to posing. Something about his proportions and poseability makes him look attractive no matter how you choose to display him.

Perhaps my only slight grumble is that he seemingly cannot hold his arms directly at his sides in a stoic fashion as the movement is slightly hindered, but even their default resting position somehow makes him look great. Regardless, no-one should struggle with making Arkose look pretty amazing, whichever poses they choose.

It helps that he's superbly well-balanced. I've had a couple of messages asking me if he's stable or not considering the not-insignificant size of his backpack, and I can definitely say that he is, aided by a pair of large heel spurs that should leave you not in the least bit worried about him falling over.

A significant backpack, no doubt, but he's well balanced

There's also some great options for accessories and play value going on, and I'm pleased to see XTB include some great homages to the cartoon with this release. There's obviously his rifle to start with, which by itself is an attractive piece.

He also comes with a couple of different pieces which all reference the season 2 episode The Golden Lagoon. Firstly there's a golden version of his right hand, designed to replicate his look after he has dipped it into the pool of electrum featured in the episode.

In theory this is a simple swap out with his stock hand, although I have to be honest and say that removing the blue one was nothing short of an exercise in extreme frustration, it was on so tight. Only then did I discover than the gold hand on my copy doesn't seem to fit onto the mushroom peg, so I wasn't able to recreate this feature myself, sadly. Pretty disappointed, to be honest!

The second homage is more successful, which is a set of three small birds that can be positioned in Arkose's (blue!) hand, and on his shoulders, in an attempt to recreate the classic scene where he talks to the local animals. It's a nice touch, helped by the fact that the birds are well-painted, and even though it's not something I will use a lot it is really welcome, and certainly makes a good option for display.

Why do birds suddenly appear...

...every time... are near?

So, a nicely done robot mode, no doubt, and one that compares well with other figures as well. It's quite a joy seeing him alongside some of his comrades from the Autobot ranks, and I think once again X-Transbots have done a great job at creating a figure that blends pretty seamlessly with the official line, not to mention other third party efforts.

With X-Transbots Boost

With MP-10 Spike

Also with X-Transbots Glider and MP-21 Bumblebee

With KFC Transistor

With Badcube Wardog

With Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

What else is there to say? Arkose is by no means perfect, and I would definitely recommend caution for anyone who is particularly put off by problems with quality control, but it doesn't stop him being a neat little figure overall and certainly one that I am personally really enjoying.

It's a shame that he's unlikely to win over those fans who are already rather wary of X-Transbots as a company because of their reputation with QC issues, but if this is something that you can look past or you're just looking for a handsome little 'bot that you're unlikely to ever transform, then there's a lot to like here. Yes, he's probably too fiddly, and yes, there are some issues, but he's still a nice figure overall.

I'm disappointed that XTB still can't seem to achieve better consistency with their QC, although I will admit that for my money, I'm more than happy with this little guy taking the Beachcomber spot on my shelf.

I don't necessarily think he can never be bettered by the likes of TakaraTomy, but I do think that they'd have to pull something pretty decent out of the bag to do so. In the meantime, Arkose will be taking his rightful place in my collection alongside his fellow Autobot scientists.

With MP-20 Wheeljack and FansToys Tesla

Overall Arkose is a fun little figure and whilst not perfect, is still a good purchase for anyone looking for a suitable Beachcomber homage.

What's HOT?
The robot mode is sublime, and perfectly evokes the intended character, with great articulation and one of the best face sculpts in ages. The buggy mode is also fun.

What's NOT?
The QC is a bit iffy and unlikely to win over folks already worried about X-Transbots' reputation in this area, and bits of the transformation are not exactly fun.


  1. He looks good! Just on the fence with getting him. I don't play and transform mine at all really, so I don't think I'm too worried about paint chips or fading. I have IGears version of him and he sucks! So I might just go for this one, don't know... Ugh!!

    1. I think if you don't transform your figures regularly then you should be fine with this little chap.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I was on the fence about this. I typically don't want to buy autobot 3rd party cars. But he looks pretty great with those birds. So I bought this and Dr. Wu's Almost Human set yesterday. You're pics really sold Arkose. Ypu should get a cut of all proceeds Haha.

  4. I'm so happy to have found this review. In a good old fashioned concise bit of writing. I had been really on the fence about this figure, as I'd not bought any 3rd party figures before. All the flaws you pointed out were ones I could live with, especially for my (favorite character) and if the writing doesn't work, your photography certainly helps sell a product. Needless to say, he arrived yesterday. In all I'm happy with him, and he's fun to play with.

    1. Aw, that's good to know. I'm really pleased that the review was helpful, and I am grateful for you leaving a comment. Also glad you're happy with the figure!