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

Name: Knock Out
Allegiance: Decepticon
Size Class: Robots in Disguise Deluxe Class
Accessories: Torture rod (two pieces)

So, after we’ve been introduced to new re-interpretations of Megatron, Starscream and Soundwave, we get two Decepticons-of-the-day Makeshift and Skyquake, who didn’t survive their debut episodes. The next major villains to be introduced, however, are the pair of Knock Out and Breakdown. While they share names with past characters, neither of them had anything else in common with past incarnations. Prime’s Knock Out was a preening, campy, slightly-sadistic medic who enjoys illegal car racing in his spare time. He’s like an evil version of Tracks. Also, the way he’s portrayed, including a line which many fans interpreted to be flirting with Optimus Prime (but really, just another hammy line from him) and the fact that he’s always seen around Breakdown has led to a lot of fans assuming that Knock Out is gay. Because the only way you can be campy is to be gay, apparently.

I’m not really a homophobe, but I’m pretty sure censors won’t be letting any confirmation of that slip into the cartoon, so we’ll all probably be treated to allusions and hints and nothing more.

Regardless of his sexual orientation – or if he even has one, because, lest we forget, these are big giant transforming alien death robots from space – I liked Knock Out and his quirky mannerisms, and his rather distinctive, hammy, snobbish voice. Moreover, he is guaranteed to be fun, without resorting to being a butt-monkey like Sky-Byte or Waspinator were. He’s a fun and competent Decepticon, has a unique design, is a medic, and has loads of unique mannerisms. Needless to say, he is one character who I knew I would be getting a toy of.

Sadly, stock photography of his toy looked very lanky and plain, which was at odds with Knock Out’s sleek vehicle mode and his spiky-and-curvy robot mode. I eventually got the toy because I enjoyed his character so much, and while he isn’t as bad as stock photography made him out to be (thankfully his arms are mis-transformed) he isn’t really the best toy in the Prime line. He is, however, quite underappreciated and he does not deserve the amount of flak he is receiving.

The name ‘Knock Out’ was first used in the tail end of G1, slapped to a member of the Micromaster Constructor Team, as a non-entity who forms the back half of a backhoe. He would later get a bio and everything, about fifteen years later. But otherwise he’s just a generic construction guy. In Armada, the name Knock Out was slapped to another nobody from the Military Mini-Con Team, which got repainted quite a bit. It got slapped onto a random Mini-Con repaint in Energon, and in Revenge of the Fallen they slapped it onto a random, shitty motorcycle Scouts class toy which IDW tries its best to pretend is a character.
[Editor numbat: Does this mean all Knock Outs are slappers? Could be the common character thread…]
None of these Knock Outs are even worth remembering, not until this version came along.

Alternate Mode:
Knock Out transforms into a rather generic sports car, coloured in two shades of red just like the show model. Now, the show model has Knock Out be mainly bright red, with a central maroon stripe running through it, while the sides have some generic silver sports car decals. The toy, on the other hand, while it showing the same two-tone red as the show model, the maroon creeps all the way through the rear of the vehicle, and the loops back onto the doors, before meeting up with a splotch of silver paint. It’s a little lazy, yes. The maroon on Knock Out’s sides are painted intentionally unevenly, as if this was supposed to be the silver racing stripe… but changed to only partially silver for some reason. Was it budget constraints? Is silver paint that expensive? Is the alternative of leaving the plain bright red less attractive? I’d have gone with leaving the whole sides of the vehicle mode bright red if it were like that, and spend the paint budget elsewhere. As it is, Knock Out feels very maroon. Now I like shades of maroon, but Knock Out’s whole thing is that he’s this bright red sports car, and now other than two lines running down his sides, he’s a dull red sports car. Boo.

There is a bit of golden paint on the details on Knock Out’s hood, about the only golden or yellow paint you will see anywhere on Knock Out. His windows are a clear, translucent gray plastic, and his wheels are solid black, lacking the yellow rims. While his rear has all these details, they are left unpainted. Likewise, the front grille is simply painted in one solid grey block, where moulded details should really be brought to attention with a little yellow or silver paint. The front lights are unpainted clear plastic.

Again, the painting may be inspired by the show, but I don’t think the decision to use so much maroon is a good idea. There are two 5mm peg holes near the rear wheels, and they’re just jutting out of the maroon paint in bright red, like an eyesore. You can theoretically plug in the energon torture prod here so Knock Out looks like a sports car with a lance thing on his side or something. It’s stupid.

He doesn’t really roll very well, at least not my Knock Out. The boots keep catching onto the rear wheels, although I don’t really think it’s a widespread problem.

Robot Mode:
Now in order to get into Knock Out’s robot mode, it’s obvious that the show designers cheated quite a bit, but they had managed to work Starscream and Soundwave’s origami designs into great toys, while Knock Out is a rather generic-looking robot, right? Shouldn’t be hard, they’ve been making cars that turn into robots for twenty-six years, no? Except that, well, Knock Out’s kibble layout is pretty unconventional, with doors ending on his car arms, wheels on his feet, wheels on his back, the sides of his vehicle hood forming his distinctive shoulder-things, while the rest of his hood and the front grille form the chest and stomach respectively. And the toy replicates this layout perfectly. I cannot stress this enough. Everything goes more or less where it’s supposed to go… the doors and roof collapse and form the lower arms, spikes sprout out to form the shoulders, the sides of the hood form the shoulder things, the center of the hood forms the torso, the grille forms the abdomen… so what’s wrong?

Well, the shoulders are a little low, like he’s slouching; that’s the first thing that actually bothered me. The fact that the shoulder spikes are entirely grey instead of matching Knock Out’s red came a bit later. And then the fact that the sides of the hood weren’t bulging enough, the wheels aren’t visible enough… which, I realized, would not be possible, at least not in the confines of a toy like this! And certainly the centre of the hood would not be able to collapse into a small chest, and the grille couldn’t expand to wrap around the entire abdomen. The show model cheats, and the toy shows what Knock Out would really look like if the transformation were constrained by actual physics. And since they can’t trade the hood-torso mass for the grille-abdomen mass, Knock Out looks a bit… ganglier due to the long hood piece running down him. However, that’s not really the toy’s fault.

A major problem lies in how plain the toy is. Remember how I said that the toy didn’t have yellow? Yeah, he doesn’t. The wheels? Nope. The distinctive interiors of the shoulder things? Nope. Joints? Nope. Yellow has been exorcised out of everything in Knock Out, which is a shame. The little bit of yellow had always brightened Knock Out for me. And then he’s severely lacking in paint applications. There’s the aforementioned lack of shoulder spike paint, the boots are solid blocks of black instead of silver with black details, and the crotch is one big slab of red, but the legs are the clincher. Both the crotch and the legs have moulded lines where black paint is supposed to go (and the legs have an additional chunk that’s supposed to be maroon) but they’re all left in solid red. The knee guards that are supposed to be silver with yellow joint details? Red. The entirely red legs make him look very bland, and more importantly, cheap in robot mode.

Also, the instructions and the stock photography give us no clues as how to transform his arms properly, even though the toy was designed to replicate the doors-on-lower-arms look, which it is perfectly capable of doing. The instructions make him into this gangly half-transformed affair… look, just ignore the damn instruction sheet when transforming the arms, okay?

Mind you, once you get over these visual impairments – and since Knock Out is big on his visual appearance, it’s actually quite integral to his character – the toy is actually quite adequate. The head’s ball jointed with a self-satisfied smirk, the shoulders are ball-jointed, so are the arms… the elbows are hinged, but the door kibble makes it difficult for Knock Out to really bend it. His thighs are double-jointed, his knees can bend and his boots are on ball joints. No waist for Knock Out.

Knock Out comes with an Energon Prod, first used by Starscream to torture Agent Fowler in the pilot episodes, before graduating as Knock Out’s weapon of choice, being used like a stun baton or a spear. In the show Knock Out’s hand can transform into a buzzsaw or a drill (used in both medic-stuff and battling) but I agree with Hasbro’s choice for including the Energon Prod… it’s far more dynamic, and awesome-looking. It’s cast in solid black (I can forgive Hasbro for not giving the thing any paint applications, but Knock Out needs all that he can have) and, sadly, separates about two-thirds of the way to form two shorter stabbing spears or something, which looks stupid. This is stupid, and it means that Knock Out will invariably hold a wonky spear, or you’ll have to spend a long time trying to pose him. It’s a suitably dynamic weapon though, and Knock Out can hold it in both hands. There are two 5mm pegs on Knock Out’s spine where you can store the prod.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 5 – It is quite fiddly, and I’m not a big fan on how you have to REVEAL THE HEAD, transform the hood and rotate the shoulder-wheel assembly all at the same time. The fact that Knock Out’s head crest likes to catch on other things isn’t endearing, and the arms were a bit frustrating the first time around. Otherwise, though, it’s pretty serviceable.

Durability: 7 – Besides losing his weapons, the plastic used to make the roof seems a bit soft, but otherwise he feels quite durable. Can’t name any bit of him that feels like it would snap off.

Aesthetics: 5 – He has the silhouette in both robot and alternate mode down, and with a proper touch-up (Reprolabels or kitbashing) he would look miles better. As it is, however, Knock Out feels pretty dark in vehicle mode, and very, very bland in robot mode. The lack of any sort of paint on his feet feels very jarring, and the lack of yellow anywhere in his body makes him very, very two-toned. Which is a shame, I’ve seen people who touch up their Knock Out and they look so much better with some relatively easy-looking additions, and I wonder why Hasbro didn’t do that.

Articulation: 5 – Knock Out isn’t very well-articulated, although he does have all the joints you’d expect a Deluxe Class toy to have, barring the waist. It’s just that, the door and roof kibble get in the way of the arm articulation, the waist gets restricted by the red robot bits and things like that.

Fun: 7 – Mmm, I enjoy the character enough to like the toy without being frustrated with it, although I wish they had moulded the Energon Prod as one solid piece so it doesn’t bend or pop off when Knock Out holds it.

Price/Value: 5 – He is a rather good mould, just a little troubled. He’s not bad, he’s just average. The poor chap’s under-detailing has also lead to many people turning their noses up on him. I, for one, enjoy him quite a bit, and while he’s not as good as the other RID toys I own (Soundwave and Wheeljack) those two set the bar pretty high.

Overall: 5.5 - Despite his faults, Knock Out isn’t exactly a bad toy per se. He’s strictly average, and he just suffers from bad publicity and some overblown reactions towards his relatively minor faults. I do hope they release a ‘Premium Edition’ of Knock Out somewhere down the road that fixes most of his faults, but I’m actually quite happy with my Knock Out. He’s not going to win any ‘best Transformers toy’ competition any time soon, but he’s far from being a bad toy, with minor articulation issues being the only fault the mould has. I like him, but I just can’t give him a high score with a clear conscience. All things considered, though, if you like the character enough to want a toy of him, he’s quite serviceable. Just don’t expect to be wowed.
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