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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Denyer's review of: Sludge

Name: Sludge
Allegiance: Autobot
Sub-group: Dinobot
Function: Jungle Warrior, Demolitions

"Stomp your enemy, crush him under your feet."

Likes to make presence known—a footstep can be heard and felt in a 3-mile radius. Gentle and shy, but terrifying and unstoppable in battle. Like other Dinobots, dislikes Optimus. Can exert 40,000 psi via feet—enough to shatter a bridge. Immense strength and endurance. Adept at fighting in water, swamp, and jungle. Slow, not too clever—often victim of the calamities he causes.

I've always unashamedly loved the Dinobots, and I'm far from alone within Transformers fandom. Take robots and dinosaurs, mix them together and you have something a wide range of people will enjoy. People (and indeed writers) tend to focus on Grimlock though, when they're also great either as an ensemble or individually.

All of the original five Dinobots had previous releases in the very early 80s as part of a Japanese toy line called Dinosaur Robo, making them some of the earliest designs to be incorporated into the American-originated Transformers line. In spite of this, they're some of the more complex, detailed and jointed toys, and -- with the exception of Swoop -- some of the largest early figures. Due to these origins, each Dinobot has a compartment that was originally used to seat a small figure that would pilot the robot... the innovation of Transformers, of course, was in making the robots themselves sentient protagonists.

As cool as they are, origins for the characters tend to be a bit forced... in the old cartoons, the premise was that they were designed from fossil remains, just because Wheeljack thought they might be useful. In the comics, the Marvel "Savage Land" was used as an explanation for why dinosaurs were alive at least until four millions ago. It's probably best not to think about it too hard.

Dinosaur Mode:

In his Brontosaurus form (these days known as an apatosaurus, the genus having been merged by paleontologists with an earlier find) Sludge is fairly immobile, back legs rotating but having nowhere to go. Really the only articulation is in the neck and jaw, and there's a bit of compromise involved with the front legs, having the black portions of the arms tucked underneath the belly of the creature.

So it's time to dust off your imagination. That marbled grey plastic dinosaur is made of metal... is the size of a house... weighs at least thirty-five metric tons... and it's pissed off that you've used an image of the beautiful, shining human as a decoy to try to trap it. It's an angry metal lizard bigger than a bungalow-semi.

More impressive? Indeed.

Robot Mode:

Transformation isn't too difficult to work out but is quite complex, involving hips created from beams making up the internal back torso of the dino mode, apatosaurus limbs sunken into the back end sections that become robot legs, and tightly clipped integration of the folding torso section. You'll have the choice of making the shell-like front parts of the dinosaur mode 'wings' for the robot mode or tucking them backwards unobtrusively, and I prefer the latter.

The attention to detail is very welcome. A few years later, you'll see Transformers with 'animal' alt-modes that simply have extra limbs hanging off their robot modes -- Pretender Beasts, Terrorcons, etc. -- but the Dinobots stem from a time when craft and engineering skills were evident in the design of toys. Poseability derives from the transformation mechanisms themselves; add in some modern ball-joints (which weren't first used on TFs until about ten years after this) and they'd hold up to current standards quite well.

Sludge originally came with both a gun and a missile launcher, plus a sword. (And the Classic Hero release in Europe, if I recall correctly, with the missile launcher and sword.) I've just picked two out of a general mix of Dinobot accessories for appearances... he does look best displayed with at least one weapon.

Transformation: 7 - A good balance of involvement and being able to do it in a reasonable time.
Durability: 6 - Lots of moving pieces. Tough, but the hinges wouldn't take falls well.
Fun: 8 - Dinosaur. Robot. Dinosaur. Robot.
Price: 8 - Not the most popular of the five Dinos, but only available as the '85 release or a Classic Hero reissue. Modern reissues are unlikely; Takara would probably have done a set by now if the moulds could easily be found and salvaged. Dinosaur Robo releases and contemporary bootlegs (made in the 80s using die-cast parts) are even more rare.
Overall: 8 - Probably my third favourite of the set, placing after Slag and Grimlock. More proportional than Snarl, a solid colour-scheme and a mould with a lot of character.
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