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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Blackjack's review: Searchlight

Name: Searchlight
Allegiance: Autobot
Accessories: Backwind, Three-pronged rotor blade, Four-pronged rotor blade

Okay, so along with Huffer and Smolder, Searchlight was the third of the first Power Core Combiners assortment. Searchlight borrows his name from the G1 Throttlebot, but he's got nothing much in common with the original Searchlight bar the name. However, I must admit it was because of the name that I picked the toy up on impulse.

G1 Throttlebot Searchlight was a white car that transforms into a white-and-blue robot. I played him for a while on the site's RPG and killed him under the (mistaken) basis of 'nobody likes those ugly pull-back cars anyway'. I'm still very sorry to the staff for that, and I'm a big Throttlebot fan now, don't you worry. The Throttlebots have so much potential... shame that no one ever uses it. We need a Freeway spotlight...

However, PCC Searchlight doesn't have the nostalgia value that Huffer has, nor the more original idea that Smolder (as the first non-evil-Prime Decepticon fire truck). He's just another Autobot whose alternate mode was a rescue helicopter. Okay, it had two rotors and it's more of a plane than your conventional helicopter, but it'll take much more than that to make him stand out.

Sadly, while none of the PCC figures I've owned are satisfying enough (Huffer is the only one that's any good) Searchlight might be the worst of the bunch.

Searchlight's robot mode looks fairly generic. It's not a blatant homage to any pre-existing character. Well, the basic colour scheme--white with a shade of blue and pints of yellow--is taken from the original Searchlight, true, and the rotor blades is reminiscent of G1 Vortex/Blades/Movie Blackout but otherwise Searchlight has his own appearance. As previously metioned, he is predominantly light grey and dark blue. Yellow is found on his chest, upper arms and crotch. Black is used for the Minicon port and several alt-mode details. Dark silver is used for his 'hood'. A lighter shade of blue is used for the Combiner connectors. Unlike Huffer, there is no effort made to hide or shuffle them elsewhere in Searchlight. So they stick out like sore thumbs. The shoulder ports jut upwards from his shoulders, while the knee ports jut out from the knees. While I understand that as this scale it would be difficult to hide them properly, at the very least Huffer manages to shuffle them out of view. So does Bombshock. Searchlight's designers seem to be too lazy to do the effort.

What I don't get is why must the connectors be light blue? I mean, on Searchlight it's only distracting but on guys like Smolder or Bombshock the light blue clashes badly with the paintjob. Yes, it's to make the ports universal but are kids really that hopeless? Sheesh.

Seen from the front, Searchlight doesn't look so bad. The two (different) rotor blade weapons included with him are awesome weapons anyway. Unlike Evac or Blackout, Searchlight's rotor blades are actually molded with jagged edges, the way G1 Blades looked like in his iconic comic appearances. In fact, I daresay a Blades homage of this mold would be made somewhere down the road. Oh, the next repaint might be a GoBot homage, but just you wait... The rotor blades could be mounted on his wrists or held in his arms. It's a neat feature since the rotors spin independently from their handles, and they could fit in the 'standard' arm pegs with a little bit force. So someone like, say, Classics Hound or Optimus Prime would be able to wield Searchlight's rotors. The holes are too big for the Universe Blades repaint, sadly. At the very least, Hasbro had the decency to give this guy decent weapons.

Kibble-wise, the most noticeable ones on Searchlight would be the two halves of his airplane's front half handing off his sides. While it thankfully doesn't block hand or foot articulation, the hinge joint connecting the large piece tend to move more readily than the shoulder joints, making posing a little awkward somehow. Particularly, moving a shoulder slightly forward would cause the entire half of the alt-mode connected to it to move as well. It's a little annoying, and a little unwieldy, since his shoulders are not connected to his torso section.

His facesculpt is... okay, I guess. He does look like he's lost his lower jaw, since the upper part his face is painted silver, yet below the mouthline it's blue (as if he has a faceplate). It doesn't look particularly ugly, but it doesn't look too great either. Meanwhile, the knees on his feet are placed too low, in my opinion. While this helps in balancing some poses, on others (say, attempting a Dremwave-style crouch) would cause the blue knee connectors to jut out noticeably.

But all in all, his robot mode is not bad, considering the fact that he forms a secondary robot mode. There could be more improvements, though. It's not good, but not particularly bad either.

When transforming Searchlight, you must remember that the right hand must face forward while the one on the left must face backwards, otherwise the pegs won't attach. The two propellers could be mounted on the two holes in front and on the back. The back propeller is a little higher than the one in front, so both could rotate separately without bumping into each other. I prefer to have the larger three-pronged rotor blade in front, so it looks less awkward.

In his alternate mode, well... Searchlight doesn't look like any rescue helicopter I've seen. I mean, yeah, I know about those twin-propeller rescue stuff, but I don't think their front part would look like something out of Terminator Salvation crossed with a school bus. I'm serious- looking at him directly from the front, sans the rotors, and his downswept wings really look like the ones of those futuristic large jet things from Terminator Salvation.

He looks futuristic, like some sort of airbus, instead of a more conventional two-bladed rescue helicopter I've seen on TV. He's now predominantly white, with black for the windows and several bits of dark blue still showing. Two Autobot insignias are embalzoned on the parts that would become the legs in robot mode. '2015' is tampographed on the tiny (and ineffective-looking) wings at the back, but I fail to see what the number references, if any.

Otherwise, he's a decent (if blocky) representation of a futuristic rescue helicopter. The realism doesn't translate as well as Huffer or Smolder, though. Upon closer inspection, the yellow upper arms stick like a sore thumb on top of the helicopter. They just sit there between the helicopter halves, trying not to be noticed. It breaks the alternate mode up like Universe Tank-ane. And the aforementioned tiny wings on the back look ineffective. The connecter ports break the colour scheme again, and while you could argue that they are jet boosters or something similar, have you ever seen baby-blue jet boosters?

All in all, Searchlight tries to break the pattern of repeating 'streamlized' helicopters. However, it still needs more work before it could pass off as one. Still, a great choice of alternate mode for someone named Searchlight (or vice versa).

And Searchlight can fold himself into an alternate robot mode that you can attach the drone limbs from the five-pack combiners. Basically, you fold out an alternate head. It looks somewhat like... hell, I dunno. G1 Siren with a chin extension? Animated Ultra Magnus with his horns shaved off? One of those Japanese Multiforce guys? G1 Defensor after a paint accident?

Tiny wings flip out to form some kind of chest decoration, and the legs rotate verically and bend a bit so the connectors face the bottom. The connectors on the shoulders are extended out. The instructions reccommend that the robot-mode arms fold to his sides with the rotors attached, but why do so? You could let combiner-Searchlight have the hands out, so he has a smaller pair of arms a la IDW's Monstructor rendition. Hey, I'm a Monstructor fan- sue me. But the rotor blades, awesome as they are, get in the way with poses when combined with drones. I reccommend detaching them, or else they'll get in the way.

Searchlight might look better with the Aerialbot drones attached, but since I only have Bombshock I'll have to make do. Searchlight looks decent combined with the Combaticons, better than the more thinner Smolder, but a little awkward because of the paintjob clash. I imagine he would feel more at home with the Aerialbots, Superion chest decoration and all.

In this mode, he can rotate his head (ball joint) and the shoulders can rotate. His too-low knee joints still work, and actually serve as a decent knee substitute in gestalt mode, although now they are too high. His hands provide additional articulation if you want them to. Actually, from a fictional standpoint it would make more sense for Searchlight's tiny arms to be functional--the gestalt claws could smash stuff, but the Searchlight hands could do more delicate things like firing weapons or fixing stuff.

It's a decent feature, that every toy could combine with any of the combination drones. Sadly, Searchlight's alternate mode seems to suffer a lot because of this.

Name: Backwind
Allegiance: Autobot; Minicon

And we musn't forget Backwind. That's pronounced wind (waeend) as in winding a rope, not the wind that blows your toupee off. It makes sense as a Transformer name both ways, although Backwind is intended to be pronounced with winding his rescue rope.

Truthfully, I am a Minicon fan myself. Reading the Armada comics and fooling around with several Minicons from the Classics/Universe lines, I found a sudden urge to army-build Minicons. Why not? They are cute, tiny, cheap and can latch onto bigger robots. Introduced in Armada, they have been infesting the line ever since, although we're seeing a decline in their numbers with the Minicon-less Movie and Animated lines, up until PCC brings them back again.

Unfortunately, most Minicons struggle with a single alternate mode. The PCC line thinks that it's not enough to have the big robots being able to combine, so they threw in Minicons into the mix. I thought 'Cool!' since I love those little buggers, but sadly Hasbro tries too much. While Caliburst and Smolder manage to pass off with one semi-decent alternate mode, Backwind is, well, best left unsaid.

His robot mode certainly couldn't be faulted. It looks like a tiny gorilla with hooks for arms, and something that is molded like those four-barreled chaingun/machinegun things on top of his right hook, although it is unpainted. He has a square-ish silver face--one of those funky weird mouthless faces that Armada Minicons have, but instead of a visor he has a pair of beady yellow eyes.

For some reason Hasbro thought molding Minicons in 80% transcluscent plastic would be more attractive. Caliburst at least had nearly half his body rendered with silver paint, while Chopster has black and red to break his colours up. Backwind is almost entirely translucent green. Sure, his thighs are black and there are fake searchlights on his knees, but they don't help to break the colour scheme up. This makes him stand out like a sore thumb when connected to Searchlight in alternate mode, something that really shouldn't happen. I mean, I don't expect him to have the exact same colours as Searchlight, but at least complement the larger robot's colours. Shouldn't be a hard job.

Granted, he's well articulated for a Minicon, with shoulder, elbow, thigh and knee joints. And they all move in sensible directions. However, his knees look as if they are partially bent, so even if he's standing straight he looks as if he's just stepped out of a Dreamwave poster. Sadly, his robot mode is the only notable mode. And believe me, it isn't really anything spectacular.

His robot mode weapon is a... well, how do you describe it? A robot doing yoga. Basically, you fold Backwind's legs through a series of steps, extend the gun arm straight forward and the other arm backwards. Searchlight holds him on a post on one of his legs.

No, it doesn't even pass like any kind of hand-held weapon at all. The chaingun barrel is too small. Unless Backwind is trying to draw the Decepticons' attention to himself, I don't see what good he could do. Thank goodness Searchlight has got those kickass blades, so this mode could be forgotten.

Again, it's basically Backwind doing yoga. This time the legs fold backwards and the hands point down in a pathetic attempt of mimicking a rescue winch. Backwind's colour scheme clashes badly with Searchlight's, while his knee-lamps are placed way too far from Searchlight to look like it belonged there. The tow arms are also too thick and unwieldy to even look effective.

But at least Backwind's translucence is put into good use- surely he would brighten up a dark sky with his eye-searing paintjob, helping Searchlight to rescue people? Um?

Again, it's basically Backwind doing snow-stars, then attaching himself to Searchlight's chest. This mode doesn't seem to serve any purpose, since a bright green target on the chest would only draw attention to oneself. And besides, unless Backwind would create a forcefield or something, a good shoot to Searchlight's chest would kill him. It's idiotic, frankly.

In any case, Searchlight doesn't need body armour... Searchlight's rotor blades can spin. And Japanese anime is solid proof that any cool-looking blade, if spun at a high speed, would be able to block most bullets.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 4/10 for Searchlight. The transformation could've been better; the front halves of the plane mode hang off his butt, while the hands are fiddly to fold into vehicle mode. And the vehicle mode itself is a mess. 0/10 for Backwind. The poor sod doesn't get any thought put into his transformation.
Durability: 6/10 Searchlight's rotor blades might get lost, and the large amount of moving parts make him feel flimsy, while Backwind's plastic feels horribly cheap.
Price/Value: 3/10 I feel robbed. Alone, Searchlight wouldn't feel so bad if he were sold at a Scout class price-point. But with Backwind attached, the raise in price doesn't feel justified.
Articulation: 7/10 Comparing Searchlight to similarly-sized toys like Hubcap or Huffer, he's got all of the articulation expected. The knee ones are a bit awkward, though, as mentioned in the review. 6/10 Backwind. His long arms allow him a large amount of articulation for a Minicon.
Aesthetics: 3/10 Blah. Again, Searchlight isn't so bad, but the baby-blue connectors really distract from the overall paintjob. Backwind look ugly, though, looking like a blob of melted candy. And the two don't complement each other at all.
Fun: 4/10 Too many cooks spoil the broth. Too many features spoil the action figure. (Searchlight's rotor blades are still awesome, though.)
Overall: 2/10 Despite the amazing melee weapons, I find it hard to reccommend Searchlight. It's partially a fault of Hasbro's for trying to jam-pack so many features into a single toy. Transformation, Combination, Minicons, Targetmaster weapons, good looks... Searchlight is the worst of the first wave of PCC molds, and Backwind might be one of the worst Minicons ever. Granted, pretending that Searchlight was Blades and hacking through Decepticons was kind of cool, but after the 'new toy' brouhaha dies out, they'll probably going to spend the rest of their lives hidden in a corner of a display case. Or on eBay.
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