Warcry's Review: Power Core Combiners Darkstream
Even for most of the top Decepticon aces, low-altitude air combat is difficult and dangerous, but it's where Darkstream excels. He prefers being close to the ground, where he can trick pursuing craft into a crash. His partner Razorbeam just makes him better at cutting dangerous maneuvers even closer.
I haven't been all that impressed with the Power Core Combiners line so far. They're really expensive for what you get, and the figures themselves don't stack up very well against cheaper mainstream Scout-class toys. Something about the way Darkstream looked in the reviews I read caught my eye, though, and against my better judgment I decided to give him a try. Darkstream is a redeco of Skyburst, the commander of the Aerialbot drone team. However, instead of coming with drones Darkstream is paired with the Minicon Razorbeam.
Darkstream's robot mode has the familiar 'Cyberjet' layout, with his cockpit and front fuselage forming his torso, the rest of the jet on his back and his arms and legs made up of parts that aren't used in jet mode. His chest is grey, his heads (normal and combined-mode), forearms and shins are red and his upper arms and thighs are black. He's got orange paint highlights all over, silver on his face and toes, and a couple splashes of purple on his chest. His colour scheme is nice, but the plastic used and the shape of his body parts aren't great, so he really doesn't stand out at all compared to the couple dozen other jets we've gotten with the same transformation over the years.
To go along with his typical Cyberjet robot mode, Darkstream has typical Cyberjet articulation. Ball-jointed shoulders, elbows and hips are augmented by extra elbow swivels (mostly useless except for in combined mode), swivel-jointed knees and twist-joints in his hips. Allegedly his head can turn too, but I've never been able to get it to because it's held tightly in place by the parts near it.
The robot-mode head is probably Darkstream's strangest feature. It's tiny, round, nondescript and has a Hitler mustache painted on it. Yes, seriously. It's also far too small for the body it's attached to. His combined mode head is much
nicer, and far more unique and recognizable. Using it also gives Darkstream's body a dose of well-deserved bulk, but it throws off his proportions and makes him look very odd. Really, he ends up a bit deformed no matter which head you use. Either he's a stumpy dwarf or he's got a normal-sized head and chest paired with tiny arms, neither of which really work out all that well.
The biggest problem, though, has less to do with Darkstream's design than it does with his materials. Darkstream's red parts -- his faces, forearms and shins -- are cast from a very soft plastic. It's much lower-quality than what I've come to expect from Hasbro. The parts cast from this plastic are very susceptible to stress marks, and frequently come with them right out of the box. They also make for loose ball joints and the swivel-joints in his knees are surrounded by serious stress marks just from trying to bend them. Neither joint bends easily, and the right one won't go farther than 45 degrees no matter what I do. It's a serious quality issue rooted in the choice of materials, and there's no way that such obvious issues could have been missed before the toy made it to production.
However you slice it, Darkstream is an ugly little robot made out of inferior plastic. He's not much fun and he's not much to look at.
Darkstream's jet mode is, uh...unique, I suppose. Which is to say that it's a huge brick with tiny wings and a cockpit slapped on and would be completely incapable of lifting off the ground. He's not sleek, agile-looking or aerodynamic. Angular and blocky, his lines are more suited to a cargo transport than a supposed combat aircraft. I would do him the favour of assuming he's some sort of space ship, but his biography clearly nixes that.
Darkstream is almost entirely grey, with orange highlights on his wings and canards, gold detailing on his engine intakes, a purple cockpit and a rubbery black nosecone. His undercarriage is made up of black and red parts that are clearly his robot-mode arms and legs, and are plainly visible from almost any angle.
Despite his claim to being a combat jet, Darkstream is completely unarmed. His arsenal is wholly dependent on which Minicon you powerlink to the port on the middle of his fuselage. His partner Razorbeam is his default weapon, but he doesn't work at all. He's completely unaerodynamic, has obvious axe-blades, and his dark, transparent blue doesn't work at all with Darkstream's colour palate.
I don't expect a Scout-sized jet to be perfect, but Darkstream fails spectacularly on any category you'd care to evaluate him on.
It's a sad day when the Minicon is the only worthwhile part of one of these packs, I tell you what.
Razorbeam is a redeco of Chopster, who was originally sold with Smolder. When I reviewed that set, I saw a lot of positives with Smolder but found that his colour scheme and the lack of any useful gun handles really put a damper on my enthusiasm for him. Razorbeam is a definite improvement in the looks department, being molded from a dark, transparent blue plastic instead of a light transparent orange. The darker plastic means that Razorbeam isn't nearly as see-through as Chopster was, but more importantly it means that it's a lot easier to see his molded-in details.
Just like Chopster, Razorbeam has ball-joints at his shoulders and hips, as well as swivel-jointed knees. His face is painted silver, and unlike Chopster it actually looks like a recognizable face instead of a camera lens and a blob of paint. His axe blades are silver as well. His arms and thighs are molded from solid black plastic, and the rest of him is trans-blue. He's much more pleasing to the eye than Chopster and in fact he's one of the nicest Minicons I've ever owned.
Razorbeam is a quad-changer, just like all the Power Core Combiner Minicons. He transforms from a robot with machine-gun arms and axe-blade legs into either an axe, a gun or a chestplate for a larger robot. None of his alt-modes are really all that convincing, which is the unfortunate result of cramming four modes into something so tiny. They're all serviceable, though, and neat enough to make him fun.
The largest problem with Razorbeam is that he's almost completely incompatable with his larger partner. Since Darkstream is redecoed from a five-pack commander, he doesn't have a Minicon port on his chest on which to attach Razorbeam's armour mode. Likewise, his hands are too shallow for him to be able to hold Razorbeam in axe mode, and Razorbeam's lack of a handle combined with Darkstream's lack of arm-mounted Minicon ports means that he can't use him as a gun either. And in jet mode, the only place Razorbeam can attach to Darkstream is on the back of his jet mode, a location likely to get both of them killed as soon as Darkstream tries to steer. I like Razorbeam a lot, but I'm having a hard time figuring out just what he's doing in a pack with Darkstream.
Marks out of ten for the following:
Both members of this team are pretty simple. However, whereas Razorbeam is a nice, effective simple toy, Darkstream is a simple failure (note: I make no apologies for the bad pun). 3/10
Razorbeam looks pretty sturdy. Darkstream is make from poor-quality plastic, and isn't far from knockoff territory. 3/10
Darkstream is worthless and Razorbeam, as much as I like him, can't interact with the guy at all. Maybe you could have some fun by pairing Razorbeam up with someone else, or by throwing Darkstream into a wood chipper? 0/10
Razorbeam looks cool, but he can't overcome Darkstream's ugliness. 2/10
This category could have saved the set, but the poor-quality plastic used on Darkstream negates whatever goodwill his articulation might have created. What good are joints if they fall apart or won't even move? And Razorbeam is fun to fiddle with but too small to be really poseable. 1/10
The Power Core Combiner two-packs are priced pretty steeply at the best of times. When a toy is as bad as Darkstream, though, it makes the hit to the wallet that much worse. This one isn't worth it at all. 0/10
Darkstream has absolutely no redeeming features. If he was sold on his own he'd get a negative score. Razorbeam is the only good thing about this set, but even if he was a stellar Minicon he wouldn't be worth $12. 1/10