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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Blackjack's review: Encore Minibots

Name: Minibot 5 pack (Bumble, Werve/Weave, Outback, Tailgate, Pipes)
English Names: Bumblebee, Swerve, Outback, Tailgate, Pipes
Series: Encore
Remolds of: G1 versions

For some reason small Minicons and Legends class figures are very popular. Maybe it's because they are cute. Maybe it's their price tags that are cute. Maybe they are easy to carry around. Maybe easy to paint for kitbashers. Maybe all of the above.

Regardless, the trend started way back in 1984, where six-plus-one Minibots were available. The highly popular Bumblebee, and the other five--Cliffjumper, Huffer, Brawn, Gears, Windcharger, plus a mold that's a cross between Cliff and Bee, Bumblejumper. Or Bumper, his official name.

The next year, five additional Minibots--Powerglide, Cosmos, Beachcomber, Seaspray and Warpath--are released. Then, in 1986, Wheelie and five retools of the 1984 offerings were released--Hubcap (Cliffjumper), Pipes (Huffer), Swerve (Gears), Outback (Brawn) and Tailgate (Windcharger).

In the encore line, Bumblebee was released with the 1985 Minibots, then with four of the 1986 Minibots. The second one is the one we're reviewing now.

Function: Espionage
"The least likely can be the most dangerous."

Bumblebee! The yellow kid-friendly Minibot! Well, you- we all know about Bumblebee. The Volkswagen Beetle Bot. Despite being a fan favourite and a major character, Bumblebee never received a toy since the G2 Spychanger. However, he did receive more toys than other Transformers, Optimus Prime included, in the run of G1 and G2. First, there's the original Minibot. Then Pretender. Then Decoy. Then Action Master. Then G2. Then Keychain. He is finally back as of the Classics line, and later the protagonist in the Movie and Animated lines.

Why is Bumblebee so popular? I don't know, but it's probably that he's damned cute. That's why Wheelie is so hated by us. He had the gall to try and replace Bumblebee from our hearts.

Now, the Minibots have 'superdeformed' alternate modes, meaning they change into toy cars instead of more realistic alternate modes like Wheeljack's Lancia, for example. Anyway, Bumblebee's cuteness is in his vehicle mode, molded in yellow with black as a secondary colour and red and silver as touch-ons.

Now, the robot mode is slightly changed from the original. Sure, he still got those rubber tires but they no longer say Dunlap. Trademark issues, people! His head is also changed into a more show-accurate version, with baby blue eyes staring at us from that cutesy face.

Chrome is used for the head panel. Honestly, Bumblebee is very very cute. It's near impossible for you to pass him up.

Now there's the height factor. Minibots have a range of height. Outback is the tallest, nearly double the height of the shortest (Swerve). Pipes' head is shorter than Swerve, but his cab kibble makes him as tall as Tailgate, which is a head shorter than Bumblebee.

Function: Gunner

"Rules are detours on the road of life."

Now we get to the more unglamorous of the Minibots. Outback is a crowd-filler Minibot in the show, but he got an issue to himself in the UK comics, where he teams up with Optimus Prime along the 'Prey' arc. However he's only a crowd-filler in the TV show. He is a rough-and-tough guy who doesn't like rules.

Outback is a retool of Brawn with real hands, a new face... And a gun, making him the only Minibot with an accessory. The mortar launcher can be attached to the tire on the roof in vehicle mode.

On the front of his jeep, there's the lettering 'M', heralding back to his Microman origins. Robot mode Outback features chrome hands and a painted face resembling the show.

Outback is the tallest of the group and he's kinda fun to tinker with. Rather poseable in robot mode, but the feet are bricks. It's a bit hard getting him back into jeep mode.

The name Outback has not been used because of Outback Steakhouse placing dibs on the name. Therefore his Timelines toy must be called Fallback. Outback loves to eat steak. Raw. With black pepper sauce. Mmmm....

Function: Metallurgist

"Molecular structure is the window to understanding."

Swerve, or Werve/Weave/Wave in Japan, is a quick retool of Gears. One of the more unglamorous Minibots, Swerve is never mentioned once in the comic, side from a miscoloured Gears, and his only major role in the show is getting stepped on by Trypticon. Ouch.

Swerve is a rather interesting character. He cannot drive properly, and according to his bio would have had his drivers' license revoked. He is an interesting metallurgist (something like Perceptor is, I guess) who never finishes a project properly.

As a toy, Swerve is rather boxy, both in vehicle and robot modes. His 4WD alternate mode is practically a box with wheels. Unlike his mold-brother Gears, Swerve never got the same amount of media exposure. Gears got both a Marvel issue and an episode all to himself. Swerve? No such luck. Why is the antisocialist more popular than the metallurgist?

The name Swerve has been used in Cybertron as a repaint of Clocker, and in the three-dee card game of the Movie line.

Robot mode is quite boxy and short as well. The hands are molded but look funny. Swerve's face got the most repaint from the original--in the original it looked like some sort of lollipop, now it's an actual face. And smirking too... Ooo...

And those Microman 'M' are also found on Swerve. In my opinion, Swerve is one of the better coloured Minibots. Red-brown with white, and chromed upper legs. Cute.

Function: Warrior

"One being's junk is another's art."

Pipes is a collector of weird human stuff, such as carrot shredders, lollipop wrappers, pirated Celine Dion CDs and Deluxe Class Tankor. He keeps it all in a corner in the Ark.

No, really. That's his profile.

As a toy... He is an extensive retool of Huffer, going so far as to change the transformation scheme. I won't go into too much detail, as I don't own Huffer, but Huffer's face is under the cab, while Pipes' face is inside the cab, near the sculpted chairs.

Technically he transforms into a semi-truck cab, and has a curved top, a la Classics Optimus Prime. With chromed smokestacks. The truck mode also has the M sign.

Pipes' robot mode in reality is not too tall, about the height of Swerve, but his cab kibble makes him look as tall as Tailgate. His arms are the smokestacks. (though he has real hands in the show)

The name Pipes has never been used out of G1. Poor Pipes.

Function: Scout

"Let my fellow mechanical beings go!"

Tailgate now... Basically a near-exact repaint of Windcharger. Unlike the other Minibots, his 'alien' face, i.e. Without two eyes and a mouth, is used in the show. The likes of Brawn and Bumblebee got new faces, but the designers never bothered to make one for Tailgate...

As a character, Tailgate thinks all mechanical things are alive so he goes on a crusade to free street lights and cars under enslavement from humans. Cute. Just as long as he doesn't try to 'free' my stuff.

A white Pontiac Firebird, his colours is a bit plain compared to Windcharger's red. In robot mode his upper legs are chromed. Tailgate also features a painted face.

Tailgate gains more gray and dark blue in robot mode, and looks rather threatening with that face. Compared to the other Minibots at least...

Like Pipes and Swerve, Tailgate never got any major roles. He only participated in Autobot City battles in the show, while never appearing in the comics. Not like Windcharger fared much better...

Poor old Tailgate got his character model used as a 'hi-then-die' Decepticon Wipe-Out, who appeared in a few pages of the comic. He was Trypticon's minion. Whatever happened to Full-Tilt, his true minion, I wonder.

So, really, it depends on how retro you are. Definitely not for one who likes posing their toys. However, these little guys are nice reminders of Generation 1 (and to show us younger ones what they actually looked like). And they're Minibots. And Bumblebee is among them. 'Nuff said.

Marks out of ten for the following:

DURABILITY 6/10 Bumblebee's ankle joints are fragile. Outback's shoulders are fragile too.
TRANSFORMATION 2/10 My Minicons are harder than these!
FUN 9/10 Fun. Very fun.
PRICE X/10 I have no idea. My brother got me these.
OVERALL 9/10 Minibots are must-haves! Although they don't really appeal to younger children...
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