Sunday 22 January 2017

REVIEW: Toyworld TW-M01

I have to confess to being a Toyworld newbie. Despite my relative experience in the world of third party not-Transformers, there are still a few companies that I have yet to experience, and so when I was offered the opportunity to check out Primorion, I jumped at it.

That said, this figure is a bit of a curiosity for me. Like many people, I absolutely love TakaraTomy’s Masterpiece MP-10 Convoy, and would certainly count it as one of my favourite Transformers figures of all time. So, it was sort of hard to imagine what an alternative Optimus Prime figure might offer above & beyond what I am already familiar with. I’ve also discovered that I am not alone in wondering this, as since I started sharing pictures of Primorion, I have been inundated with people asking how it compares to MP-10, but also questioning the need for such a figure in the first place.

Questions abound. Is this figure Masterpiece-scaled? Is it Masterpiece-styled? In fact, is it even intended to be sat alongside the official Masterpiece line, or is it something else entirely? As I attempt to answer at least some of these points, I am approaching this with an open mind and actually quite a bit of excitement – it is Optimus Prime after all!

Final note before we begin - this is a test shot. There will no doubt be differences to the retail version, including things like tolerances etc.

Primorion comes packaged in a rather attractive brown box, with some nice line-drawn artwork of the crashed Autobot spaceship on the front.

Inside is a foam shell containing the figure itself in robot mode, along with the various accessories. Primorion comes packaged with the usual Optimus Prime fare that Masterpiece collectors will no doubt be very familiar with, including his blaster, an energy-axe that fits over his hand (in order to replicate the famous scene from the pilot episode of the Generation 1 cartoon), and a Matrix of Leadership (or Creation Matrix, if you’re a comic fan!).

Additionally, there is a small baggy which includes some replacement window parts in a clearer, dark colour (instead of the stock translucent blue), as well as some tiny red triangles which can be used to fill in some gaps on Primorion’s shoulders.

Finally, this release is accompanied by something of a surprise! There is a second box which contains some large orange stages, clearly designed to replicate the interior of the Autobot spaceship itself. There are four of them in total, and I have to say they look great! They have some lovely moulded detail, and do a great job of instantly reminding you of the classic backgrounds of the G1 cartoon.

There’re also some small pegs, which I believe are intended to secure these four parts together, or are maybe even intended for future accessories to continue expanding this kit; I’m not sure. Either way, the prospect of more pieces to add to this is very exciting.

The stages slot together very tightly, and can be configured in a number of different ways to suit your need.

Whilst just the four of them is perhaps a little bit limited in terms of actual play value, it’s still a great inclusion, and I’ve found them to be an absolute joy as a photography background – in fact I received an overwhelmingly positive response to a couple of pictures I posted using them as a backdrop. As I say, hopefully we will receive more in the future to pad this out a little.

With Masterpiece Bumblebee & FansToys Willis

With Masterpiece MP-14+ Red Alert

Anyway, let’s crack on with the rest of this review and get to talking about Primorion himself, lest I spend the rest of it gushing about these orange stages!

Kicking things off with robot mode, it’s fair to say that Primorion makes quite the impression straight out of the packaging. First thing to note – he’s big. In fact, he’s quite probably bigger than most would have expected, and noticeably more so than MP-10, although we will come to comparisons shortly. Next thing to notice is that he’s bulky. I often recall the rather infamous tagline on the front of the first issue of the Generation 2 comic, “This is not your father’s Autobot”, and I can’t help but feel that this applies to Primorion – he’s certainly a bruiser!

Looks-wise, there’s no doubt which character this is meant to be. He features all of the usual Optimus Prime trappings, although with lots of added styling to make it quite unique. He’s perhaps not what you would describe as cartoon-accurate, but I’m questioning whether this was ever actually the point to begin with. Many fans have cited that this release is seemingly inspired by the Studio Ox artwork, and that’s no doubt evident in several of the design touches here. He’s certainly very stylised overall, and it means he ends up feeling altogether different to MP-10 from the outset. Whether you like the look or not is ultimately up to you – I can’t make that decision for you, but I will say that I think it’s nicely done.

I would draw particular attention to the headsculpt, which looks brilliant. Again, entirely different from MP-10, giving this release a lot of its own character & personality, but still instantly evokes Optimus Prime in its own right. It’s also as stylised as the rest of the body, with suitably pointy antennae and somewhat exaggerated features. The eyes are translucent plastic to enable a light piping feature, although they end up being a little on the dull & dark side, perhaps ironically quite similar to MP-10. Still, the whole thing looks good.

That same translucent blue plastic carries over to other parts of this figure, most notably the iconic cab windows on the chest and the Autobot logo-shaped symbols on both the shoulders, at least assuming that you don’t switch out the blue bits for the clearer, darker alternate pieces. I definitely prefer the blue ones myself. You can also flip over one or both of the shoulder pieces round so that you have just solid red plastic instead, if you prefer, and the chest pieces also fold down to reveal some nice moulded detail which peaks through the windows themselves.

With the shoulder panels flipped

Of course, those cab windows do also open up in a manner that any Transformers fan would no doubt expect from a modern G1 Optimus Prime figure, in that they reveal the Matrix inside his chest. Even though this is entirely anticipated it’s still always a fun part of a figure like this, with extra props for it being included here when the doors opening is not actually part of the transformation, in what is a surprising twist and a definite departure from the Masterpiece Optimus Primes! The Matrix itself is nice enough, with a rather attractive orange centre, although I will admit that I definitely prefer the MP-10 version myself.

The other accessories are also exactly as you would expect. Both blaster and energy axe look pretty good, and definitely add something to display. The blaster in particular makes Primorion look like an absolute badass, though it’s a little unfortunate that it doesn’t secure into his hand a bit tighter than it does. The axe just slots over the hand in exactly the same fashion as MP-10, so no worries there. I actually think I might prefer the axe to the one that comes with MP-10 – it has some nice moulded detail that really captures the light at the right angle.

I have to say that for the most part, I do really like the look and design of this robot mode, though that’s not to say that it’s not without some notable drawbacks. The bulky design and stylised detail is very cool, and do really help to set Primorion apart from MP-10 and make it feel like its own beast. However, there’re a couple of unfortunate choices that definitely make him suffer by comparison, meaning he comes off as feeling perhaps a little less elegant. Probably the most notable example is the wheels on his, er, posterior. Now, I was someone who was really never bothered by this quirk on Masterpiece Ironhide, and I maintain that it’s quite discreet on that figure. Here though it is quite noticeable as they stick out quite a bit, and also flap from side-to-side a little as you move him around. You do get used to it, but I won’t lie and say they could have been a little better secured somehow.

I also find the legs a little awkward, particularly around the hips. Primorion features hip skirts very similar to those found on MP-1 Convoy (for those that still have him!) where there are front & side flaps that all individually lift up to allow for proper articulation. This was always one of my least favourite bits of MP-1 (despite how awesome that figure is!), but for some reason it actually feels a little more cumbersome here. I will say though that it seems perfectly possible to move the legs forward at the hip without the need for the flaps themselves, as there is also a single joint in the top of the legs pieces which allows for some forward bend even if the flaps remain in place. This is useful but only works most of the time, as it also has a habit of looking a bit awkward in some poses. It’s all a bit strange actually, and I still haven’t quite decided what the “correct” or intended way to move the legs is between the two options, though I definitely prefer the latter.

Adding to this, I have a number of little niggles with this robot mode, most of which are things that make him feel a little more “fiddly” than I would like. For example, the mirrors on either side of his chest have a habit of getting in the way of his arm articulation and don’t often stay in place, the smokestacks regularly move out of place as they don’t feel very secure, a couple of the panels on his lower back have a habit of coming untabbed a little, and I also found that one of the small vents in the panels either side of his mouthplate wouldn’t stay in place either. It continuously popped out to the point of me needing to apply a tiny bit of glue in order to make it through a photography session. All very small issues, but added up they can feel a bit annoying.

Overall I would say the quality is not bad, though perhaps not top tier, either. The plastic is nice & solid and certainly nothing feels as though it will break, but definitely a few of the smaller parts could use a touch more attention. I also had a weird problem where I seem to have a piece missing on my copy! There’s a flap on the inside of each ankle, but mine only featured this on the one leg, for some reason. Fortunately it’s not an essential piece and doesn’t even seem to be required for transformation, so I have just removed the other one so that they match.

"You left a piece out!" The missing piece is on the right.

So a few grumbles. However, that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty to enjoy here, and as I say I do definitely appreciate the general look of this figure. He is also quite a bit of fun overall, and I have to admit I like the fact that he’s a bit of a departure from a classic cartoon-accurate Optimus Prime. Is he Masterpiece-styled? Well, I still don’t know to be honest! Probably not, in truth, but that’s not to say that you couldn’t display him with a Masterpiece collection at all, as much as you could just have him as a standalone piece in its own right. It’s clear that Toyworld are trying to craft their own thing here, and no doubt future releases will match the same style as this, but I do also think he lines up quite well to the ever-increasing roster of Masterpiece-styled releases for the most part, even if he is a bit on the tall side! You’re gonna need a bigger Megatron, for starters!

With Masterpiece Ultra Magnus

With FansToys Willis, Masterpiece Bumblebee & Masterpiece Prowl

With Maketoys Despotron

As for a straight-up comparison with MP-10, well, judge for yourselves. I have no doubt that many folks will prefer the official figure, as indeed many people on social media have already told me that they do! In truth, I don’t know that Toyworld were ever really intending for Primorion to be a definitive replacement for MP-10 on every shelf, and you could argue that he is enough of a departure to justify owning both of them. I know plenty of people who love collecting Optimus Prime figures, and with that in mind I could see how there may be some consideration to give this guy a go.

With Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

We all know how Optimus Prime transformations go, eh? Anyone who has experienced either or both of the MP-1 and MP-10 moulds will know what I mean, and I can imagine that their expectation might be for Primorion to follow suit. Thing again!

So much of this transformation scheme subverted my expectations that I was genuinely quite surprised as to how unique it feels versus the official figures. I’ve already mentioned that this entire conversion can be completed without once opening the cab windows on his chest, and this is also a figure that will keep detractors of MP-10’s fake grill trick happy, no doubt. However, it’s perhaps the lower half that contains the biggest departures. The legs fold over and convert in a manner I’ve yet to see on any other figure.

Sadly, there’s some real clearance issues going on here though, and I will confess that as creative as it is I found certain parts of this transformation to be outright frustrating. The parts that spring most to mind are folding in the arms to the main body and trying to move the various flaps out of the way, and the manner in which the legs fold over on themselves and must almost be rotated more than you would expect simply to free up some space to move everything to where it needs to be. Admittedly I was doing this without instructions, but even when I knew what I was doing on repeated attempts I had some of the same problems. It’s not necessarily a difficult scheme in principle, but it was enough to have me give up halfway and put him back to robot mode on the first attempt.

I will say though that once you have everything in its right place, the end results are actually quite satisfying, and it mostly clips together pretty well in vehicle mode, so there’s that. It’s perhaps a little unfortunate for this figure that it landed around the same time as both the official Shattered Glass Optimus Prime and the black BAPE Convoy, and I don’t think I will ever tire of the MP-10 transformation! Still, all done, you’re left with a rather nice looking truck mode.

I’m going to immediately admit that I wasn’t sold on this vehicle mode from pictures. Somehow it looked too boxy and a bit too square for my liking. In hand though, it’s a somewhat different story, and I now really like it. As with the robot mode, it’s a bit of a departure from what people might expect if they’re familiar with MP-10, but again I think this helps to cement this release as its own thing, whilst still keeping those who want a classic Optimus Prime truck form happy.

First thing to notice is how tidy this mode is. The transformation is at least clever in how it allows enough tabs and flaps to fold out to cover all of the messy robot parts, and it leaves everything feeling quite sleek here. The proportions are also much better than I expected from pictures, with the height of the cab not looking as odd as I thought it might. Again, I actually really like it, even if it does suffer a little from a front view. I’m also quite a fan of the rubber tyres, especially as everything so neatly comes together that there are no issues with rolling on a flat surface.

A lot of the detail shines through nicely here too, as some of the smaller touches are perhaps more noticeable in this mode. The translucent blue and yellow lights on the front of the cab are a particular highlight, though I am also a fan of the ever-so-slightly shiny bumper and the nicely-textured front grill. The translucent blue windows also work really well here, although again you have the option to switch these out, as well as hide the Autobot symbols on the sides of the cab.

Perhaps the biggest departure, design-wise, is the way in which the front of the robot mode legs swings round to tab into the rear of the truck cab itself. It’s quite unique to this release, though I think works really well and also manages to make this mode look quite “real world”, in its own way. I would never have expected it, but it’s a great touch.

Of course, one thing that is most definitely missing here is a trailer, which is perhaps a bit of a shame even if somewhat expected, but there are some display options that might work for some. Whilst they don’t actually connect in any way, it’s possible to at least balance MP-10’s trailer on top of the rear of Primorion’s cab mode. I don’t think it looks too bad at all, and might be an option for a shelf display at least!

As for how Primorion compares with MP-10 in this mode, well, I’ll again let you decide for yourself. Whilst I’m still a hardened MP-10 fan myself, I would say that Primorion does have some advantages, and may surprisingly even be a little tidier overall, especially when considering how all the panels slot together tightly. Arguably the rear half is also more “real world” truck-like, although I guess that’s maybe also a matter of opinion. Either way, there’s enough difference going on here to not feel the need to have to place one directly above the other, I think.

With Masterpiece MP-10 Convoy

So, a decent truck mode overall, although of course the true test is seeing him riding alongside his fellow Autobots. Roll out!

So, my first Toyworld experience! And it’s by no means a bad one, even if I do feel that there’s some definite areas of improvement that would dramatically benefit this figure. Overall, I like a lot of the design and the stylistic elements, but sadly it’s let down by a couple of flaws such as a somewhat frustrating (if clever) transformation, cumbersome touches like the wheels on his rear, and some loose bits & pieces that will hopefully be fixed on the retail release. Whilst the quality overall is not bad, those small touches do detract a little in hand; no doubt if the retail version is perfect in that regard then I would consider bumping this guy up a grade.

As for whether he’s better than MP-10, well, I’m not sure it matters, to be honest. I doubt many people are looking to replace that particular figure in their collection, and there’s arguably enough differences between the two to still allow this to feel relevant and carve its own place on your shelf, if you like the look of it.

What's HOT?
The big, bulky robot mode is a lot of fun, and the stylised elements look cool. He’s different enough to MP-10 to make him feel worthwhile in his own right. The truck mode is also quite cool. Oh, and the orange stages are brilliant!

What's NOT?
There’s some loose bits & bobs going on, and a couple of unfortunate design choices here and there. The transformation is a bit of a pain, with incredibly tight clearances in parts. Poseability can be a little awkward too.

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  1. Replies
    1. :-) I'll keep my Hasbro Mp10 Prime for now...

    2. Haha, fair enough! That's a great figure. I do think there's room for both though. :)

  2. I'm actually a truck drive and he looks and scales way more realistically than MP-10. The bulkhead wall from the legs is brilliant.

    1. Nice! That's so interesting. I have to admit I'm not an expert at things like that.