Blind bags. They’re a great way to get collectors interested in your product, and an equally great way to drive them up the wall. Even though we’ve typically got more cash to spend than the average kid, that doesn’t mean that we’re made of money, and very few of us are interested in investing time, money and effort into completing a set that may yield us dozens of unwanted figurines.
Still, I’m a sucker for blind bags, and have been since I was a kid. I’d read about them online (probably at OAFE) and I recognised a photo opportunity – Transformers that were small enough for the TMNT to use as toys!
Epic Autobot vs Decepticon battles in the lounge room
As far as I can tell, they’ve only just started turning up in Australia, though they’re already up to series (“collection”) 4. Looking online at previous iterations, the characters appear to be drawn from a bunch of different sources: G1, Beast Wars, Armada, and even a few “new” characters (they’re not exactly the same as their G1 counterpart, but they’re pretty similar e.g. Acid Wing/Acid Storm in collection 3). Though I’m not an especially dedicated Transformers fan, I was surprised at how few of the characters I recognised – only Kup and Rodimus were familiar names. This isn’t just because we’re on collection 4, either. Looking over the older collections seemed to suggest that there’s been a deliberate focus on more obscure characters.
There are 12 characters in each collection. A few of the major characters like Optimus, Megatron, Bumblebee and Starscream have seen released individually. A couple of the gestalts – Menasor and Computron – have also been released too. How many make it to Australia remains to be seen – so far I’ve only seen the blind bags in Big W and my local comic store.So, how do they stack up to your average regular Transformer?
"Change to da choppa!"
SCULPT AND ARTICULATIONThe most obvious point of reference is a Lego Minifigure – they’re around the same size, and the Kre-O range as a whole definitely owes Lego a debt of gratitude. However, Hasbro refers to their figures as a “Kreons”.
So far, I’ve got five characters from the line – Sandstorm, Kup, Iceberg, Brawn and Brake-Neck. Four Autobots and one Decepticon. They’re all built on the same basic body, with the variation coming in colouration and accessories. Their shoulders and hips are balljointed, which gives them a wider range of motion than a Minifigure. Heads are attached via a neck peg, so they can swivel from side to side, but can’t look up or down.I like that the Kreons are more articulated than Lego Minifigures, but the articulation also makes them feel much more fragile. This isn’t a major issue for adults playing with collectibles, but it certainly could be for kids who tend to be rougher with their toys.
Kup is probably the one who resembles his animated counterpart the most – though Brawn looks really cool, he does look quite different to his animated form. Brake-Neck is hard to tell…TFWiki tells me that this character has gone through a few name and appearance changes, presumably for legal reasons. Apparently he was once one of the Stunticons that made up Menasor, but he doesn’t seem to be included in the Menasor set that’s advertised in the accompanying booklet. So your guess is as good as mine here. Iceberg was originally a Mini-con from Armada – he looks nothing like his original counterpart, but does looks considerably better as a bot. Sandstorm kind of gives the same vibe as his original form, but he was also originally a triple-changer. Still, they’re all quite endearing and cutesy, “accurate” or not.Accessories vary slightly across the series, but in the case of my guys, all of them came with a gun. There seem to be a few basic gun shapes across the range – pistol, blaster and rifle – which are then moulded in different colours as necessary (or in Sandstorm’s case, combined with parts of his vehicle mode). I like Brawn’s the best – it’s translucent blue, which gives it an interesting dimension, as opposed to basic black or blue.
These figures don’t actually transform, as such. Rather, they can be reassembled into an alternate form with extra blocks that are included in the bag. It’s a cool idea, but one that’s better on paper than in execution, particularly with the cars. Why the cars? Well, the arms are supports for the front wheels. However, the ball-jointed arms mean that they tend to be a little wonky, and the whole thing looks a little weird once it’s complete. In Brawn’s case, the front of his car just won’t attach to his neck properly.
Iceberg's vehicle mode
Brawn's vehicle mode
Kup's vehicle mode
Sandstorm (helicopter) doesn’t have the same problems, and looking at the diagrams in the instruction booklet seems to suggest that the airborne vehicles generally don’t have the same wonkiness. However, I’m yet to see any of the planes in person to confirm. All of mine are currently on display in bot form – they won’t be getting changed back and forth too often.
"This choppa won't be able to take us anywhere!"
PAINTPaint is not bad, but definitely not up to Lego standards. Kup had some wear on his legs straight out of the bag and Sandstorm’s shoulders have been painted orange in a very sub-par fashion. Each character has a chest tampo, most of which seem to be slightly misaligned. Still, I’ll give them a passing grade – the tampos are still impressively detailed for such a small scale – but there’s definite room for improvement.
Transformers Microchangers are pretty cute and endearing in bot mode, and the inclusion of obscure characters who rarely get a look-in is nice. However, I’m less keen on their alt modes. I’d like to get Slipstrike – his bot mode looks great and I think his alt mode will work well – but I’m not sure that I want to invest a ton of money into different bags to find him. I may just try and track him down on eBay.
Still, these are a fun sidenote to “real” Transformers toys. Vehicle fans need not apply, but bot modes definitely come recommended.