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Blackjack's Review: Ratchet

Name: Ratchet
Allegiance: Autobot
Accessories: Scalpel-Blade (2x)

I really like Transformers Prime’s Ratchet. Ratchet is this old war medic who’s been through a lot, but doesn’t have the same stoicism that Optimus Prime or Ultra Magnus projects. No, he’s sarcastic, he’s grouchy, he insults the hell out of anyone who even dares to argue with him, he’s constantly in a bad mood, he’s got these fun little vocal tics… but deep down you know he’s a very nice guy, deserving his role as the team medic. Just one who so happens to be a wee bit of a jerk.

Generation One Ratchet has always been a major character. His cartoon career doesn’t really do him justice, he eventually gets shuffled into the background in favour of newer medic characters like Wheeljack, First Aid or Perceptor, but in the Marvel comics he was a very major character, even years after his toy went out of production (which, in Marvel comic universe, means either death or shuffling into the background. Unless you’re Grimlock or Ratchet). He’s also featured very prominently in early IDW material, although until very recently he’s slipped into the background.

We’ve got a random repaint in the Universe line in 2003, but Ratchet hasn’t really been showcased anywhere out of Generation One (Red Alert or some variation took over the medic role in the mainstream media) until the Michael Bay movies hit. Where Ratchet is the lime-coloured medic who never does anything important but is always around. That, like everything related to the Bay movies, made Ratchet famous enough, and the next two major cartoons by Hasbro, Transformers: Animated in 2007 and Transformers: Prime in 2010, featured Ratchet prominently as part of the five-man band cast.

Of course, Animated made Ratchet an old grouch, which seems to have stuck. In Prime he’s more cheerful, though, which works much better in my opinion.

And there are a lot of the random peripheral versions like War for Cybertron or Kre-O or Shattered Glass or Constructabots or Bot Shots or whatever that people don’t really care about, you can guarantee anything will feature Ratchet as part of the Autobot cast.

I really, really like Ratchet. Ratchet is a cool character. But I’ve never had a properly good Ratchet toy. Let me rephrase that… a white-and-red Ratchet toy that looked like the G1 design. I love the Movie Ratchet toy I own, but it’s just not the same, you know? And G1, Animated, Universe… none of them gave us a properly good Ratchet. The G1 toy (which I own) doesn’t even have a head. It’s quirky, it’s funky but it’s not a good Ratchet toy. The Universe toy is a repaint of the horrid Ironhide mould. Animated… I own the Animated toy, but the toy sucks. It’s got an ugly blue face, crap articulation, a beer gut and generally looks ugly all around.

So anyway, Transformers Prime rolled around and I really, really liked their version of Ratchet. It’s like what G1 Ratchet should look like, except in the Prime design aesthetic. I really wanted a toy of this Ratchet. And I eventually got him, not an easy task because of how horrid Hasbro’s distribution was at that time. So after all that… let’s get on to the review.

Alternate Mode:
Ratchet, as all Ratchets do, transforms into an ambulance. A white and red ambulance. Or, at least, an emergency SUV vehicle thing, anyway. It’s not very specific. I’m just going to go with ambulance because it’s shorter to type. Now Ratchet doesn’t really transform a lot in the show. I mean, he does, but it’s very rare since he spends most of the time in the base. So anyway, he transforms into a mostly-white ambulance, with the roof and hood painted red. There are also red lines and whatnot running through some of the white bits and vice-versa so it doesn’t look too plain. The wheels are cast in black, whereas the front grille and the rear bumper are painted silver. A chunk on his rear gets cast in gray plastic. His windows are cast in clear blue plastic… but only the windshield and the front-row windows.

And… well, it’s simply just… not very good. there are a whole lot of details on Ratchet’s moulding that really should have been painted. Ratchet’s sculpting is pretty filled with details… there are a lot of sculpted details and emergency doors and whatnot on the rear of the vehicle. The rear windows are simply bordered in red and not even painted blue or black to match the front windows. The front lights and whatnot are all simply left unpainted or covered with the silver slapped on everything. There are a lot of omitted detailings on the side of Ratchet’s vehicle mode… the silver stripe on the bottom, the third row of windows which were sculpted but again unpainted… and most importantly, the ECG pulse-shaped detail thing that all Ratchets have since the implementation of it on the Movie version of Ratchet. It has since supplanted the red cross on all Ratchet toys since trademarks and everything, and is very prominent on the robot mode’s arms. I really can’t see why they did away with it.

There may be a whole lot of other paint applications which I missed them missing, but really it’s kind of crap. A lot of toys in the RID subline had crappy paint applications, and Ratchet isn’t the only one. Airachnid, Knock Out… but Ratchet probably looked the worst, since he’s cast out of white, and by a general rule white really looks cheap in plastic form.

And Ratchet really, really looks very plain. I’ve seen a lot of awesome kitbashers paint Ratchet up, and they looked beautiful. Ratchet is a mold that has all the necessary sculpting to be one of the best toys in your collection, but sadly he’s just not painted all that well.

That aside, he rolls pretty well. Ratchet comes with two scalpels which he uses as combat blades for dissecting Vehicon troopers or zombies in the rare occasions that he ventures out of the base. The instructions suggest you peg them onto the 5mm holes on the front bumper, making Ratchet look like some sort of ridiculous fanged ambulance. It’s stupid. There are also 5mm holes on the top of the ambulance, which doesn’t make it any better either.

Robot Mode:
Ratchet’s transformation is a bit fiddly. He’s not the simplest of the designs in Transformers Prime, after all, but the toy is very… fiddly. The legs, the arms... it really is a bit jarring and sometimes you have to put some pressure on the toy, particularly when you’re transforming him from robot into ambulance. As part of what Hasbro has nicknamed ‘revealers’, Ratchet has dramatic head reveal. which is basically just Ratchet’s head popping out from his chest due to a spring being released when you move the roof kibble into his backpack.

Appearance-wise, his robot mode is more of the same… that is, all the necessary sculpting are there, but not painted in. Ratchet really looks very bland in robot mode. he’s still mainly white, like in the show model, and the red are still there… but not as much as it should have. The lower arms are entirely white when the front-facing ones should be red and the outer layer should have that pulse marking thing. In the show, Ratchet was made less two-toned by adding a lot of silver detailings on his crotch, knee, feet… you know what I mean. The toy nearly omits everything, and the few they kept (knee, thigh ball joint, biceps) are cast in such a light gray plastic that the contrast isn’t even visible.

It doesn’t help that the clear blue plastic that made up Ratchet’s windows apparently for some reason run through the interior parts of all those plastics, so Ratchet has random neon blue parts on his legs, which doesn’t help his appearance either.

Again, I stress that there are a lot of unpainted sculpting that wouldn’t have impacted on the vehicle mode in any way. I understand them not painting the red on the insides of his lower arms, but everything else… his feet, the pulse line sign, the fake doors on his chest, his waist, those ‘lights’ on his thigh, his shoulders… there really is a lot not painted on Ratchet.

And really, with his distinctive arms unpainted (we mostly see Ratchet’s upper body, after all), the signature backpack antenna not present (although this I can see why) and his general bareness… Ratchet doesn’t really do the show model justice. It really stands out what a few additional paint applications would do to improve a toy’s looks, and kitbashers have again made me very aware of this fact.

He’s not all bad, though. As I said, he’s got great sculpting. He’s got a great stern face, and while not all of his head crests are painted, the ones in front are. He’s got great light-piping, and his blue eyes light-pipe amazingly.

Articulation wise… he’s pretty decent. His head is on a ball joint, his shoulders are double-jointed due to the transformation scheme, his upper arms are insanely articulated at three parts, his wrists can hinge inwards, his waist can turn, thighs are double-jointed, his knees are hinged and his ankles… well, he can tiptoe, at least.

Ratchet pretty obviously doesn’t follow the ‘proper’ transformation scheme, making use of fake kibble for his chest, but otherwise he’s pretty faithful. The backpack, the shape of the arms… just wish the legs are more streamlined. And less blue.

As mentioned above, Ratchet comes with scalpel-blade things which resemble the retractable arm-blades that he uses in the show. Transformers Prime really likes this (and I do) effect of Transformer hands directly transforming into whatever weaponry. Ratchet’s scalpel blades are cast out of soft rubbery plastic, and he can either hole them like normalpeople would, or you can bend the wrists inwards (like if they are in vehicle mode) and pretend that the blades are sticking out of Ratchet’s arms instead of the hands. Of course you can still see the hands if you’re looking from the right angle, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.

And while I really sounded harsh with all the complaining, Ratchet is actually a pretty fun toy, just a very plain one. Bottom line… he’s a well designed toy. Just needs more paint. A lot more paint.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 6/10 Ratchet’s transformation does allow him with a wide range of articulation and a very kibble-free alternate mode, two things that I really appreciate. However, there are some parts – like the panels that fold around his legs, or the lower arms – that are really fiddly, making the tabs feel like they’re going to deform or snap off. Not complaining about the fake kibble; with his transformation it would be hard-pressed to be replicated in deluxe scale.

Durability: 7/10 Ratchet’s got some less-durable parts, like the aforementioned parts that would receive some pressure during transformation. Other than that, though, I don’t think he’ll break easily.

Aesthetics: 4/10 He’s got all the sculpting and the general look, but the lack of paint really hurts it.

Articulation: 9/10 While he doesn’t look like it, Ratchet does have a lot of articulation, allowing you to replicate his zombie dissection scene, or high-on-steroidssynthetic-energon kung fu scene. His blockiness really hides a very articulated toy, something that describes the show Ratchet pretty well.

Fun: 8/10 He’s a pretty fun toy all right, although his fiddly transformation kind of pisses me off sometimes. But then not everyone can be Wheeljacks.

Price/Value: 4/10 For a toy that really looks unfinished, sometimes I feel cheated.

Overall: 7/10 Ratchet isn’t a toy without problems, but most of my annoyance with him only stems from the fact that he doesn’t have proper paint applications – a fact that really, really hurts his appearance and makes him look very plain. I definitely recommend him, although I have to warn you about the lack of paint. Of course, stay away from the Takara version, which has stickers (even worse!), an oversized ugly Minicon that turns into an ugly malformed blade and some extra 5mm holes glued randomly like tumours onto his body. Still, it's a pretty nice mold that averages out solidly above average, and would even work out well if you're on the hunt for a decent G1-looking Ratchet.
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