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mongoosehuman's review of: Beast Machines Skydive

Name: Skydive
Function: Aerial Combat Specialist
Subgroup: Deluxe
"When in the skies, I am the terror which Vehicons despise!"

To the Vehicons, Skydive is the true menace of the skies above Cybertron. Speed and maneuverability are unmatched within the Maximal ranks; makes him an impossible target. Reinforced, specialized alloys offer maximum protection if any Vehicons manage to get a lock. Wins act as energy receptors, supplying incredible endurance -- always outlasts opponents. Despite stoic personality, Skydive takes great pleasure in "buzzing" secret Maximul outposts.

Skydive was my first foray into the strange world of Beast Machines. Let's see what came of it.

Beast Mode:
Skydive's beast mode is a pterosaur. It's a form that we've all seen before, but Skydive is novel enough to justify another yet another version of the same beast. Skydive is a long, gaunt, and graceful pterosaur, the likes of which we haven't seen before. He's downright skeletal in places: his limbs are long and bony, with wings that aren't much wider than the bones, and his face is simply a skull. This works well for Skydive because he resembles the fossils that you and I would see in a museum. Since these fossils are the only pterosaurs we really know, Skydive is, in some ways, more true-to-life than a fully fleshed-out pterosaur.

But the fact is that "true-to-life" was placed pretty low on the Beast Machines mission statement. That's just not what BM is all about. It's about a radical, maniacal, and sometimes pathological sense of design. In this respect, Skydive's color scheme does not disappoint. The colors are scattered all over the place, but it makes for some great detailing. I'm a big fan of all the scars that are molded and painted onto Skydive's skin. Skydive's detail makes him a quality toy.

I'm pleased with Skydive's articulation, too. It would add up to a respectable amount of joints, if I bothered to count them, but the more important fact is that his different positions all look pretty natural. Skydive has a neat sillhouette when he's "flying," but he doesn't become awkward when you fold his legs down and set him on his feet. You can even fold his wings behind him. Far from looking ungainly, Skydive actuallly looks like he could strut around on the ground, like a heron or a stork.

Sad to say, Skydive's gimmick leaves a lot to be desired. His S-shaped neck is spring-loaded so that it will unfold and jolt forward when you push down on the bottom. In theory, the jaws are articulated to open and close and create a "biting action." It looks great on the instructions, but when I try, the jaws usually fail and it becomes more of a pecking action. You might thinks it jives with the more bird-like aspects of the beast, but it just makes me sad. Better to have left off the gimmick and save me the disappointment.

Robot Mode:
In robot mode, Skydive gains no new colors and retains most of the same body parts. The beast's legs extend to become the robot's legs, and the wings reconfigure to become arms. It seems that little more needs to be done, except to switch the beast head for the robot head. I would've predicted that this happened by folding the robot's head out of the body and folding the beast's head behind it. "Nay, you fool!," says Skydive to me as he transforms.

Instead, Skydive undergoes a bizaare transformation where the beast and robot heads stay relatively stationary and the body and limbs turn inside-out around around them. The body opens to expose the robot head and closes to conceal the beast head. To do this, Skydive utilizes one of the stranger shoulder joints I've ever seen. It's a traditional ball-and-socket joint, but the base of it rests in a rotating orbit that can turn 180 degrees. When the inside of the beast's body becomes the outside of the robot body, the shoulder orbit rotates to keept the arms on the outside.

It's really quite elegant, and not half as confusing as I make it sound. While many BM robots share their beast modes arms and legs, and hence have pretty blands transformations, Skydive's is much more interesting with the the exploding/imploding body. The unique transformation also means that the body changes shape slightly, so the robot doesn't just look like the animal has stood up straight.

Like the beast mode, the robot also has a lot of personality. Skydive is a long, lanky bot, and struts around my desk like he owns the place. His headsculpt is nice and neutral. It also has an imbedded chunk of transparent plastic, so his eyes glow under a light, but there's also a diamond-shaped spot on his forhead that does the same. It's a nice detail among many other great ones. My favorite is the spark crystal bursting out of a huge gash in his chest.

The robot has good articulation, and his feet are able to support him in a lot of neat poses. But in his arms, even the sheer number of joints (four!) can't stop his poses from being a little confounding. While Skydive has convincing hands, he retains the gigantic index finger from his pterosaur mode, and there are few hand positions where the finger doesn't look awkward or get in the way. The otherwise cool-looking flanges on his shoulders also restrict his shoulder movement to rotation in just two dimensions.

I'm also not so fond of the robot's gimmick, where the remnants of the wing are supposed to be blades. They are spring loaded, and the idea is that you pull them back so they make a slashing motion. To me, they just seem to slash in the wrong direction with respect to his hands. I would've liked it better if you could remove the wings and actually put them in his hands, like Transmetal (or Armada) Terrorsaur.

But other than a few problems with the arms, the robot mode is still pretty awesome. Now let's check the numbers...

Transformation: 7.5 - You'll have to look at the instructions the first time, but it'll make perfect sense afterwards.
Durability: 9 - The joints that are most likely to break are designed to be breakaway. Very considerate.
Fun: 8 - The sweet looks and decent poseabilty in both modes are enough to make me happy, though I really wish the gimmicks were better.
Price: 9 - In mid 2005, I got him in package for the original retail price. Most Beast Machines aren't hard to find.
Overall: 7.9 - If you like Beast Machines, this could go as high as 8.5, but I understand that the design philosophy isn't for everyone. Even so, with such an interesting transormation and quality detailing, Skydive will make you pretty happy if you give him a chance.
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