Monday 10 October 2016

REVIEW: X-Transbots MM-IV Ollie v2

"Version 2"s seem to be a trend that's becoming more and more accepted in the weird world of Transformers collecting, and I can't help feeling that every time it happens the whole idea becomes a little more normal to us. I still remember when TakaraTomy unveiled Masterpiece MP-10 and some of the initial reaction. "Another Masterpiece Optimus Prime?! But we already have MP-1!" Of course, that figure went on to become one of the most beloved in recent memory (and certainly in my own personal collection), and it's hard to imagine what the current Masterpiece collecting scene would be like without it!

Fast forward to today, and just this week we have also seen released Masterpiece MP-14+ - a second attempt at Red Alert using the very same mould, just with a different paint job. Yet again, this was a figure that was initially met with a distinctly muted reaction, yet has quickly won over the hearts & minds of many collectors upon release.

Now, by no means am I saying that a second version of X-Transbots Ollie is going to do all that. In fact, it's only fair to say that the reception to this new version has been at the very best decidedly mixed, and at the worst pretty dire. I've read comments from plenty of people asking how XTB could screw up a second version of a figure that was shoddy to begin with. I'll admit, my hopes for my own version weren't high.

But here's the thing, and this is just me being really honest - I never actually thought the first version of this guy was that bad, personally speaking. I know that plenty of folks disagree with me, and I'm certainly sympethetic to those who had pretty heinous issues. However, despite having experienced some QC issues with him myself I've always been relatively happy with him, at least to a point. Anyone who follows me on social media will have seen him pop up in various photos already.

My original Ollie as part of my season 3 collection

The biggest problems I had with the original were that he couldn't stand up very well due to wobbly hips & legs, and the plastic quality was decidedly so-so. This did result in a small breakage on my copy, though fortunately it was only the small panel at the rear of his hips, and not something prominent. That maybe sounds like I am being overly forgiving, though I'm really not trying to be - I can happily accept that the original version was a letdown, quality-wise. However he's still been a relative mainstay of my collection for about two years now, being a perfectly decent stand-in for a Masterpiece-styled Wheelie in spite of it not being the figure of my dreams!

So, onto version 2 then. X-Transbots have obviously decided that there's enough of a market for such a thing, and I can probably see why. Despite the well-documented QC issues of the original version, you will still find plenty of on-line presence from people who "missed out" first time around and are now talking about a reissue, not to mention those who would be happy to see an upgrade. Thus XTB have given Ollie a bit of an overhaul, though perhaps not as extensive as you might think. The mould unto itself is mostly quite similar, bar a few notable exceptions, and a lot of the changes are to do with how it's constructed. Let's take a look.

So, first thing to notice is that the vehicle mode looks mostly as you would expect. You're certainly in no doubt as to which Transformer this is meant to be, put it that way! He's quite a vibrant orange which, I have to say, is really quite pleasingly eye-catching, and definitely draws attention to this little chap in a display. It's perhaps not the most exciting vehicle mode of all time but then, I'd venture that it is also fairly cartoon accurate, so perhaps it's a case of it just looking like it's supposed to.

OK, so maybe some of the colours are off a little, and there's definitely too much grey on the bonnet area, but that's down to this bit turning into the robot mode legs, and I would personally always opt for robot mode accuracy in a case like this. The one thing I'll say is that it's a shame that there isn't a blue windshield, especially as this would have been possible. The windshield piece pops out quite easily (there's even two versions that come with Ollie v2, as we will see), so I don't think it would have been the worst thing to swap this out for a blue version for vehicle mode. Equally the front end is not quite shaped as you might expect from the cartoon, although to be fair it is quite representative of the G1 toy.

It's a shame that the front section doesn't tab together slightly better, and this is definitely the sort of thing that is a little irritating to see when a company has a second attempt at a figure like this, I'll admit. Still, for the most part this vehicle mode is decent enough to keep me happy, and to be fair this is a figure that I'm mostly into for the 'bot mode anyway.

It's worth me making a note on transformation here, as many have espoused the case for the v1 figure's conversion being nothing short of an absolute horror. In truth, yes, there were elements of it that were a bit hair-raising, with flimsy plastic being pushed to its limits in an attempt to contort the figure through the various steps required. Is v2 better? I would have to say it definitely is, though perhaps still not perfect. There are no doubt a couple of twists & turns that are somewhat perplexing, if only because you're never quite sure how certain parts are supposed to end up where they should. Things are better this time around though, as the plastic is considerably more durable, and everything seems to tab, untab and move with a bit more grace and sturdiness. The bit that will no doubt cause the most confusion is how the sides of the car are supposed to fold up into the backpack, something that was a similar problem on v1. This time, my copy seems to allow for these pieces to angle slightly as they fold in, making it much easier, though this is not shown in the instructions. Overall though it's an easier task, and I didn't feel a single bead of sweat on my forehead this time, so that's reassuring! You're also left with a nice result.

OK, first impressions are not bad. The obvious points that were a let-down on v1 seem to already be better on v2, including the loose hips & legs. XTB have also seen fit to add a set of heel spurs this time around to help with stability, and whilst it feels like they're maybe not as useful as they could have been, I will say that I quickly managed to crank more poses out of him that I ever would've done from v1, and with minimum fuss. Overall, he's a handsome 'bot and does a pretty good job at representing his cartoon look.

Pretty spot on, overall. There's a couple of points such as the wheels being on the outside of the body, but overall I think you could consider this guy mostly cartoon-accurate. You'll of course note that this time around his chest piece (which forms the car windshield) is the same shade of orange as the rest of his body, clearly a lean towards robot mode accuracy. More on this in a minute though. So, let's get the obvious question out of the way - how does he stack up against v1?

The first thing to note is how much more stable v2 is. A photo cannot capture the effort required to simply make v1 stand still in a similar fashion to v2, and if there's one positive thing to take from XTB's second attempt it is this. The eagle-eyed amongst you will also note some minor cosmetic differences, the most notable of which is some of the holes in the backpack being filled in. My other biggest bugbear with v1 is also now remedied; the hip skirt was originally one solid piece that impeded the forward movement of the thighs (like MP-9 Rodimus but without the ability to lift it up). It was really annoying, as it ruled out any chance of standing Ollie with his legs bent forward, but XTB have made sure that the skirt is now split with moveable flaps on each side. Whilst he still cannot crank out a 90 degree leg bend it does allow for a lot more flexibility in posing. Sadly, further inspection of that area spurs an unfortunate discovery.

Yes, that's some quite severe paint-flaking that can be seen on the thighs. Really quite disappointing. The thighs themselves are supposed to be a bit of an upgrade from v1, which were made entirely of plastic, whereas they've now been replaced with diecast. In theory this is good and it does help to give Ollie that much-needed stability that the previous version lacked, although clearly something has gone horribly wrong with the paint. Sadly, this seems to be a widespread issue, so I'd say it's almost a certainty that any individual copy will suffer from it. Fortunately, there is a set of replacement thighs available. My copy was shipped with this included in the package (along with a second spare face; more on that in a minute), though it seems that not every retailer is currently offering this. If you do decide to jump on this new Ollie, I would strongly recommend that you suss this out beforehand and make sure your retailer can provide the spare parts.

Additional accessories provided by my retailer: (L-R) replacement spare face, replacement thighs

The replacement thigh is installed on the left, the old one (with the silver screw) is on the right

You might also be reassured to know that the replacement thighs are an absolute doddle to install. Just remove one screw from the rear of the thigh and it comes apart into two pieces. To assemble the replacement it's a simple job to place the hip & knee tabs in and screw the thigh pieces together. I'm no customiser, and this took me all of a few minutes. The good news is that once this is done, Ollie looks much better and I haven't noticed any evidence of the replacement thighs going the same way. So, problem sorted? I suppose one could argue that it's unacceptable for you to have to replace pieces like this on a figure that is already a replacement-of-sorts for a previous attempt, but I was at least grateful to receive the spare parts straight away and not have to do any follow up. Not very good, but equally not very stressful, at least in my own experience. If you aren't able to get hold of the replacement thighs then no doubt it's a different story! Still, thighs now done I am going to turn attention to the other accessories included here.

Accessories in the box: (L-R) additional chest piece, (another) spare face, catapult, blaster

So, the above is what you can expect actually packaged inside the box itself; this is what you will receive if you don't have the "extra" package from your retailer with the replacement thighs and second spare face. First up, let's have a look at the replacement chest piece. This is actually interesting as its colour is very similar to the default piece on the original Ollie, except that this time it's somewhat translucent instead of opaque. It's simple enough to pop the chest piece on & off, and fortunately it doesn't require any screws or the like. I do sort of like the new translucent piece, but I'm not sure about the fact that you can see some of the peg holes etc. underneath it, and equally I'm not sure that it's particularly cartoon-accurate. As I said earlier, I would have preferred just a simple blue translucent piece for the vehicle mode, I think. On this basis, I have decided to stick with the stock opague orange piece for my v2 Ollie, and have already taken the opportunity of adding an Ocean dry transfer so that he's appropriately factioned up.

The translucent pink replacement chest piece

The opaque pink chest piece on the original Ollie (with Reprolabel symbol)

The opaque orange chest piece on v2 Ollie (with Ocean dry transfer symbol)

So, that's legs & chest sorted to my tastes; now let's talk about those spare faces! So, Ollie v2 comes pre-installed with the same face as the original version, but does also feature a second face in the box itself. It's a somewhat different design to the original one, possibly in an attempt to achieve an even better cartoon likekness, I'm not sure. Unfortunately, the one in the box looks awful. I mean, really bad. It's poorly sculpted and very rough, as you can no doubt see. Fortunately, the extra package that contains the new thighs also features a replacement alternate face, as shown above!

The spare face that comes in the box is on the right, and the replacement one is on the left

Yikes! Hard to see how the default spare face made it through quality control! Again, like the thighs, this is one of those things that doesn't cause much pain if you make sure to have the additional spare pieces from your retailer at the time of purchase. Otherwise you will no doubt be very disappointed with the one in the box itself. So, let's take a look at the replacement version.

With the replacement spare face installed

So, it's really a straight up matter of opinion which face you prefer. Replacing the face is easy enough, though does require use of a screwdriver to remove a single screw on the back of the head. I do quite like the spare one and I can kinda see what they were going for, though I have to say I much prefer the stock one, personally. I think it's a little more "friendly" and just evokes a sense of the character a bit better, in my opinion.

The default face

Nice to have options though! So then, choices for legs, chest & face all done, and Autobot symbol in place, I now have what I think is a pretty awesome looking figure!

Nice! You'll even note that he's standing on just one leg in that last photo, so that should be some reassurance as to how stable this replacement version is, especially when you consider that the original couldn't stand stably on both legs! Honestly though, with the thigh parts swapped out, I would struggle to say that I thought there was much wrong with this guy in robot mode. He's solid, stable, poseable, fun and looks great. Whatever trepidation I had from having to replace the thighs and the look of the spare face has quickly melted, as I now have a Masterpiece-styled Wheelie to be happy with. He also looks pretty nifty with his other accessories.

With his gun in hand

Now armed with his trusty catapult

I have to admit that I wasn't particularly looking forward to the experience of unboxing my Ollie v2 based on what I had read about other people's experiences, but I have to be honest and say that I have been quite pleasantly surprised with him in hand. I've no doubt that many will disagree with me, and I'm sure that even one or two will write off my opinion as the ramblings of someone looking for any excuse to be positive, but in truth I'm simply giving you my take based on my own personal experience. Yes, it's not great to have to swap out the thighs, but with that now a mere memory I'm actually really enjoying playing with Ollie. Also, as before he looks absolutely amazing lined up next to other season 3 characters!

With MP-22 Ultra Magnus

With KO "Reximus Prime"

It's been a long road, but I can honestly say that Ollie v2 has a secure place in my collection at least.

Where to start? This was always going to be a controversial figure, given how well-publicised the problems with the original version were, and it's a shame that X-Transbots have not sufficiently smashed this second attempt in order to win over the fandom and alleviate the ill feeling left by the first. That said, if you make sure that you pick up a release that comes with the replacement thighs already included and you don't mind this simple swap-out job, then I can't actually think of any particularly strong reasons not to recommend this guy to you. I'm very happy with my copy now, and whilst he's by no means perfect, he is a pretty good representation of the character, he looks great, and is pretty good fun!

I'd actually venture to say that if X-Transbots had released Ollie v2 as the first attempt and hadn't had the problem with the thighs, then the general mood would be a lot more favourable on this figure. It is so disappointing that there are still reports of QC errors and the like, and I truly sympathise and respect those people who have had poor experiences with this second release. Maybe I have been lucky, but I can only base my opinion and this write-up on my own experience at hand, and I have to say that on balance it's met my expectations. It's on this basis and the assumption that you can secure the replacement thighs that I am awarding the score I am. I've no doubt that if TakaraTomy ever attempt a Masterpiece Wheelie then they will knock it out of the park, but assuming that day is a long way off then Ollie's place is assured in my collection at least for now.

What's HOT?
OK, honest opinion - this is a dramatic improvement over v1. The quality is far from impeccable but it is more than acceptable with the thighs switched out. A great-looking robot mode, now with plenty of articulation and play value. Also, this figure is not the end of days that some may have feared, so you will live to collect another day. ;)

What's NOT?
The stock thighs & alternate face are dreadful - a complete misstep; do be sure to purchase from a retailer than can ship with replacements. Some people have reported further QC issues (though that hasn't been my personal experience) so do be mindful and order from a trusted & helpful retailer. The vehicle mode is a little average.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since publishing this review, there have been reports that certain retailers are offering a "fixed" version of Ollie with the thighs already sorted and not prone to scratching. If in doubt I recommend that you enquire with your chosen retailer before ordering.

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