GoBots Combiner Puzzler
Review by Ginrai
When I was a kid, I got into GoBots before Transformers, which makes sense, since Transformers came out here first. But even when Transformers did hit, I still kept getting GoBots. One Christmas at a very young age I got the Transformer Jetfire, perhaps better known as the VF-1S Super Valkyrie from Takatoku's Macross toy line in Japan. I loved this toy dearly... for exactly two days, until I broke Jetfire's shoulders and we returned the hapless robot to Toys "R" Us.
Now, I could have gotten a new Jetfire, but the allure of a Staks Transport and this toy, Puzzler, for less than Jetfire on his lonesome, won me over. I made a snap decision, and I went home with a semi truck and six cars that all turned into robots. Some would say I made a poor decision (hell, I regretted it for years), but come on, I was 4 years old and these GoBots are actually pretty damn cool toys. The concept of combining robots goes back to the '70s, but Puzzler really owes a lot more to the Diaclone combiners like Construction Vehicle Robo Build Combination (the Constructicons and their combined mode, Devastator from the Transformers line) than Getter Robo, despite the Bandai/Popy pedigree.
Take six fairly realistic cars, give them each individual robot modes, then give them a combined mode that does not require any extra parts and is far more poseable than any combiner out of Takara/Hasbro in those days, built out of hard plastic, diecast metal, and rubber tires, and you have a winning recipe. Puzzler sort of an apt name. The actual combination is a lot more complicated than you might expect (especially compared to its Transformers contemporaries), and it's not that easy to tell if you've actually done it right. On the plus side, it still looks good in a number of configurations, so who cares?
The combined mode is both steady and pretty well articulated. Yes, this robot has elbows. The white police car (Jig Saw), is really quite poseable and that poseability is necessary for Puzzler, though it is kind of terrifying that the top half of the robot and the bottom half are connected by the light bar on top of Jig Saw. I was sure I was going to snap this tiny chromed plastic in half, but it was totally fine and on reflection, I never even broke that part when I was a kid. It seems flimsy, but it's not. I'm still really impressed that the heads and head of the giant robot are hidden inside the smaller robots. While Puzzler doesn't have any guns (or the silly rubber suspenders of the Japanese Machine Robo release), it's still cool, as long as you don't mind your robot looking like a balding former high school football player.
The individual robots are of uneven quality. While they all have some metal on them, some of them are a little iffy. Crossword and Pocket (the orange Porsche and the yellow Countach) both have spindly little arms, Rube and Zig Zag (the black Mercedes and the blue Nissan) have giant feet, and Tic Tac (the red Corvette) looks like he got his hands caught in a thresher. Don't go thinking that means they are crappy robots. They are actually about on par with most of the 600 series toys, though they might be a little larger. They still easily beat out most of the early small Transformers like the Huffer or Brawn. And there's still the allure of a little diecast in your life. My favorite color was orange, so as a kid I loved Crossword, even though an orange Porsche would probably be hideous in real life and the robot looks like it is wearing extremely uncomfortable high heels. I also always would pretend Pocket was the Transformer Sunstreaker. Come on, it's a yellow Countach and it has the same kind of weird head wings.
Maybe this doesn't sound like a glowing endorsement, but compare this to its direct competition: the Stunticons and their combined mode Menasor from the Transformers line. It's night and day. The Stunticons are almost entirely plastic, they are just uncomfortable add-ons to a larger, extremely awkward truck robot, and require all sorts of parts that don't go anywhere when it's not a giant robot. And besides that, Menasor is just uglier. Squat, mostly gray... Puzzler is the clear winner. The engineering of this robot is really clever and while Monsterous (Devil Satan Six in Japan) is probably a slightly better toy, it's easier to cheat when your alternate modes are made up monster things and not realistic cars. Should you get this? Do you like robots that transform into actual cars? Do you like robots that have some diecast on them but aren't immobile blocks of zinc? Do you like giant robots built of smaller robots that combine without extra parts and look good from different angles? Yes? Good news! GoBots are cheap! Hit your local auction site, flea market, or toy show! The GoBots' bad reputation is your gain! Puzzler is available as both separate cars and a giftset containing all six. As usual, the Japanese commercial is a lot cooler. I guess the US commercial does have one advantage though. While it's less atmospheric, it gives the viewer a much clearer idea what the toy is and how it works.
(C) 2010 Jeremy W. Kaufmann & CollectionDX
|Posted 7 February, 2010 - 22:14 by Ginrai