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Warcry's Review: Waspinator

Finding himself in a world thousands of years distant from the one he once knew, Waspinator did the only thing he could – found someone strong and put himself under their command. Sure, he's being manipulated. And sure, he’s getting blown to pieces just as regularly as he used to. But at least the guy he’s working for now knows how to put him back together properly.

Whoever is writing Hasbro's bios these days is way more on the ball than the one who did them a few years ago -- that little blurb is perfectly applicable not only to the Beast Wars version of the character but to the modern IDW one as well, short on specifics but doing a good job summing up the commonalities between the two. Good show!

For those of you not in the know, Waspinator is a character who made his debut in the mid-90s Beast Wars show. He made his mark quickly, becoming an incredibly popular comic relief character and one of the series' many breakout stars. But his character model diverged a lot from the toy it was based on, so there were never any good representations of his fictional appearance -- even attempts to repaint the original toy to match the show were never going to get it right, since the fundamental designs were so different. The character appeared in the mid-2000s Transformers: Animated series and got a toy based on his appearance there, but the art style was so different from the Beast Wars one that it didn't really scratch the same itch.

Because of that, when reports began to surface of a new Generations Deluxe Waspinator, the fandom began to get very excited. And when the pictures started to emerge that excitement was stoked to full-on glee, because now, finally -- after almost twenty years -- there is a Waspinator toy that looks like his animation model! So of course he was in a wave that didn't get great distribution and lots of people had trouble finding him, because that's how the hobby works these days.

But is he worth the excitement? Read on to find out!

Alternate Mode: Waspinator's alternate mode isn't quite a wasp, actually -- it incorporates a lot of mechanical details and has an odd, hunched-over shape that makes him look appropriately pathetic, if not especially true-to-life. He is primarily green, broken up into light, medium and dark shades, with a yellow and black striped butt and a few brown parts spread around. From a distance he looks okay. But up close, a lot of problems are evident. A very clear set of robot arms hang off of his sides and his robot legs are distinctively tucked in underneath his body, both of which are a huge step back from the original Waspinator from the 90s. There is also a sizable gap between his beast head and thorax, through which you can very clearly see his robot mode head from pretty much any angle.

The flaws are a shame, because a lot of work clearly went into this guy. His head sculpt is quite good, with some good detail and a lot more personality than you'd think a bug's head should be able to have -- the angry mechanical-looking "eyebrows" above his big compound eyes are an especially neat touch. The thorax is covered in lots of little details as well. And the wings are especially nice. If you look closely, they are actually molded to look like two wings one on top of the other, with tiny veins running all around.

But unfortunately, those nice wings (or rather the gimmick tied into them) are the beast mode's biggest problem. Waspinator's hunched back has a little lever built into it that, when pressed, causes the wings to flap forwards and back. The mechanisms for that gimmick make up most of his hump, and also explain why his arms and legs couldn't tuck away more convincingly. While it's a neat gimmick to have, I think most would have been happier with a simple swivel joint, no gimmick and a more coherent beast mode.

I haven't talked about articulation yet, but there's a good reason for that. Aside from the wings (through the flap gimmick and a separate set of ball joints) there really isn't any. His head is static, and his bug legs, while jointed where they meet the body, aren't much good for anything but standing him on. And that's the last nail in his coffin, unfortunately -- Waspinator's beast mode just isn't very good.

Robot Mode: Once you have Waspinator in robot mode, though, it's easy to see where all the excitement comes from. Though he's not a perfect rendition of his show model, he's easily the closest a toy has ever come. And even where he diverges, it's usually for the better -- adding detail to the figure in places where the character model was fairly bare. The colours are the same as beast mode: three different shades of green with yellow/black striped bits. He also has some yellow detailing on his arms, legs and head, more-or-less matching where they are on the cartoon model. There's some overspray on the lower legs (an issue that seems to be prevalent across all the Waspys I've seen), but all in all he's a very, very good looking robot.

Waspinator's head mold deserves special mention, because it's incredibly nice. The sculpted detail around his jawline replicates the complex show model very nicely down to the sharp-looking mouthparts, some of the most intricate sculpting I've seen on a Deluxe Transformer outside of the movie lines. His eyes are also light-piped, and so big that they practically glow at all times (though the trade-off for that is that the back of his head is transparent) and the "segmented" texture they have scatters the light nicely.

Waspinator's only accessory is a chunk of his bug-butt that transforms into his gun, which is the spitting image of the one he wielded in the TV show. It does not fire any missiles, unfortunately, but the trade-off is that it's much better scaled to the figure than it otherwise would be.

Articulation is the toy's biggest failing, unfortunately. Though he's got ball-jointed shoulder, hip, elbow and neck joints, wrist swivels and knee hinges, the knees have absolutely no depth of motion. They can bend a maximum of around 40 or so (I've included a picture for reference), which not only renders the knees mostly useless for posing but also really restricts what you can do with his hips as well without looking silly. That means that Waspinator's lower half is pretty much static, so any poses you get out of him rely almost entirely on arms, head and wings to look cool. It's not impossible, especially using the wing-flap gimmick mentioned in the beast mode section (which can be pinned in the "up" position fairly unobtrusively using Waspy's bug legs) but it leaves the toy as a shadow of what it could have been. This is 2014 -- there is absolutely no excuse for a Deluxe figure to have useless knees in this day and age.

So in the end, while Waspinator looks great it's held back from being an actual good toy by one really big design flaw. A big shame, in my books, because I was really looking forward to this one.

Transformation Design: Every single robot part that a good transformation would hide is on full display in wasp mode. Nearly two decades after the original, Waspinator should have gotten better, not worse. 2/10

Durability: Most of the toy looks pretty sturdy, but I've seen reports of the bug legs snapping off because the joints were too tight. The slender antennae on his bug-mode head look very fragile too. 7/10

Fun: I really wanted to enjoy Waspinator, but unfortunately he's more 'frustration' than 'fun'. 4/10

Aesthetics: This is where the toy shines most. He's really pretty, especially in robot mode, and does a better job than I expected capturing the TV show's distinctive look. Beast mode is a bit of a mess, but even that's not going to counter the sweet robot. 9/10

Articulation: How to rate this? He does have lots of joints and articulation, but the useless knees render a lot of that moot. In the end I think he averages out as mediocre at best. 5/10

Price: Prices for Deluxe toys continue to slowly edge up towards $20 here in Canada, but the toys aren't getting better to match. I have a hard time saying this is worth nearly twice as much as the original Waspinator sold for, because show accuracy aside the original is a far better toy (and massively bigger). There's a caveat to that, though -- US buyers get a comic book with the toy and that might alleviate the price a bit for them. But I'm not and I didn't, so I don't. 4/10

Overall: The universe must still hate Waspinator, to let him come so close to getting a great toy before pulling the rug out from under him (and all his fans too!) Although the robot mode is gorgeous and makes a good display piece, it's not good for much else and is a pretty weak effort overall. 4.5/10
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