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mAgic rAt's review of: Vortex

Name: Vortex
Allegiance: Decepticon
Sub-Group: Combaticon
Function: Interrogation
First Cartoon Appearance: "Starscream's Brigade" - Episode 63
"I'm Vortex, fly me - if you dare!"

Vortex always gives you a ride to remember - in your nightmares! He takes an evil, cackling delight in trapping Autobots inside him and taking them on a spinning, dizzying flight of death-defying aerial stunts. As the Combaticon interrogator, he finds it an extremely effective - and enjoyable - way of doing his job. Autobots are easy prey to his techniques: Vortex grabs them off the ground, lifts them in the air and attempts to coerce them into divulging secrets. When Vortex is finished with the Autobots, he lets them plummet to the ground. A free ride from Vortex is definitely not worth the price.

“A free ride from Vortex is definitely not worth the price.” So that’s what the profile sketch says eh? Well, this was my first Combaticon and I’m inclined to disagree. And we’ll soon find out why.

Ok. Clear your mind. Relax. Take a soda. Switch on, the 75th anniversary of “Married with children” jubilee edition. Totally empty your mind. Expect nothing, but be prepared for anything.

Alright. Ready? We’re gonna do another gestalt limb. And another Combaticon. “Man, the guy’s nuts.” I hear you think. Now, I’m telling you we’re gonna do Vortex, a grey heli. What’s to it? There is no reason this could be interesting, right?

Wrong! This grey heli is a hidden treasure. This is not just another Bruticus limb, another under designed little ‘bot, that you would only buy to complete your Combaticon team. This little thingy is so full of tricks, gadgets and gizmos that we’ll go completely nuts on this one.

Alternate Mode:
Alright, let’s take a look at the Combaticon team. You have a tank, a jeep, a plane, robots for little soldiers. What’s missing? Indeed, my friend, a war-chopper. And that’s exactly what you get with Vortex.

He’s kinda dull grey, but it’s sure fitting, and complimentary to the others’ schemes. In the same low-key spirit of the grey, they chose not the upgrade of some kind of apache longbow or cobra look-a-like. Instead they chose something that vaguely reminds of a Blackhawk or a ‘Gunship’ Huey.

Fellow Decepticon attack-choppers like TargetMaster Spinister or even Micromaster Tracer (from the second wave Micromaster Battle Squad) are always Apache inspired, weapon-overloaded Apache’s. I really feel that the first thing that makes Vortex cool is the low-key appearance they gave him. You expect less from this guy then. Now this wouldn’t work out, if this guy would have some cool gimmicks in store for us. That’s the thing with Vortex: it makes you overlook the guy totally, and then surprises you after all...

Now, this already is the first ‘gimmick’: It’s a chopper! A typical classic chopper, just like any kid will draw one. Nothing special, you would say, right? Too easy for a reviewer to praise a transformer only for being a chopper, right?

Well, be reminded then, of the fact he’s one of ONLY THREE Decepticon choppers released in the whole G1 era. The other two are stated above, a itsi-bistie-teenie-weenie-mini Micromaster, and some second wave TargetMaster. Only three choppers! In a time span of 7 years, that sure isn’t a lot. And of these three, in my opinion Vortex is by far the best one, he’s the only one to receive cartoon time, the only one normal-sized with a certain amount of realism. There: skeptics - 0, Vortex - 1.

Vortex, compared to his Protectobot nemisis, Blades, looks a bit less detailed, and is more of a brick. Generally the Protectobots are more detailed and more delicately built than the Combaticons, and Vortex is no exception. However this only adds to the bad-ass image any Decepticon team needs to have; if they are to be a combat team, that is. Now, where Blast-Off’s altmode suffers simply because a space shuttle doesn’t fit in a grass-roots, dust eating, shrapnel beating combat team, and Swindle’s altmode is just ridiculous, Vortex’ altmode works out really just fine, both as a standalone Transformer and as with the team.

You really expect this guy to take-off from behind Onslaught in a dust cloud, and while the latter is opening a massive artillery barrage, you’d expect Vortex to fly over Brawl and Swindle blitzing an enemy fortification, providing cover-fire along the way. This is underlined by the fact he comes with big green minigun-like guns, mounted on his tail, and an ingeniously attached nose gun. There are two fairly sized purple sticker stripes on that tail, with the Decepticon logo integrated. They look great, but -– sadly -- are totally hidden by the guns.

The tail and main rotor move freely, the thing comes fitted with a decent landing gear and turning wheels, and the chopper’s slightly-too-blocky front-end has a painted black windscreen. Small niggle: when looking closely at the detailing in the mould, there are two side windows to find, which should have been painted black as well. Whatever.

Last cool thingy: this guy’s a limb, right? So he has to have joint, right? Well, that joint is at the belly of the chopper, making it look and function like a hatch, like a trap-door for interrogated humans trapped inside Vortex. (I know, I'm crazy, but I just couldn’t withhold this little secret from you.)

Robot Mode:
I’m telling you, this is where this chopper really is to take off in the charts, but first we’ll work through this guy’s transformation sequence. First remove the ingeniously attached front gun, and the big tail guns. Stretch the thing out, and fold the tail-end downwards. Now, fold the legs and arms the other way around, and, finally, turn the top of the heli, with the rotor on it, 180 degrees and there you are, one robot.

Now, probably you’ve noticed you can take off the rotor. It probably has something to do with the interchangeability of the limbs. The cool thing is that this allows loads of cool weapon configurations for Bructicus, but also allows Vortex's robot mode to look more like a robot instead of a chopper in a vertical position. Take off the rotor, give the rotor to Swindle, and Swindle can actually fly! (Kids' imaginations know no boundaries, heh?) Second, turn the back plate of Vortex around, and his head is free of any obstructions or build-ins, which makes him look better. Now, howya like that? Maybe sceptics-Vortex 0-2?

Alright, we weren’t really done transforming this guy. Vortex, with conventional transformation AND the rotor on his back, has some trouble to stand on his feet. The little drunk tends to fall flat on his back. Now, Hasbro sometimes actually DOES have a bright moment, and this must have been one them. Vortex’ legs can move a bit backwards, thus enabling him to stand his ground sturdily! Man, these guys really were awake, they even tested this guy before they sent him into production! Praise the Lord!

As a robot, his green bits work really well with the heli’s grey, but the stickers and the pupple chest are maybe a bit too bright. (Maybe I'll tear off the stickers one day...) He’s quite short, and the smallest of all the Combaticons, which adds to the low-profile image I sketched before. The head fully resembles the one we’ve all seen in the cartoons, which remarkably goes for all of the Combaticons. There’s a green bar along his chest, which you can fold out to become a gestalt joint. Like his aerial brother in arms, Blast-Off, this would have allowed the head to become not so awkwardly small and blocky if Hasbro hadn't decided all limbs should be interchangeable. Too bad for Vortex’ head, but a rather fun gimmick. The extra here for Vortex as an individual is that this guy is that this joint allows Vortex to carry Onslaught's secret military plans to Megatron undetected! (Small pieces of my dad’s cigarette rolling paper was always very convincing.) There you, another super cool gadget: 0-3 for Vortex!

Vortex uses the same gun he had in front of his cabin as a chopper as a hand gun. (The other two guns can be mounted on his shoulder, Starscream-like.) Now, this is the only real drawback about Vortex: he hasn’t got any hands, or not at least something that looks like them, as his fellows Combaticons do. It’s the kind of error that does actually allow for another cool thingy... the hand gun, that was so smartly put into the front of he chopper without any pins or whatsoever, and because of that really looked integrated IN the design of the chopper, well, that same smart design trick now causes Vortex to hold his gun attached to a small pin inside his arms, roughly where the hands or wrists would be. Now, what’s really cool about this, is that he can shoot from HIS HIP! Yeah! Just keep the arms alongside his body, and point the gun sneakily forward: Pgoow! Down another critic, and they never even saw him coming! Keep it up cowboy! We have 1-4 on the scoreboard, still with Vortex in comfortably in the lead.

Here’s another one: now, imagine Vortex got shot down by Powerglide, and got surrounded by a couple of Autobot mini-cars on patrol, and found Vortex spying. This guy’s not shouting for help, nah, instead he pulls another trick from out of sleeve. He got blown right off his feet by one of Warpath’s near-misses, lands on his back –with THE ROTOR attached- and start’s spinning. Now, off course, he was surrounded by the Autobots, but, while spinning, he blasts away, and disables a complete Autobot platoon in a matter of seconds. YEAH! If that isn’t as cool as Elvis’ ”I’m all shook up”, then I don't know WHAT is! AND the crowd goes wild! How ‘bout 1-5 eh?

Now just when you think you’ve seen it all, the real villain in Vortex starts surfacing. You already agreed that he was cooler than you thought at the first glance, but now he has trashed the whole Autobot platoon he comes in for the kill. He comes for YOU!
Vortex leaves his handgun, like any cool cowboy loosly at the hip, and just when you think you'll still live to see another day, you realise this guy left the mini guns, the ones he uses as a heli, that he left THOSE big mother****ers on his shoulder. He points ‘em at you, you pray, and the Lord heard your last prayer: once again, that bigger-bastard-than-Trypticon Swindle sold Vortex movie shells rather than live-ammo. And once again, he pulls off another trick. The guy comes running towards you, folds the chopper tail-ends from his elbows and with the chain-and-saw that suddenly points forward, makes you look like you went through the backstage sessions of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

And the home crowd put their hands together for the one-and-only wolf-in-sheep-clothes: VORTEX! Guest beaten by 1-6!!!!

To get back at what the tech-spec said: “Vortex’ free ride is not worth the price”; well, I think we’ve seen a Transformer that actually totally IS worth the buck. Maybe not for display purposes, or for a collector. But as a TOY, all the more! This guy is a rightful Transformer, literally having “...More, much more than meets the eye!” It can be seriously doubted whether Vortex was carefully and purposely designed that way by an overgenerous Hasbro, but the ending results are still what counts: And I’d say, partly because the low key appearance but mostly because of all the gimmicks this guy’s hiding, this Vortex here... is one hell of a toy.

Add the fact he’s quite exclusively THE Decepticon chopper, and he really has an added value to the Combaticon team. Almost to the level that maybe Vortex is the reason to start off collecting the team and Bruticus, at least more than eye-catcher Brawl, cartoon superstar Swindle or even leader Onslaught. Vortex is the hidden jewel you always hope to find in any team, the jack-in-the-box when Hasbro slipped into Decepticon gestalt mania, and the only Combaticon that is a decent Transformer without being demoted by the fact it’s "just one of Bruticus’ limbs." Vortex separates the man from the boys, the Mark Evanses from the Jeremy Clarksons, the Benbits from the Sportlife... the... the... THE HELIS FROM THE CHOPPERS. YEAH!

Yep: Vortex has it all, if you only would’ve known it before you spent that money on another Triggercon... Two thumbs up for this guy!

Transformation: 5/10 - Just the average gestalt limb. But +1 because of the smart solutions with the balance issue and the front gun.
Durability: 7/10 - The stickers wear off pretty bad. I guess the rotor can break, and it has enough separate parts too lose, but mine has nothing lost or broken. Compared to other G1, for instance Blades, this guy is quite hard to break.
Fun: 9/10 - Secret message space, swords, rotor makes big chainsaw for Bruticus, small one for himself at the elbow, gun at his hip, hatch in chopper mode, and all that for a small guy! Feel dazzled already? This is really a fun toy!
Price: 8/10 - Cheap enough, and loads of bang for your buck!
Overall: 8/10 - So much fun, so exclusive, really G1 WITH cartoon time, so much poseability, tricks and gizmos. For such a low price. Go Vortex!
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