Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Toy Review: Mech Ideas Demolition Crue Geminus and Apex

Time for something new that's also kind of old.  The toys that I will be reviewing today are the first releases by Mech Ideas, a small "third party" company producing transforming toys.  Such manufacturers have become commonplace in the world of Transformers within the last few years.  Initially fueled by after-market add-on kits that enhanced some of Hasbro's Transformers toys, there have been a plethora of companies adding their modern takes on old "Generation One" (or G1) Transformers.  Some of these small shops have now produced not only enhancement kits, but within the past year or so there has been an explosion of full-blown transforming toys.  FansProject have put out their own versions of characters such as G1 Springer, Broadside, and the Insecticons, among others.  Two different manufacturers have created their own modern fully-transforming and combining Devastators, and we have two completely different versions of Predaking on their way.  The sky seems to be the limit at the moment, especially as it seems that Hasbro is unwilling (or unable) to do anything about this seeming infringement of their intellectual property.  It is easy to write these toys off as knock-offs or bootlegs, but they are neither.  They are usually of higher quality manufacturing than the regular Hasbro productions, and often sport more complex transformations.

The two figures I am reviewing today are modern representations of the old G1 characters Twin Twist and Topspin.  The two original "Jumpstarter" brothers featured a neat variant on the transforming toy idea - if you placed them on a flat surface in vehicle mode and pulled back, a wind-up motor would speedily propel the toys forwards for a distance before releasing a catch and flipping the legs of the robot forward in such a way to stand the figure upright fully transformed.  When new, the feature worked well, though eventually the motors would wear out and the effectiveness of the transformation suffered.  For such simplistic transforming toys, they still had complex and appealing designs, which featured accents of silver chromed plastic.

Mech Ideas' modernizations of of Twin Twist and Topspin have been given different monikers so as to lamely skirt the noted IP issues.  Geminus and Apex, respectively, are lousy names, though this sort of thing is the par for the course with third-party Transformer figures.  However, the fandom will take a certain lack of creativity in this area if it means they get a good toy.  In the case of Geminus and Apex, the toys are very good indeed.  Speaking of names, the "Demolition Crue" component of the names is a reference to a subgroup of the original G1 Autobots called the "Wreckers."  This was part of the Marvel Comics Transformers story continuity.  I assume that the "Crue" part of the name is a nod toward a certain famous heavy metal band.  Not entirely inappropriate given that we are talking about giant robots here, but silly nonetheless.

On to the toys themselves.  Geminus and Apex faithfully reproduce the color scheme of the G1 figures while providing much more complex transformations and designs.  The general feel of the characters is still there, but these are clearly modern toys.  The plastic used here is really solid, but seems somewhat waxy.  Nothing feels flimsy though.

Geminus stands about five inches tall at the top of his head, while G1 Twin Twist is somewhat shorter.

Topspin is likewise shorter than Apex.  Due to the transformation, the newer figures sport shoulder features that are actually hidden on the back of their G1 counterparts' legs.

Both figures come with a pair of blasters and a mechanical sledgehammer of sorts.

Details on these accessories are eye-catching and crisply molded.  These below are included with Geminus, while Apex's blasters are slightly different.  Both hammers are identical.  Note the cool platinum painted finish.

The focus in this review will be on Geminus specifically.  The transformations are pretty much identical between the two figures, with only the surface details and coloration being different.  A front view sans accessories shows off the level of detail.  The arms are a bit long making for awkward proportions, but this allows for the transformation as well as a great deal of articulation at the elbow.

All details on these figures are as sharply molded as the accessories.  The face sculpt is simple but effective.

A rear view shows off more detail, including two standard five-millimeter weapon ports.

The blasters can be stored on these ports.

Articulation is quite extensive on these two.  Joints everywhere lead to dynamic poses, even allowing for the ability to grip the hammers with two hands.

Geminus is ready to pound some dents into Decepticon hides.  Speaking of factions, note that the figures do not come with the Autobot symbols you see in the photos.  These are stickers that have been added on to enhance the look.

Transformation begins with a neutral stance.  Remove the accessories for later use.

Firstly, flip the feet downward like so.  Note both the front-to-back and side-to-side articulation.

Next, move to the forearms.  This is possibly the most involved aspect of the transformation.  Unsnap the lower portion of the forearm, and begin to bring this section upward at the hinge near the elbow.

Spin the hand assembly around 180 degrees so that the hand faces inward toward the elbow.

Bring the hinged section down so that it snaps into place.  Complete this procedure for both arms.

Flip Geminus over onto his front.  

Swing these two light gray pods out to the side.

Behind the head, detach the top of this hinged section and bring it downward.

Tilt the head backwards, and begin to swing the middle of his chest upwards so that the head starts to be concealed inside the body.

Once completely rotated, bring the hinged section back down.  It will snap in place nicely.

Grasp the lower portion of Geminus' back and pull it upwards.

The entire section will move on a hinged bar.  Move it out like so to give clearance for the next few steps.

Rotate the two side pods 180 degrees.

Swing the shoulders close to the pods.

Collapse the arms up.  There is a tab on the forearms that fits snugly into a hole on the upper arm.

Begin to rotate the two arm assemblies together towards the center line of the figure.  Note the tabs and holes on the forearms that will connect here.

Finish tabbing the arms together.  Everything should fit together nicely.

Flip the pods up so that they tab into the upper arms.

 There are depressions on the surface of the pods that make it obvious how the parts fit together.

 At this stage, Geminus should look like this.  Transforming the legs comes next.

Swing the legs out at the hips 90 degrees.

The knees need to bent inwards so that the legs form a sort of "w" shape.

Bring the torso section downwards like so.

You have to fiddle with a few tabs and slots here to get everything to line up right, but all parts should connect solidly once complete.

Geminus forms a sort of futuristic drill tank.  

The tank tread details are highlighted by the simple paint job.

The two blasters can be mounted again to the five millimeter attachment points.  Tank mode just got more dangerous, as if two high-speed drills weren't enough to send Geminus' enemies packing.

All accessories can be used in one way or another in vehicle mode.  Note the tabs on the hammer and the holes on the forearm sections.

Snap the hammer in place and Geminus has even more firepower.

The blasters can been removed if you want a more traditional tank look - overlooking the drills of course.

The hammer can be stored away as well.  Firstly, it can be seperated into three sections.

These parts can be inserted into the hollow back end of the tank.  Note the similar tab and hole configuration as on the top of the vehicle.

Tab the hammer head in. 

The two remaining handle pieces fit right into slots in the torso and also fit over the tabs on the bottom side of the hammer head.

You wind up with what looks like and engine and exhaust assembly.  Neat!

Geminus and Apex wind up looking fairly different in vehicle mode, despite the duplication in transformation.

The size differences are less apparent between the new version and the G1 toy once transformed.  Personally, I like the drills on the original better.  Some chrome would have been nice on the Mech Ideas toys.

Someone will likely gripe about how I have Apex's forward "pontoons" rotated.  However, I prefer to try to match the boat-like curve of the original.  

I prefer this look to the pontoons in robot mode, though it's not the official by-the-instructions way to do it.

Here you can see how different these two appear despite the shared mold.  Mech Ideas did a great job finding ways to alter things subtly here and there to create two unique characters.

"A job well done!"

"Vigilance is the price of freedom, so say we and our hammers!"

On a personal note, Twin Twist and Topspin were two of my favorite G1 Transformers.  I can't say why for sure, but the simple transformation gimmick and design made them toys that I played with often.  Having modern portrayals of these classic characters in my collection is great fun for me.

Overall, I am really pleased with the level of detail and the thought that went into the transformations of the figures.  The simple paint applications really bring some pop to the look of the toys, and I am pleased with how all parts can be used and stored in both modes.  The results here seem very professional, as if we were dealing with old hands at the art of designing transforming toys, rather than a first effort by newcomers.  Given the low price point of these compared to many other third party toys, I highly recommend these as a great buy and truly fun toys.  

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