Monday 18 June 2018

REVIEW: X-Transbots MX-XIII Crackup

Third party combiners are nothing new. In fact, they've been going for years, with pretty much every big-robot-created-from-several-little-robots team you can think of realised in a non-official format of one kind or another. However, Masterpiece-styled third party combiners are a bit of a more recent revelation, and there's still plenty of real estate left to be conquered as far as realising all of the various characters in show-accurate, appropriately-scaled toy form goes. So when X-Transbots first unveiled their plans to release renditions of the Stunticons, no other company had thus far attempted it in a true MP-style. Sure, there've been some very cool attempts, most notably TransFormMission's recent more-stylised effort, but nothing that screams the look and feel that many of us would be hoping for from the Menasor team.

Of course, as these things tend to pass, X-Transbots now already have competition on their hands from DX9, who have themselves unveiled another version of the same character, Breakdown, as their leading man. It'll be interesting indeed to see how this one plays out. DX9 typically have the more trustworthy reputation when it comes to construction in a lot of collectors' eyes, but X-Transbots have put their attempt on the market at what can only be considered a bargain price (£30!), something which has itself raised a lot of eyebrows.

So, all that said, let's get on and see if X-Transbots have shot out of the gate with a good lead, or if they've stumbled at the first hurdle. Here's Crackup!

First thing to notice about Crackup's packaging is it's pretty tiny. The box is really dinky, and noticeably smaller than those for a Masterpiece carbot. It features some pretty funky artwork on the front, and a faithful recreation of the Generation 1 tech spec on the side, giving Crackup a full bio and stats, if that's your thing.

Accessories-wise, Crackup is a little on the light-side, coming with just his handheld blaster and an alternate face (along with the usual XTB screwdriver for swapping it out). I'll be totally honest and say I didn't even bother with the face swap this time, as I actually couldn't really discern that much difference between them to make it worthwhile! The second face has the same expression as the stock one, but just features slightly different definition and cheekbones. I'll stick with the regular one, methinks. As for the blaster, this sits perfectly securely within Crackup's hand, or can be positioned atop the car mode if you absolutely want such a thing.

OK, so this is where things start to get interesting! This being a toy designed to fit alongside your Masterpiece collection, Crackup is of course going for full authenticity when it comes to cartoon accuracy and also in representing his real world vehicle mode. In this case, that means we're in for a sweet 1980s Lamborghini Countach, an automotive form that will no doubt be very familiar to lots of Transformers collectors! In fact, I did chuckle a bit when taking photos of this guy, as it occurred to me that I seem to have a new Countach to take photos of at least every couple of months... Still, that didn't deter me from enjoying the process in this case, especially as he looks the absolute nuts!

I have to say that I think XTB have done a great job at getting the sculpt right for this mode. It looks absolutely spot on to the design of the car model, with even smaller details being quite faithfully recreated. When I first received it I thought there was going to be a bit of bother with getting all four tyres firmly planted and able to roll freely, but it turned out that whoever had him before me had just done a spot of mistransforming and once I had it figured out, all was well. He tabs together very solidly, and looks great from just about every angle, in my opinion. There is a slight bit of rear kibble going on, but it's almost exactly the same as what you see on the reverse of Masterpiece Lambor, so in that regard I am going to give X-Transbots a pass. Nicely done!

Before we move on I should probably address the major elephant in the room with this release, which is the colour of the main body. When I first shared pictures of him on social media, I wasn't quite prepared for the wealth of response I would receive regarding the subject, with a lot of fans feeling that the chosen colour was too "tan", making Crackup look almost flesh-coloured and not like he should when compared to the character's original cartoon appearance. Colour choices seem to be a frequently divisive topic when it comes to X-Transbots' figures, and there's no doubt that this particular finish is a little odd at face value, and definitely a little different to the animation model. However, I have to admit that I'm actually fine with how it looks in hand, especially as some photography perhaps makes the colour look stranger than in fact it is, and it's worth nothing that it does match to the G1 Breakdown toy quite well. It's not going to be to everyone's tastes, but it doesn't look as horrendous as some are saying either, if that's what you're worried about.

Breakdown's animation model

As for the rest of the aesthetics, everything looks just about on-point here. The paint applications are all fine, and the general appearance is good. I do think that the overall finish looks a little... cheap? I was really trying not to use that work, but there is a kind of shiny quality to the plastic that is no doubt slightly unfortunate, even though it feels perfectly sturdy in hand. I haven't had any concerns about anything breaking, it's just something about the finished look feels less premium that the official equivalent. Still, when you factor in that retail price, it's definitely still value for money!

So, all in all there's quite a bit to like here. The mode itself looks really cool, is nicely held together, and generally speaking has an OK (if not exactly remarkable) finish. But the big question will of course always be how good a job X-Tranbots have done at creating something that can sit alongside official figures, especially as the Countach alt' mode is so well known. Lining him up with both Sunstreaker & Sideswipe should show you that they've done a pretty great job, especially as the proportions and general look & feel come across as pretty seamless to my eye. Again, perhaps the most notable area of difference is in the finish of the plastic, with the official boys definitely appearing being more premium, but there's also no doubt that Crackup does look good alongside them. If the other not-Stunticons follow suit then I really can't wait to see them all lined up together in vehicle mode!

With Masterpiece MP-12+ Lambor

Also with Masterpiece Sunstreaker

X-Transbots are hardly famed for their simple, intuitive transformations. Even within my own experience I could name at least three of four examples of their sweat-inducing conversion schemes right off the bat. So I was perhaps intrigued to see what Crackup had to bring to the table, especially given the significantly cheaper price. Well, as it turns out that money saved doesn’t make him any less intricate or featuring any less moving parts - you can tell this chap hails from the same design origin, in many ways. However, I have good news for you! He’s relatively simple and fun to transform too.

I say relatively as I’m taking in comparison to Masterpiece carbots here. In that regard he’s definitely more complex than, say, Masterpiece Lambor, but nowhere near the level of something like Masterpiece Sunstreaker. He’s also surprisingly devoid of frustrating, head-scratchy moments, achievable with a bit of care even without a set of instructions (as I myself proved).

That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of oddities. Getting the whole thing clipped together on the reverse process back to car mode can be a little tricky, and requires precision around the placement of the robot mode feet in particular, though once you know the tricks behind it, it’s ok. I’d also add that the formation of the robot mode backpack is a pretty bizarre thing, with several bits not quite tabbing as you would expect they might and the two flaps just behind the shoulders never truly sitting in a secure or flush position. Actually this last bit might just be my single biggest bugbear about the entire figure, as it can be a little irritating whilst posing the robot mode too.

Still, overall there’s nothing to be feared in this transformation scheme, as I know people might have worried about. In fact, I’d even dare to say it feels pretty smooth overall, and leaves you with a fairly handsome looking ‘bot!

Straight off the bat, I'm going to come out and say it - I really like Crackup's robot mode. There's something about it that just works pretty well, in my opinion, and does a nice job at recalling the intended character in 3D form. In fact, anyone who was worried that XTB might have skimped a little on this chap to achieve a more cost-effective production considering the reduced retail price can rest easy, he comes off as suitably Masterpiece-styled, albeit with the odd distinct third party flair, as we shall see.

So, where to begin? Well, firstly that backpack is perhaps a little bit bigger than one may have liked, and as I mentioned I do think that it could have tabbed together a little better, so that's my biggest complaint out of the way here. Otherwise he's looking pretty handsome, all things considered, with some good proportions, decent sculpting, and a definite likeness towards his cartoon persona. Again, the colour may not be a dead match for his on-screen likeness, but how well it works is up to you. At the very least you're in no doubt who it's meant to be.

Breakdown's animation model

So yes, the general look is there for sure. There are a couple of touches that I do think could be slightly better-looking, such as the odd match of the painted chest versus the bare tan plastic colour - something about this doesn't quite work to my eye. I'd perhaps also add that something about the ankles cannot help but look ever so slightly awkward from certain angles, in my opinion, but it's by no means a deal-breaker. Overall, he does the job and he does it pretty well.

Articulation-wise, there's more than enough to keep you happy. In fact, he's a surprisingly nimble 'bot, aided by a sturdy set of feet that make it more than possible to put him into a variety of decent poses. He does have that kind of hip flap that needs moving out of the way all the time and the shoulders have a slight habit of coming untabbed on my copy, but it's no great problem. He certainly looks pretty cool when properly posed.

In fact I really have been enjoying him quite a bit! I'd even go as far as to say that he works well as a rendition of a character on his own merit, regardless of being part of a larger group. No doubt, I'm now very excited to see further releases in this team, but as an individual 'bot you could do a lot worse than Crackup as a not-Masterpiece-kinda-chap.

Perhaps further evidence of that is seeing him lined up next to some official releases, where I have to say I think he holds his own quite nicely. Again, the finish is certainly not as premium, and no doubt that slight shine to the plastic lets him down a touch, but honestly it could be a lot worse. He looks the part well enough, to my eye.

With Masterpiece MP-12+ Lambor

Also with Masterpiece Sunstreaker

Scale-wise, Crackup is of course the exact same height as a Masterpiece carbot, which is perhaps an obvious choice. Well, I say obvious, but that's not taking into account that the current main competition, DX9's Montana, seems to be much taller, standing pretty much eye-to-eye with a Masterpiece Seeker! I can only fathom that this has been done to ensure that the combined mode for that attempt stands significantly larger. I guess which option works best is ultimately up to you and your personal preferences, though for my money I much prefer to have the individual 'bots at a suitable height, and standing at the same level as a carbot makes total sense to me. He also looks about right next to the likes of Masterpiece Megatron, but also some other attempts at combiner team members as shown.

With Masterpiece Megatron

With Unique Toys Archimonde and Unite Warriors Devastator

So, overall this is a nicely done robot mode, despite a couple of niggles. As a faux-Masterpiece rendition of Breakdown, I think it's a thumbs up from me, but no doubt the real delight is going to be seeing him alongside his teammates once they also hit release. Fortunately, we won't have to wait too long, as the next one (Flipout) is on the way soon! I'm also intrigued to see how they all fit together in combined form, as the current renders we've seen are not giving too much of the game away. I have my own ideas about how it all works, but I can't wait to see it for myself.

X-Transbots have made a great start to their not-Stunticon team with Crackup. Yes, the colour choice is a little odd, and yes, the overall finish isn't as premium as an official 'bot, but these points aside there really is a lot to like here. He's got me genuinely excited to see how the rest of the crew pan out, and even if the combined mode turns out to be a thing of nightmares, as long as the individual 'bots are this good then that's something to be excited about. Oh, and did I mention the price? For £30 this is good bang for your buck.

What's HOT?
The price. Great looking car mode overall. The price. Pretty handsome robot mode. The price. Generally fun transformation and overall good design. Oh, and the price.

What's NOT?
The backpack is a bit of an oddity, never really clipping in as it feels like it should. The colour scheme is a bit odd too, and will put some people off, no doubt.

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  1. It's been far too long a break,tho well deserved Im sure.Great to have you back writing and delighting with your work mate. I'm hugely impressed with guy, looking forward to the 2nd.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, been very busy with work and family recently, but very much enjoyed doing this one.

  2. Nice review and a looot of sweet pictures.
    Very curious to see the full combiner.

    1. Thanks! Yeah I can't wait for that either.

  3. This is the first 3P MP-style figure I ever got and I feel like I came in at the right time and place. Coming from dealing with mostly CHUG toys, he feels like stepping into another world. It's a great toy and I'm in for the rest of the XTB Stunticons.

    1. Oh nice, what a leap! Glad you're enjoying it so far. :)

  4. Pretty sure the white on the chest is sposed to be different as it is in the cartoon

    1. Yep, you're absolutely right. My point wasn't about whether it was accurate though, so much as whether it looks good. :)

  5. For the nice price, I had to pick this one up. Though XTB's record with QA is a bit spotty, it's hard to deny that they have some of the best sculpts in the third party game. Crack-up is quite a nice little figure with the right price, the right size and, oddly enough, the right color. I was skeptical at first, but with his beige color scheme, he's turned out to have become quite an eyecatched in my collection. I did buy the TMF stunticons a bit back, but I think I'm looking at their replacements soon (though I will hang on to TMF's Motormaster, because he's just a brilliant figure).

    1. Yeah, they did well with this guy, no doubt. Equally they've been on a definite upwards swing for a while now, and their quality has been noticeably more consistent for some time. Hope it continues!