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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Warcry's Review: Prime First Edition Bumblebee

A lot of characters have changed since the success of the live-action movies, some for the worse and some for the better. No one has been changed so fundamentally as Bumblebee, though. Before the movies, he was a small, mouthy, spunky kid-identification character who (in spite of his prominence in the early years of the franchise) had really faded into obscurity before the 2006 movie brought him back into the spotlight. But the movie Bumblebee is so different that he's practically a different character -- a badass mute who can hold his own against any Decepticon and urinates freely on federal agents.

When Transformers: Prime rolled around and we first saw the character designs, I was a bit disappointed because he was so very clearly based on the Movie design. But when the show itself rolled around, I was pleasantly surprised to find that while Bumblebee looks like a cartoony version of the Movie incarnation his personality is a mix of the best bits of both. Translating that cute design to toy form, though, has proven to be quite a challenge. Two different Deluxe-sized molds of Prime Bumblebee have been made, both with their own assets and drawbacks. The version I'll be reviewing comes from the First Edition line, which was exclusive to Toys'R'Us in late 2011 before coming to online retailer Big Bad Toystore in late 2012.

Alternate Mode: Bumblebee's alternate mode is an Urbana 500, a fictional muscle car in the Transformers universe. It's fairly generic, to be honest. Following the same general style as modern Cameros, Mustangs and Chargers, Bumblebee looks like exactly what he is -- a low-detail toy car designed to evoke a more popular design without actually coming close enough to create lisencing issues. Combined with a very bright, flat yellow plastic, that leaves Bumblebee looking pretty plain next to other recent car Autobots like FE Cliffjumper and RiD Wheeljack. With the original version of the character that would work pretty well, but the sporty Prime Bumblebee really deserves to be a bit flashier in alt-mode.

Aside from that, Bumblebee is very basic for a Deluxe car. He rolls on his wheels and not much else -- no opening doors, no weapons hardpoints, no MechTech...he's pretty sparse, honestly. But the lack of play features is offset a little bit by some pretty expansive paint applications. Bumblebee features quite a bit of black piping, as well as a painted grille, taillights, front turn signals, fog lamps and headlights. His headlights and windows are cast in a transparent blue plastic, which is an odd choice that winds up looking pretty strange contrasted with his yellow bodywork. The detailed paint apps are certainly welcome and do help make the vehicle mode look a little less bland, but all in all he's pretty generic. He can't hold a candle to past Bumblebees, either G1 or movie.

Robot Mode: In his humanoid form, Bumblebee is more of the same. He's mostly yellow, with a few grey bits revealed by the transformation. A few of the black paint apps are visible from the front, but not many. Meanwhile, there are very few new painted details revealed during transformation. His face is painted dark grey, he has silver on his ankles and gut and black stripes on his hips -- and that's it. Molded details on his shoulders, legs and feet stand out as spots that really could have used a bit of colour, but they're all left bare yellow. The end result is a toy that's pretty barren all things considered and doesn't do justice to a character model that has a lot more shading and colour variance.

When you move past appearances and start evaluating Bumblebee as a toy, a few more warts become apparent. Bumblebee's chest is made up of four different chunks of hood and undercarriage, rearranged into an approximation of his show model. The parts don't lock together very securely though, and trying to move his arms is a sure recipe to pull one of his chest pieces out of place. For maximum show-accuracy the lower half of his bumper should split off on an angle from the upper half, but although the toy is designed to do that it seems to be physically impossible on my figure. Whether this is a common issue or not, I can't say.

His door-wings also have issues, sticking out at an awkward angle that doesn't look very good. Since he can't speak, Bumblebee has much more expressive body language than other characters on the show. His doors are actually a significant part of that -- they perk up when he's happy and droop when he's sad, angle themselves aggressively when he's angry and generally do a great job of conveying his emotional state with a unique bit of expressiveness. That feature is entirely absent in this toy, but it easily could have been achieved by attaching the doors on a set of ball joints instead of rigid hinges.

The messy upper body arrangement continues to cause problems when we move onto articulation. Bumblebee's shoulder has three joints moving on different axes, with a range of motion between them that comes close to a traditional ball joint. The movements seem unnatural, though, and unless Bee's upper arms are completely vertical it looks like his shoulders are trying to float away from his body. The rest of his joints a bit sloppy, too. He's got ball-jointed elbows and forearm swivels, but the swivels are so tight on mine that turning them tends to drag the shoulders along for the ride. His wrists don't swivel, but they can curl inward as part of his transformation. His ball-jointed hips have a very limited range of motion if you're trying to open his legs up wider than the standing-at-attention pose -- the movement can be forced, but his crotch assembly's hip guards are too low to allow it naturally. He's also got knee and ankle hinges as well as thigh swivels, but yet another problem arises there: his knees can bend less than 90 degrees backwards because of the collection of kibble that makes up his boots.

He does have a ball-jointed neck and the waist swivel that's so often missing in Transformers these days though, so it's not all doom and gloom. And his head, while undersized, is quite cute so that's a good point too.

Bumblebee also comes with an accessory -- one of the wrist-mounted blasters that the character uses on the TV show. The problem, of course, is that he uses two of these blasters on the TV show. He's got mounting points for them on either arm so the odds are good that he was meant to come with both until one was cut as a cost-saving measure. If so, that's a really chintzy move considering how many other corners were cut in the paint and design departments. Compared to his counterparts in the First Edition line, Bumblebee just feels cheap.

Transformation Design: Over-engineered in the worst way. Bumblebee's probably the simplest of the Prime character designs, and I'm really not sure how he became such a mess in the plastic. 2/10

Durability: Bumblebee's doors and roof are made from pretty thin plastics, and transforming him to vehicle mode can put lots of stress on them if it's not done right. Other than that he seems fairly sturdy. 8/10

Fun: As the lineup's kid-friendly character Bumblebee should have the most fun toy of the bunch, but this figure is more frustrating than anything else. 3/10

Aesthetics: Very, very plain in both modes. This is one toy that definitely would be improved with a few more touches of paint. 4/10

Articulation: Awkward joints, restricted movement, parts that move when you don't really want them to...Bumblebee is a loser in this category as well. 3/10

Price: In spite of it's exclusive nature the fact that it was a Bumblebee produced between 2008 and 2012 means that hives and hives of him were easily available for well over a year after release. Some ridiculous people are trying to sell the thing for $50+ on eBay right now. Don't pay that. There were so many of him available, in fact, that you really shouldn't have to pay much more than retail for the guy. 7/10

Overall: Blah. There are so many Bumblebee toys available that there's really no reason to waste your time with a mediocre one. He's not utterly dreadful but I'd recommend you give him a pass. 4/10
 
 
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