Monday, December 8, 2014

Deforming Foam Bullet Blaster (Adventure Force Robot K-03)

As a Transformers collector, I am no stranger to knock-off/off-brand robots that turn from one thing into another. Most of these are of poor construction and quality; cheap, waxy plastic, crummy decals and questionable transformation schemes. Every once in awhile though, someone out there will surprise you. This is the tale of one such item, the mighty Deforming Foam Bullet Blaster!

A whopper of a name that basically translates to "off-brand Nerf gun that turns into an off-brand Transformer", this is one figure in a series of five offered by the same company responsible for the equally interesting off-brand Devastator set that showed up recently (reviewed here by the fine folks at CollectionDX) with the same charming eccentricities. I don't always focus on the packaging of an item, but this one merits a closer look for a few reasons so let's dive in.

Ol' Blasty here comes packaged in a huge clamshell with a cardboard insert. The card features a lot of nice tech details, tons of Chinese lettering that I can't read and some amusing Engrish, common to items of this nature. Despite the bright colors and flashy graphics, the figure itself is nicely centered and displayed, letting you know exactly what you're in for.

Various call outs on the package include notation of the metal contained within, a shot of the combined form of the five robots in this line and of course, DIE-CAST DEFORMING SOFT BULLET BLASTER!

The back of the card showcases the five individual robots and their combined form once again.

One of the cooler things about these guys is the variation in design. It's kind of hard to make out from the tiny computer renderings on the backing card, but each gun and corresponding robot have their own unique look. The gun modes all have a quasi-futuristic vibe that reminds me of the weapon design in the Dead Space series, number five especially looks like something out of the third game.

Now, with an item like this, you're never sure what to expect. It's not an actual knock-off and the company's past work on their not-Devastator gave me high hopes but I was still blown away once I got this guy open. The gun mode has a nice heft to it thanks to die-cast metal in the handle and underside of the barrel, but the real surprise was the firing mechanism. Due to the sheer amount things this piece does (transform, combine and fire darts), I feared the Nerf-gun aspect of the figure would suffer because I just couldn't imagine a way to incorporate it into this process and still have to function well. Boy, was I wrong! This thing COOKS. Because of American safety laws, even the most formidable Nerf guns tend to fire with a disappointing "puh" due to weakened springs. Not so with this fellow. When I loaded up and fired one of the six gray darts as a test, it easily crossed the room and stuck to the far wall with a satisfying thwack. I haven't tested it, but I imagine it actually hurts to be shot with this thing, truly a rare occurrence these days. (Update: Yes, yes it does. Ow.)

Another benefit of being a non-American design is that the toy is not constrained by the American safety requirement of shockingly bright colors and a blaze orange barrel cap. This is to keep kids (or yourself, if you're not too bright) from being accidentally shot by the police, should they mistake it for a real gun. I'm not planning on any outdoor games of cops and robbers near banks anytime soon, so I think I'm safe. It's Chinese origins mean the toy can have a nice, subtle color mix of bronze, silver and black instead of blinding neons.

There are a lot of tampographed details on the blaster including Adventure Force (the name of the line?), K-03 ROBOT (the number this one is in the series of five), a sort of warning symbol near the butt and, best of all, a modified Generation 2 Autobot symbol of questionable legality. This is a great touch and mirrors the altered Decepticon symbol the not-Devastator members bear, giving the almost-Decepticons a force of almost-Autobots to face.

Beyond the paint detailing, the gun sculpt itself is rich with tech details to catch and hold the eye. I'm no gun expert, so I can't tell you if there is basis in real-world design buried in this, but it looks like it could be a plausible, if advanced, weapon. It reminds me of Deckard's pistol in Blade Runner, though it is clearly not an exact match. In a nice bit of integration, the robot's own weapon attaches to the top of the gun as a small sight.

Transformation is refreshingly simple but well designed; the handle unfolds into arms, the kibble underneath the barrel into legs and the main body slides down to form the torso. Robot mode is solid, with the barrel and firing mechanism of the pistol forming the majority of the body and the metal in the lower legs balancing it out nicely. This mode reveals a bit of turquoise on the shoulders as well as some copper and green for the robot head.

The robot has decent proportions and holds together well, the plastic quality is fairly high and everything feels nice and solid. One of the only real quibbles I have with it design wise is that the hands, which slide out from the forearms, have no locking point along their track so they will sometimes slide back into the arm against your will (robot hands being notoriously defiant.)

The head sculpt is nothing to write home about, but nor is it bad in any particular way. It's vaguely Optimus Prime-ish but is just generic enough to be a little irritating, if only they had gone just a bit further with it. In a nice touch though, the head is flanked by two twin-barreled cannons that can swivel up and down.

Articulation is varied, but a little stiff. Ratchet joints that angle forward and back extend from the body which the arms then attach to via ball joint. Furthermore, there are ratchet joints at the elbow and upper arm. The legs consist of ratchets at the hip that can swing forward, backward and outward, hinge knees and toes that can move if you need them to. Earlier, I mentioned I had a couple of quibbles with this figure's design and here is where the second comes up. Though the hips should have a wide range, their forward motion is severely restricted by the abdominal region of the body; when moved forward, the hip strikes the body which pushes it upward, which in turn pushes the chest out of place. You can somewhat avoid this by moving the hip forward ninety degrees then pulling the body piece back down, but it doesn't sit quite flush. This, like the hand issue, is minor but seems like something that should have been caught early on in design.

So to be completely honest here, I was in love with this thing the moment I found out it existed, having it in hand now does not change my opinion. It is such an amazingly insane and amazingly ambitious idea, I couldn't resist it's charms. I keep running over all the things this toy embodies that makes the super nerd in me squeal with piggish delight. Die-cast metal! Nerf gun to Transformer! Combining robot team! Despite it's flaws, this is an amazing, amazing piece that I cannot recommend enough if it's your kind of thing. These guys are sold directly from China via a distribution company selling through Amazon so the price and the wait can be factors in deciding if you want to purchase one of these, but keep in mind that shipping is free and my particular Deforming Foam Bullet Blaster arrived a whopping fifteen days before it was estimated to. Just please don't buy all of robots one, two, four and five before I can!

The Gun Club

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