Warcry's Review: Air Hammer
If Air Hammer possesses one attribute, it is mind-boggling speed - add that to his scanned characteristics and it equals the perfect reconnaissance warrior. His aerodynamic structure helps Air Hammer to be equally dexterous in water as in air. He sees with the eyesight of a hawk and has the ability to sniff out a Predacon from miles away. Well liked by his fellow Maximals, Air Hammer is a robot of few words, preferring to save his razor-sharp jaw for locking onto the limbs of enemy Predacons.
The Fuzors are a strange little sub-line that illustrates both the best and worst of the Beast Wars line very starkly. The toys were preceded by normal, lifelike beasts and followed by mechanical and cyborg ones, but in between the two this strange set of ten mutated creatures found a home. Fuzors have two different animal forms, not as separate modes like a Triplechanger, but as a single, blended whole. The creature choices and designs were spotty at best -- some of the blended animal forms resembled proud, glorious mythological beasts like the griffin, pegasus or hippogriff, while others skewed more toward demented cosmic horrors. Transformation schemes were trouble in some cases, too -- the Beast Wars designers had struggled with kibble from day one, and the Fuzors had twice as many distinctive parts to incorporate as a normal animal would.
But some of them turned out nice in spite of that. Silverbolt and Quickstrike were both featured on the Beast Wars TV show with Silverbolt in particular being an important character, and it's easy to see why they were chosen. The two of them were easily the nicest Fuzor their respective factions had to offer, even though there were a couple other interesting figures in the assortment as well. Combining the head and tail of a hammerhead shark with the wings, talons and body of a hawk, Air Hammer was one of the other 'good' Fuzors. The character has no fictional appearances of note to date, limited to a couple minor cameos in BotCon and IDW comics. Because of that, the toy doesn't get as much attention as it probably should. This review will hopefully do a little bit to change that.
As I mentioned above, Air Hammer's beast mode is a mix of a hammerhead shark and a hawk. The shark parts are pained a vibrant, sparkly blue, while the hawk parts are molded in off-white plastic with lots of brown feather detailing. The figure's eyes are painted bright yellow, which stands out nicely from both of the main colours. Feather patterns are painted on both the top and bottom of the wings, with different patterns no less, and the end result is a very striking beast. Air Hammer stands on a pair of hawk talons, and has orange stripes painted down its legs. I'm assuming the stripes are meant to create the impression of a slender pair of bird legs, hiding the fact that the toy is actually standing on it's robot mode calves and feet. If so, it does the job fairly well. Compared to the other Fuzors or even the Beast Wars line as a whole, Air Hammer has a great look and is a strikingly beautiful creature.
Looks, unfortunately, are Air Hammer's only real asset. The figure has very little articulation in beast mode. Its wings and back are molded in a single solid piece of plastic, lacking the ability to hinge at the wing root or fold in on themselves like fellow Basic-class toy Airazor. In this case it's a clear trade-off between looks and functionality, since joints would have taken away from the smooth, realistically-curved look of the wings and feathers. Air Hammer's head likewise doesn't move, which is a shame since hammerhead sharks look like they were designed to smash things around. And while the legs are articulated at the ankles and hips, those joints are optimized for robot mode so the range of motion is highly unrealistic for a bird. Just about the only useful joint on the toy in this mode is it's tail, which can swing up, down and side to side on a ball joint.
Air Hammer only comes with a single gimmick, a spring-loaded set of beast jaws. It's a neat touch and a feature that I wish more toys would have had, but in Air Hammer's case it's poorly executed. The jaws don't open wide enough or hold on strong enough to grab onto another Beast Wars toy, even a fellow Basic, reducing the gimmick to a minor novelty instead of a truly fun play feature.
I'm a big fan of Air Hammer's beast mode as a display piece, but once you start to play with the thing it leaves something to be desired.
In robot mode, thankfully, those issues are addressed.
Air Hammer's colours are about the same as they were in beast mode. The toy is still mostly off-white -- two different shades, actually. The wings, hands, chest, head, shins and feet are all cast from the pearly off-white that dominated the beast mode, while the upper arms, belly and thighs are a slight bit greyer. The wings (and the scalloped feather patterns) are still visible behind the figure's arms, adding some extra visual interest. Air Hammer's left hand, chest and a set of stripes on the toy's head are vibrant blue, and the orange stripes from beast mode are still visible on the toy's shins. The head sculpt is simple but elegant, with the blue stripes and bright yellow eyes highlighting a very streamlined design that suggests speed and (for me, anyway) suggests a character that's more comfortable in the air or underwater than on the ground or in the Maximal base.
The robot mode in general is very slim and elegant looking, aside from a large chest. The look isn't miles off from fellow Basic-class flyer Airazor, and the similarities have led me to classify the otherwise-personalityless Air Hammer as another female Transformer. That does run counter to the pronouns used in her toy bio, but Beast Wars-era bios were generally horrible and generic anyway so I'm not particularly bothered by that. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who's categorized Air Hammer as a chick, though, so take that with a grain of salt.
The toy has typically good articulation for a Beast Wars Basic, with ball-jointed shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, hinged ankles and a head that can swivel around 360 degrees. Somewhat surprisingly -- since the toy is carrying 90% of it's beast mode on it's back -- Air Hammer has great balance. Unlike most of the other Basics I've got in my collection Air Hammer's ankle joints are nice and tight, so unlike Insecticon or Airazor or Snapper I don't have to worry about it toppling over and taking out the rest of my Beast Wars display if I don't leave it leaning on something. Air Hammer's a heck of a lot of fun to mess around with and pose.
Air Hammer's biggest weakness in robot mode are the hands. Or rather, the lack of hands. Like a lot of Beast Wars toys Air Hammer winds up with arms that end with random beast parts in place of hands. In particular, the toy's right hand is made up of the beast mode jaws, complete with snapping action. Freed from the shark head, the jaw assembly is compact, streamlined and actually quite dangerous looking. Air Hammer's left hand, meanwhile, is a shark tail. That's a bit more difficult to sell, though the tail is oriented in a way that creates the impression of a thumb and fingers. In fact, with the fin painted blue while the rest of the arm is white it looks more than anything else like Air Hammer is wearing a really awkward glove.
The other issue with the toy is the figure's belly and crotch. That section of the body is made up of two pieces that split apart during the transformation to beast mode. Unfortunately, they don't fit together perfectly in robot mode so there's a narrow, unsightly gap between the two sections in robot mode. This appears to be an engineering defect, since most of the Air Hammers I've seen pictures of online have the same issue as mine.
Overall, Air Hammer's got a really neat robot mode. It's not without flaws, but it's a lot of fun.
There are some issues here. Air Hammer's lazy hands are the main offender, but the design also leaves us with a beast mode that's a complete brick. The stomach that doesn't close fully is an issue rooted in transformation design as well. Overall, the toy probably needed one more draft at the engineering stage before it went into production. 5/10
Air Hammer's all big, solid pieces and ball joints -- though some of those ball joints have loosened with time. I also have an issue with the front of the toy's chest coming off during transformation. It holds in place just fine in both modes and it's too big to easily lose, thankfully. But I don't see any damage or stress marks on the part, which means I have to chalk this up to another engineering defect. 6/10
Air Hammer's a lot of fun in robot mode. The clamping jaws gimmick in both modes could have used a bit of refinement, but I don't think it takes away too much from the overall score. 8/10
This is where Air Hammer really shines. Grading purely on looks, I can only think of one or two Beast Wars figures I like more. 10/10
Air Hammer's got a more than adequate number of joints in robot mode, but the toy's beast mode really suffers in this category. 7/10
The going rate for a loose Air Hammer seems to be around $10 to $15, which is par for the course for non-show Beast Wars toys. For a figure of this quality, that's a great deal. 10/10
Air Hammer's far from perfect, but I think it's a really good toy. But the character does lack fictional appearances -- or, quite frankly, even the basic outline of a personality that most of the nobodies in the original series got -- which limits the toy's appeal to hard-core Beast Wars fans. Air Hammer's one of the nicest non-show Beast Wars toys around, though, so if you like the series I'd definitely recommend this toy. 7.5/10