Warcry's Review: Power Core Combiners Huffer
With Caliburst by his side, Huffer is faster, stronger and smarter, which means the Decepticons have a lot more to worry about than he does.
Huffer has never been one of my favourites. I don't think I even knew who he was as a kid, and if I did I probably hated him because he was such a whiny brat in the cartoon and homesick mopers aren't exactly the sort of characters that make kids jump up and take notice. Because of that, I'd be lying if I said that I was excited when news first broke that Hasbro was making a new toy based on the original Huffer. The concept of Power Core Combiners didn't excite me either, so I was completely expecting to pass on this toy. But when pictures of Huffer started showing up I had to grudgingly admit he looked pretty good.
Exactly where Power Core Combiners are supposed to fit in the TF multiverse isn't clear, but Hasbro apparently considers this Huffer to be a "heritage" character. That means it's probably the closest thing we're going to get to a mass-market Classics-style Huffer. The only question left is, does he measure up?
Huffer comes packed in robot mode, and I have to admit he really doesn't jump out of the package screaming "Buy me!" His chest is dark blue, his upper arms and thighs are black and his forearms are silver. His lower legs and forearms are done in mustard yellow, which is different enough from the original Huffer to be noticeable but not different enough that he doesn't look like Huffer. The toy is approximately scout-sized, but he would have been a big, bulky scout. In fact, he's only a little bit smaller than small deluxe-class toys like Classics Bumblebee or Movie Crankcase. If you're looking at him as a potential G1 Huffer that means he fits in nicely as a Minibot compared to larger toys like Sideswipe or Starscream.
One of the nice things about the Power Core Combiner figures that we've seen so far is that they borrow design cues from a lot of the previous Transformers lines. Some of them take after the Movie line, one or two of them have an Animated look to them, and a few look like they would be at home among the Omnicons or Terrorcons from the Energon line. Huffer's look, on the other hand, is very, very distinctly 'G1'. He's blocky and fairly simple, which isn't a bad thing at all in a toy this size.
A few elements of Huffer's design are lifted directly from the original. Aside from the very similar colour layout, Huffer's head design is quite similar to the original toy (rather than the animation model). He's got a silver visor and a blue face, which looks like a faceplate from far away but is actually a movie-style "highly-detailed" mouth and cheeks. His upper arms are sculpted to resemble the original Huffer's exhaust pipe arms, which I didn't notice at first but can't keep from noticing now that I've seen it. Unfortunately his hands aren't homages to his original toy's claws - instead they're Movie-style hands with exposed inner workings. His legs are fairly generic, but with the workman-like look he's got going on elsewhere they fit nicely.
Huffer has articulation everywhere you would expect it: shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and neck. Unfortunately, his neck isn't on a ball-joint. His transformation mechanisms let you tilt the head back slightly, but beyond that it's restricted to looking from side to side. His waist isn't articulated either, even though there's really no reason why it couldn't
be based on how he transforms. He also suffers from something that's a fairly common problem with recent Transformers - his lower legs are much longer than his thighs, which makes it very difficult to put him in a "down on one knee" pose. Aside from that I don't have any complaints about Huffer. He's well-balanced and holds the poses you can put him in pretty reliably without falling over.
Huffer features an alternate head, which is meant for his 'gestalt torso' mode. Without a squad of PCC drones from one of the five-packs the torso itself is pretty useless. The head can be deployed in his regular robot mode, although it's a bit oversized and looks like a frighteningly-cheerful version of G1 Menasor's face.
All in all Huffer's robot mode works very well. It looks good, it poses well and it's fun to play with.
After his fairly simple robot mode, Huffer's highly detailed vehicle mode comes as a bit of a surprise. His cab is just covered with rivets, ladders, door handles and other details that I would have expected on a deluxe or bigger figure. On a scout, though, it was a very nice surprise. Unfortunately the back half of the alt mode isn't so nice, because his robot arms and two of his sky-blue gestalt connectors are very obviously folded up onto it.
Oddly enough, even though his robot mode is fairly big for a scout, his vehicle mode just seems tiny
to me. For his size class I suppose he's really about average, but we get so few tiny semi trucks these days that a part of me just wants to go "aww... look at the cute baby truck!" when I see it.
In vehicle mode Huffer is mostly mustard yellow, with an orange hood and a lot of black detailing. As mentioned before, he also features a pair of obvious gestalt connection hardpoints that really jump out at you. They would be pretty obvious no matter what, but it's a shame they didn't cast them in the same colour as some of Huffer's other parts. Blue (albeit a darker blue) is already in his colour palette so it's not too
jarring, but it's still something he could do without. It looks like all the Power Core Combiners have the same colour, so it's probably a misguided attempt to unify the line.
Huffer is a pretty neat small truck. He isn't anything special in this mode until you combine him with Caliburst, though.
Huffer comes with a Targetmaster partner, the Minicon Caliburst. Like Huffer, Caliburst shares a name and a colour scheme with a character from the original series. Unlike Huffer, though, this probably isn't intended to be the same character. Because although the original Caliburst was
a Targetmaster, he was binary-bonded to a Decepticon.
Like Huffer, Caliburst comes packed in robot mode. His colour scheme is very simple: his torso, arms and lower legs are cast in transparent blue, while his 'wings', thighs and huge cannon are cast in solid grey. His face is painted silver, but he has no other paint applications to speak of. I'm not a big fan of transparent plastics used in this way - Transformers are supposed to be made of metal, not stained glass! Caliburst doesn't look all that bad, though.
His articulation is pretty limited, with arms that wiggle and legs (afflicted with the same tiny thighs that Huffer suffers from, alas) that are articulated at the knees and hips. You can't really put him into any poses, and the articulation he does
have is all there to facilitate his transformation.
Caliburst can combine with Huffer in three different ways. The first and most ridiculous way is for Caliburst to form 'armour' that connects to Huffer's chest. This is ludicrous in two different ways. Firstly because if Caliburst actually stops any shots that would have hurt Huffer, Caliburst is dead and Huffer is unarmed. But second and most importantly, the armour mode looks like nothing more than Caliburst doing snow angels on Huffer's chest.
When Huffer is in vehicle mode, Caliburst can fold into a weapon that mounts on the Minicon hardpoint on his larger counterpart's truck bed. This works really well, because Caliburst bears more than a slight resemblance to a tow truck rig or similar piece of equipment. It also manages to hide a lot of the blemishes in Huffer's robot mode, retroactively making the bigger toy better.
Another gun mode (different from the first only in the most generous and imaginative of descriptions) attaches to Huffer in robot mode. This doesn't work nearly as well. Like most of the Armada Minicons that transformed into weapons, Caliburst is crippled by not having a handle. Huffer can only use him if Caliburst is connected to a Minicon hardpoint, and Huffer's only hardpoint is on the underside of his right arm. With Caliburst attached Huffer has a fairly sizable artillery piece hanging under his arm, which looks irredeemably silly. A shoulder mount would have improved things tremendously.
Although it completely subverts the point of them being Power Core combiners, I prefer to take Caliburst out of the equation entirely in robot mode. His gun barrel can be popped off pretty easily, and it fits snugly around Huffer's Minicon hardpoint. This lets Huffer carry a gun without
looking like an idiot.
Trying to force four modes into something so small and then sapping away so much molded detail by casting the toy in mostly transparent plastic just wasn't a good idea. Caliburst's three alternate modes are Quickswitch-esque "move one part and call it something new" variations on the same one. He's is probably the best we're going to get for PCC Minicon weapons, but he's not especially good. It's a shame because we know from Universe Nightstick that Hasbro can do very nice Minicon-scale Targetmasters in this day and age. Caliburst just isn't one of them.
Marks out of ten for the following:
4 - Intuitive, but depressingly simple. Caliburst's transformation is actually more complex than Huffer's. Huffer's "torso" mode and ability to combine with PCC drones compensates a little bit, but as a standalone toy he's pretty simple.
9.5 - You'd probably have to use Huffer as a baseball to break him, and Caliburst is a pretty robust Minicon even if transparent plastics always worry me. These guys can survive a lot of play.
8 - Huffer is very neat and fun to play with even if he doesn't really do anything special. Caliburst is pretty cool if you like Minicons, although he's not the best of them by a long shot.
8 - Huffer looks great in robot mode, and he looks great in vehicle mode if you attach Caliburst. Caliburst himself...not so much.
7 - Huffer could do with a few more joints, but he's pretty poseable overall. Caliburst is useless for posing except as an accessory, but as a Minicon that's sort of to be expected.
5 - Well...this is where things get a bit sticky. Huffer is a good toy...for a scout. But you're not paying the price of a scout for him. The Power Core Combiner two-packs are a few bucks more than an ROTF scout ($13 vs. $10 in Canada). Is a Minicon that I'll probably toss in a box and ignore after a few days worth the extra $3? To me, no.
7 - If Huffer was a stand-alone toy this score would be higher, because I really like him. Caliburst drags the set down but they're still worth getting if you have the chance... Just maybe not at full price.