Monday 2 July 2018

REVIEW: X-Transbots Flipout

X-Transbots Crackup only recently arrived as the first competitor in what is already becoming a war of third party Stunticons. Hot on his heels is Flipout, their interpretation of a Masterpiece-styled Wildrider, and it bodes well for the company that they seem to be planning to release these guys in quickfire succession. DX9 have yet to reveal any of their individual designs after their version of Breakdown, let alone the combined mode, whilst new competitor FansToys have only just managed to unveil rough renders of their first two attempts (and going by their history it's going to be a good long while before we see anything concrete). Meanwhile X-Transbots are busy cleaning up. With a hugely attractive price-point, Crackup has been enough to tempt many collectors along the journey, and thus far has been met with a generally positive reception (including my own review earlier this month). But how does their sophomore effort fair? Thanks to the folks at TFs Express, we can now find out.

Final note before we get on with it - this is a test shot, and a fairly worn one at that. It's actually hand-painted too, and there are definitely a couple of imperfections that one has to assume will be fixed for retail, but I'll attempt to cover that as we go. There may be some differences with the final retail product, including colours, paint, tolerances and the like.

I didn't receive any packaging, instructions or really much of anything with the Flipout sample. In fact all he came with was his gun, which can tab snugly in his palm or can be displayed on the rear of his vehicle mode if you absolutely wish.

I've heard mention as to X-Transbots including another alternate face for Crackup in this package, but I have no specific details on that nor indeed an alternate face for Flipout himself. Time will tell.

First thing to notice about this vehicle mode is... that it’s not a Lamborghini! Joking aside and as impressive as the design of Crackup was, it’s definitely a welcome change to see a Masterpiece-styled vehicle mode that isn’t some sort of Countach, after such a spate of them recently! So in that regard Flipout already feels a little like a breath of fresh air. Second thing to notice is that he’s pretty handsome on his own merit - just have a look!

Many people on-line have been praising the somewhat sparkly finish used on this chap, and rightly so. The flecks in the paint do look rather good, and add a bit of character to what could otherwise be a rather flat grey car. Actually he is altogether a handsome beast in this form, and I also really dig stuff like the translucent red windows that give off an air of menace. You'll no doubt note the eye-catching shiny red paint used on the bottom half of the car, which really pops against the light - there's no "metallic filter*" required to make that red glisten in photo form! Elsewhere there're some attractive paint applications on areas such as the rear lights, all of which adds up to making this chap feel suitably "Masterpiecey".

*Not a real thing, before anyone asks! ;)

The design itself is very well-proportioned and looks fab from every angle. There’s no extraneous kibble or unfortunate areas that betray the real-world aesthetic going on here, and everything clips together pretty solidly. A side view will show you that the clearance to the ground is pretty tight, although all four wheels do definitely touch the floor. My copy has a bit of an oddity in that the left front tyre is significantly wider than the other three (you'll probably be able to spot it in some photos!) and rather inhibits the car mode rolling freely. I'd chalk that one up to the nature of this test shot though, as I can't imagine they'll be releasing him at retail in such a fashion. Otherwise though, there's really not a whole lot to grumble about here, as Flipout is looking the absolute business and does a good job at representing the intended character in 3D form.

Wildrider's animation model

So looks-wise all is well, but how does he feel to the touch? Well, he's by no means top tier Takara quality, but anyone who has handled his predecessor, Crackup, will know what they're in for and shouldn't be disappointed. Everything feels sturdy and solid, and I had absolutely no fear of breakage throughout any of my playtime with Flipout. People have often talked about XTB being on a bit of an upward swing, and I have to say that I'm definitely seeing the evidence of that at the moment.

In fact, I did note that Flipout looks absolutely superb when lined up next to some of the official Masterpiece carbots, and certainly not a million miles away in terms of aesthetic. Dare I say that this might actually be the closest X-Transbots have come to releasing a figure that can convincingly and almost seamlessly fit alongside some of TakaraTomy's output? Ultimately whether you agree or not is of course up to you, but for my money that car mode is going to be hard to beat by either DX9 or FansToys.

With Masterpiece Tracks & Bluestreak

Of course the real line-up to see is with X-Transbots' own Crackup, and there's little surprise that they work exceptionally well together. You know, it's long been something of a dream of mine to see a fully-realised set of Masterpiece-styled Stunticons with vehicle modes that could rival the Autobot cars, and still part of my brain cannot quite believe how well it's turning out overall. Just imagine this lot with the other three figures included and I'm sure most would agree that we're onto something a bit special here.

With X-Transbots Crackup

Crackup's transformation was pretty clever in parts, and certainly on the right side of complicated so that it never felt like it wasn't something that couldn't be repeated. Well, in a real twist Flipout's conversion is even simpler, and may actually be amongst the easiest of any Masterpiece-styled carbots from any company, official or non.

That's not to say that there aren't some challenges, but they all sit within the area of getting the car mode untabbed in the first place, and once that's done it's plain sailing all the way. That untabbing can be a little daunting to begin with though, as the car mode is so solid that it's hard to know where to begin! Even the obvious pressure points have to be handled in a very specific way to unlock the right tabs and set everything in motion, otherwise you're left with a firmly-tabbed car.

A couple of tabs undone though and everything else is surprisingly simple, which bodes extremely well for the set as a whole. If anything, this chap kinda makes you wonder why more transformations can't be as fuss-free as this, and there's even a slight feeling of being surprised once it's all done, especially as the result is so clean. There are perhaps a couple more touches that could have been implemented to tidy up the backpack a little, or fill out the sides of the chest, but they're hardly missed. One suspects that if this has been a standard non-combining 'bot then perhaps XTB might have opted for such things, but as it is I'm very pleased to have the simpler approach utilised here.

The reverse transformation can be a little tricky in terms of getting everything tabbed just so, but again there's not really anything that should present a huge challenge for people who regularly collect Masterpiece stuff. I've actually found myself happily repeating the process over and over, which perhaps tells you something. Good work, X-Transbots!

I've mentioned a few times in previous reviews that as a child of the '80s growing up in the UK, I had access to but a small smattering of Transformers cartoon episodes on VHS. Well-worn after repeated viewings, the tapes themselves have long since gone, but the episodes they contained are burned into my brain. Because of this, I've found that cartoon-accurate representations of prominent characters from those particular adventures have always been extremely exciting for me, and given that one such VHS contained the double-episode caper The Key to Vector Sigma it's no surprise that the Stunticon Wildrider fits that bill entirely. So let me say straight away that X-Transbots have done a magnificent job at recreating him here. Just look!

There's something so clean, tidy and well-proportioned about Flipout that it just works, to my eye. This feels entirely like Wildrider made real, in all his thuggish glory. So yes, the rear-view might betray some of the neatness just a touch, but on the whole it has to be said that this is a remarkably clean robot mode, and one that retains a blocky "G1-ness" that gives off a real nostalgic vibe. That headsculpt alone is pure 1980s and proud, to say nothing of the colour scheme.

Closer inspection will show you that XTB have recreated an impressive amount of cartoon-accurate detail here, whilst still retaining the overall simplicity that makes this chap feel like something truly representative of the screen. I've read plenty of criticism of that hip skirt, not all of which I disagree with, but there's no doubt it at least does a grand job at aping the character's on-screen appearance. Most notably the figure "feels" like Wildrider in all the ways that are important.

The paint scheme once again adds a bit of visual interest overall, but no doubt many of you will be wondering what's up with that rather noticeable chipped section on his abdomen. As I mentioned earlier, this is a hand-painted prototype, so one has to believe that it's not quite indicative of the final product. In fact, if you look up close on this test shot, you can see that the off-white paint on the whole chest section has tiny little cracks in it, so clearly that's quite an unusual situation. I would fully expect the retail version to be looking significantly better in-hand. Assuming that's the case, the finish should be quite good overall.

There is further evidence of this test shot being a bit worn, however. Some of the joints on my copy are fairly loose, most notably the waist section and one of the feet, and there's a general feel of it having been put through its paces. Again, I'd fully expect the retail copy to be significantly improved in those regards. What is good to note is the range of articulation available here, which is more than enough to put Flipout into some fun poses. The hip skirt does slightly impede and needs to be moved out of the way to accommodate any hip movement, but it's not a massive problem really. Perhaps a more elegant solution could have been found, but for what it's worth this works ok.

The quasi-ab crunch is also a little odd, although I'm almost wondering if its intended or just a bi-product of the transformation scheme, given how the car essentially split into two halves to be converted. Regardless, he's a relatively flexible 'bot overall, and with a bit of care and attention looks the absolute nuts for display. The real fun though, is posing him alongside Crackup.

With X-Transbots Crackup

Seeing these two lined up is like a dream come true for that little kid who loved re-watching those old VHS tapes. Stylistically they fit really nicely together, and really make you hunger for XTB's interpretations of Dead End, Drag Strip and ultimately Motormaster. They also do a grand job at segueing into a display with other Masterpiece-styled toys, and looks spot on versus the carbots.

Also with Masterpiece Tracks & Bluestreak

Also with Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

With Masterpiece Megatron

With Unite Warriors Devastator

With Power of the Primes Predaking

With Jiu Jiang Jet Commander

Phwoar. If those pictures don't communicate quite how much I'm enjoying the advent of Masterpiece-ish combiners, then I don't know what will. It goes without saying that I cannot wait to see the completed Menasor alongside some of the other big chaps in my collection. If their own marketing is to be believed, then "Monolith" should be approximately 19 inches tall, which would make him even more sizeable than most of the combined forms you see in the photos above. Quite how that will be achieved we will wait to see, but it should be a fun journey getting there!

X-Transbots have taken a great head start with Crackup and run with it. Flipout is a sure sign that the company can produce great things, and compete at a level that feels worthy of fitting in alongside the likes of official Masterpiece toys. If the rest of the team are as good as this, then colour me very excited indeed.

I will add a small but important caveat to all of the above. As I mentioned a few times, this is a worn, hand-painted prototype, and so gives me a good idea of what to expect at retail but it certainly isn't entirely indicative. My copy has various tolerance issues and worn paint, so one has to assume that all will be fixed come retail. If XTB follow through, they're onto a winner.

What's HOT?
Excellent car mode, very nice robot mode. Oh, and a surprisingly simple transformation in-between? All of this for a knockout cheap price yet again. Good work.

What's NOT?
Whilst the transformation is simple, the car mode is very hard to untab. The hip skirt does look a little cumbersome in robot mode, and is hard to make look elegant during posing.

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  1. This is shaping up to be a phenomenal set, I'm eagerly awaiting the 2nd. I did have the dx9 on pre-order two but really I think i'll be cancelling that, xtb have made it redundant. Great work as always, thanks Sixo.

    1. Thanks, dude, always appreciate your kind comments. I eyed-up DX9's Montana when first unveiled too, but I really think XTB have nailed it so far on this occasion, and I definitely prefer the size of their figures. Let's hope for more of the same!

    2. Will you be reviewing the dx9 versions or have you already made up your mind on those?

  2. XTB has another winner on their hands, it seems! They've really been delivering lately, with Toro and Crackup's excellent quality and finish. What are your thoughts on the size-debate currently raging, I wonder? With XTB going carbot sized, DX9 seeker size and FT potentially even taller. Stylewise and sizewise, for me it's XTB all the way.

    Choice is good, though, so there's something for everyone. I honestly hope the TF community will start realizing just how completely bloody spoiled for choice we are at the moment.

    1. Haha, yeah, couldn't agree more on that last point! For me, I much prefer the carbot-sized robots that XTB are putting out, regardless of whatever screen captures people can provide to justify taller 'bots. As you say, it's all a matter of personal preference, but they definitely feel more satisfying at this height for me.

  3. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!
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  4. Great as always. I m waiting for new reviews this 2019.

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