Tonight I have a review from a new guest reviewer - Dirk Lancer.  He's doing a very cool Transformer, Smokescreen.  It's all yours, Dirk!

Howdy all. Dirk Lancer here with a review of Smokescreen, the first toy in Hasbro's new Transformers Alternators line of toys. In case you have not heard anything about this line of toys, the Alternators are remakes of the classic Generation 1 series of toys. The original Generation 1 toys had solid vehicle/ item modes, but the robot modes usually suffered. Ironhide could be called a robot in the loosest sense of the word, and the placement of Megatron's trigger in robot mode still disturbs me a bit to this day. The Alternator series seeks to update the characters of the original series with modern vehicle modes and robot forms that are far more accurate to how they appeared in the classic cartoon series. 

It seems that Hasbro has finally listened to the requests of Transformers fans with this line, remaking the characters that drew people to the toys in the first place. And judging by this first toy, they really seem to be on track instead of giving the fans more mediocre Armada toys and <shudder> Robots In Disguise toys. I feel dirty even mentioning RID in the space reserved for this toy, so lets go on with the actual review in the hopes of scouring my brain of memories of that series of toys.

Packaging - ***1/2
The packaging for this toy reflects the old boxes of the classic line, with the toy in its vehicle mode and a large viewing area that lets you see the details of the car mode very well. The package allows the car to be displayed almost like a model kit, showing all the major details. The package contains solid art and clear accurate pictures of the toy in both modes, but something about the dark color scheme struck me as a bit bland. The toy has a molded clear plastic cover over it to keep it in place, as well as a molded piece underneath. The cover is held on with four pieces of tape, which made it very easy to remove with little damage to the packaging. The only minor complaint I have is based on nostalgia. I missed the old statistic blocks that each character had on the package. Like I said, just a minor quibble based on youthful memories.

Sculpting - ***1/2
The sculpting on Smokescreen is really amazing, with tiny little details that add to both modes. The details on the car are especially good and make the form look almost exactly like the vehicle it is based on. The lights look like they should work, the tires have accurate looking tread, and even the interior is sculpted with a stereo. The robot mode relies on the car mode for most of its character, as the actual robot parts don't have the same level of detail. But considering this toy was meant to portray how the character appeared in the cartoon, it does an excellent job. The face portrays the animated look very well with the same expression most of the characters seemed to wear during the show. The one area that does seem to suffer a bit in robot mode is the clunky appearance of the lower legs and feet, which is one of the reasons I couldn't give this figure an perfect score.

Paint - ****
Now this was an area that I expected to be disappointed in. When I first saw pictures of the figure, I assumed that the product names and stickers were going to be decals that you had to put on yourself. But I was very pleased to find that all the details were actually painted on the figure with flawless precision. I could not find any bleed or problems with any of the applications on my figure, which impressed me considering the amount of names on the car. It's hard to tell by the pictures, but the level of detail on the car is just amazing to behold. In robot mode the only additional paint applications are on the head and Autobot symbols on the shoulders, and these were flawless as well. The rest of the color on the figure comes from molded plastic, which actually males the figure look even better overall.

Articulation - ***
Now when considering articulation for this figure I am only accounting for the figure in robot mode. With all the moving parts necessary for this toy to transform, I would be here all day counting moving parts on this thing. The ones that count in robot mode include 22 points of articulation: a ball-jointed neck, two swivels on each shoulder, two hinge joints on each arm, ball-jointed wrists, two hinge joints on the hands (the index fingers and one for the rest of the hand), a swivel at the waist, ball-joints at the hips, and three more joints on each leg. Not too bad and it allows for a good range of movement, but some joints are impeded by little plastic bits. For example the range of the ball joints on the hips are limited for forward movement, so I am afraid Smokescreen will not be able to audition for the Rockettes. I also am disappointed that there is no swivel joint in the upper arm, which limits the side-to-side range of motion. The figure actually stands very well, but the leg motion does limit the poses you can achieve.

Alternate Form - *** 
Since this is a Transformer, adding this category is a given. The alternate mode for Smokescreen is a Subaru Impreza WRC, and it looks very impressive. As I mentioned above, the detail work on the car is amazing. The interior has almost every minor detail accounted for, including the sculpted seats and dashboard. The toy is designed to allow both front wheels to turn accurately together. All four car doors open, as well as the trunk and the hood. When the hood is opened, it reveals a hidden gun that is sculpted to look like the car's engine. The actual transformation of the figure is a bit complicated, and I spouted off quite a large amount of vulgarities as I tried to get it back from robot to car. Luckily Hasbro has continued to design their Transformers with parts that are made to come out instead of breaking, which happened a few times as I struggled with getting the arms to fold back under the front end of the car. After a few transformations I have getting it from car to robot down pat, but the transform back still is proving to be a bit tricky.

Accessories - **
This is one area where Smokescreen does not do too well at, with the figure only including one accessory: his gun/ engine. It is not a bad accessory actually, with the gun being a solid looking weapon that fits perfectly in the figure's hand. And by folding the barrel down to snap in place, it becomes a passable engine block that stores well under the hood. The gun even includes small pegs on either side that let you attach it to the sides of the figure's wrist in robot mode and serving to keep it in place in car mode. But even as well done as this accessory is, I couldn't justify giving it more that two stars because one accessory seems a bit lacking considering how good the rest of the toy is.

Value - ***1/2
I actually found my Smokescreen at the local Target for a nice reasonable price of $19.99, which isn't too shabby for this toy especially when you can find it at places like for $25.99 plus shipping.

Overall - ***1/2
As a big fan of the original Generation 1 Transformers, the Alternators line of toys is a godsend. I was very pleased with Smokescreen on all levels, and found it well worth the price. For a Transformer fan, this figure and the other three to be released are must buys. Even for a casual collector this figure is a great toy to get. Hopefully Hasbro continues this line and maintains the level of detail and quality found here.

Where to Buy:
Obviously Target will be carrying these toys, as should most major retailers.  On-line:

- Action-HQ has several versions of Smokescreen available, both from Takara and Hasbro.  Just search for 'transformers smokescreen'.

Figures from the collection of Dirk Lancer.

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