"Beast Wars Transformers" Inferno Toy Review
Release Date: Q4 1996
Price Point: $14.99 (Varied by retailer)
Retailer: General Release (Toys R Us, K-Mart, Target etc.)
Accessories: Missiles x 2, Missile launcher, Mandibles/weapon
The "Beast Wars" toy line consisted of dozens of toys, but only a precious few ever made on-screen appearances in the animated television show. One of the later additions to the cast was Inferno. Unlike his G1 namesake, this character was a slightly insane Predacon who saw Megatron as the "Queen" of his hive and thus had unwavering loyalty to him. His antics and sheer power in a fight made him a fan favorite and his figure was one of the more highly sought after pieces during that era. Fortunately he wasn't hard to find and I recall jokes at one point about an entire ant hill's worth of Infernos lining Toys R Us shelves. Still, despite his then-shelf-warming status, this toy is remembered rather fondly as well. Back in the "Beast Wars" days I never got around to writing a review for Inferno so here I am years later to correct that.
Inferno was a "Mega" Class figure, a designation that is no longer used. The closest modern analogy is the "Voyager Class", though in some cases Voyager Class figures were bigger, bulkier and more complex than your typical "Mega". Mega Class figures were all packaged in a rectangular box of similar size and shape. The front featured a window box showing off the toy in its beast mode. Facing the box you'll see his package art showing off the robot mode. The bottom was lined with the "Beast Wars Transformers" logo. The background is among the most distinctive to this day, featuring a reptilian skin pattern. The back of the packaging showed off the tech specs and some information on the "Beast Wars" line itself. The bottom showed off other figures in both the Deluxe and Basic Classes. I really love this packaging design. It was dynamic, it popped off the shelves and there wasn't a ton of multi-lingual text taking up room.
While most fans at the time associated the name Inferno with a fire fighting Autobot, "Beast Wars" managed to turn that on its head and instead made Inferno a Fire Ant in beast mode. It is important to keep in mind as you read this review that Inferno was meant to represent a fully organic creature in this mode, so his design heavily leans on inspiration from a real life ant.
Like a real life ant, Inferno's design has three primary segments: the head, the thorax (the middle section) and abdomen (the rear section). The head has huge, curved antennae on top and really dangerous looking mandibles at the mouth. On either side are large compound eyes with a distinct grid pattern sculpted into them. While sections of the beast mode are relatively smooth, there are some nice organic looking details such as the segments on his legs and the "hairs" on the legs. He really is a very creepy looking figure and his relatively large scale adds to that creepiness. A bit of Inferno's robotic nature does show through via the abdomen section. There you can see a layer of robotic detail with translucent red plastic laid on top of it. It's a rather creepy effect and reminds me a bit of the Xenomorph Alien from the "Alien" film series.
Inferno is cast in four different colors: solid red, translucent red, black and silver. The translucent red makes up most of this mode, with the solid red parts concentrated around the middle of the figure. Black is used on his extremities including his legs and antennae. Silver shows up on his mandibles, which offers a nice break from all the red. The translucent red in particular stands out as a gorgeous color. It has metallic flake in it, giving it a very particular shine that looks stunning. For a more dramatic effect let some light shine right through it to get the full effect. Blue paint is used to paint the eyes and some green paint is used for a distinctive set of patterns on his back. In this case, less is more when it comes to paint since an organic ant isn't exactly bursting with multiple colors. I think the paint job on this figure is just enough to look good but not affect the "fantasy" of this being a "real" organic ant.
There are fourteen points of articulation in this mode. While this seems very standard today, back then "Beast Wars" took articulation and brought it up several notches from the "G1/G2" era of toys. A lot of this is achieved through the use of ball joints. However this is partly a weakness. While my copy of this figure has no problem standing up in beast mode, if the ball joints are not just tight enough, they don't support him and he winds up flopping down on his underside. Fortunately this is easily solved by brushing the ball joints with some clear nail polish to tighten them up, but your mileage on his ability to stand will vary.
Aside from his articulation, Inferno has an action feature centered around his mandibles. On top of the beast mode head there is a silver tab, slide that forward and the mandibles expand out. At the same time the mouth extends out in a creepy fashion that once again brings images of the Xenomorph Alien from the "Alien" film series to mind. It's a neat little feature and it puts an exclamation point on the ant form in a simple, yet effective way.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Swing each end of the rear ant legs up and straighten out the rear legs.
- Pull the abdomen up and swing it back.
- Swing the two waist pieces connected to the rear legs together. This begins to form the robot legs.
- Turn the lower robot legs around so they face the opposite direction as the abdomen.
- Swing the ends of the front ant legs back, then straighten out the front legs to form the robot arms.
- Rotate the middle ant legs back.
- Holding the mandibles, pull them forward to separate the robot mode weapon from the figure. The antennae and a missile launcher inside will detach. Set these aside for now.
- Swing open the panel on the middle section of the back.
- Swing the beast mode head down, revealing the robot head. Swing the panel from the previous step back in place.
- The abdomen section of the beast mode rests on a curved hinge. You'll see a small thin strip at the base. Swing the hinge up and push it against the back of the robot mode to use this thin strip and lock it in place. The result is the abdomen should be pointing back.
- Open up all for panels on the abdomen, revealing thrusters and mechanical details inside.
- The two weapons can be connected together and attached to either hand or they can be held separately. Detach either of the black sections from the rear ant legs to serve as a missile for the silver launcher.
With so much of Inferno's robot mode made up by beast mode parts the whole "techno-organic" nature of the character is very clear. Indeed, more parts look organic than mechanical, which makes him really distinctive looking. His robot head is a really unique design. He has a pointed chin with a really nasty set of sharp teeth set in an evil smile and even a pointed chin, giving him a devlish appearance (fitting given the theme of the character). His eyes are narrow and angled, looking quite malicious. To add further connection to his beast mode Inferno has pieces that look like shortened versions of his beast mode legs set horizontally on his head and he even has additional "compound style" eyes on his forehead. It's a fantastic head sculpt and really shows how the designers were going for a sense of character in the figure design during "Beast Wars".
The other main mechanical details on the thruster section on his back. Here there is no ambiguity. The thrusters on his tail look like rockets on a space ship. The four panels that surround the thruster have circular "vents" on them along with raised line detailing that could be conduits of some sort. These are really beautifully sculpted parts and to this day I'm very impressed by them.
This mode still mostly features the red and black plastic colors, but now silver really plays a role on the head and the thruster section. The head also has white on the teeth, red on the eyes and blue on the "extra eyes". The tail section has silver on the panels with blue on each round vent section. Once again because so much of this mode is made up of beast mode parts, Inferno doesn't really need a ton of paint detail. He looks great as is.
There are ten points of articulation in this mode. That doesn't sound like a lot, but given that almost all these points are ball joints his actual range of articulation is pretty fantastic. As mentioned above, the silver weapon can be used as a missile launcher, firing either of the black sections of the beast mode's rear legs. This does two cool things: it adds a level of play to the figure and it gives you the ability to store the missiles in beast mode. If you keep the silver weapon combined with the mandibles you can use it as a melee weapon where the mandibles act as a claw weapon. Inferno's most dramatic action feature is concentrated on his thruster section. There you'll find a button. Press it and the four panels around the thrusters begin to spin! This same motion was used on the television show whenever Inferno was flying and it is very unusual and fun at the same time.
Inferno is a fantastic example of the engineering and aesthetic of the "Beast Wars" era. Before things became wacky with Transmetals and Fuzors, he was a simple but fun "beast to robot" representing a creature that actually exists. He's also special for being a part of a class of figures that isn't even made any longer (the closest modern day analogy is the Voyager Class, but it's slightly bigger). Highly recommended!