Power Core Combiners Undertow with Waterlog Toy Review

in 2011, Action Figure Review, Combiner / Gestalt, Commander, Decepticon, Power Core Combiners

Power Core Combiners

General Information:
Release Date: March 2011
Price Point: $9.99
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Waterlog Mini-Con figure
Gallery of images: Images of Undertow and Waterlog

*Images and text below from Transformers.com
UNDERTOW was stupid and mean even before the Power Core process turned him into a Combiner. He hates folks who think they’re smart, and now he has more than enough power to smash those guys to pieces.

Power up for the ultimate robot battles! Your UNDERTOW figure is already a virtually unstoppable opponent in his vehicle and robot modes. But his strength gets doubled when you factor in your WATERLOG figure and his four modes! Convert this MINI-CON ally figure to weapon accessories for him when he’s in jet boat vehicle mode or Commander mode. Then, convert your WATERLOG figure into an armor accessory for your UNDERTOW figure’s Power Up Mode! And the action doesn’t stop there. With this Power Core interchangeable robot combination system, MINI-CON figures and drone vehicles (sold separately) can attach to power up any Commander figure. Collect more packs and you can create tons of unique and fierce robot battler figure combinations! Two-pack includes UNDERTOW and WATERLOG figures. Ages 5 and up.

Undertow marks the last new sculpt to emerge from the Power Core Combiner toy line. It is possible this idea may arise again in the future in a modified form, but as of early 2011, there are no plans to introduce any further new Power Core Combiners into the Transformers line. The rest of the figures coming out at this time are all redecos including Salvage. The Mini-Con Waterlog is also a new sculpt. As someone who really enjoyed the Power Core Combiner concept, this is a bit sad for me. As you will see in this review, Undertow is a solid figure and shows the design progression from the earlier Power Core figures to the last wave and how they improved.

Waterlog Review

Robot Mode:
Mini-Cons are one of the most diverse groups of Transformers in terms of design. A lot of the rules for larger figures kind of go out the window when it comes to these little guys. They can sometimes be a bit stranger than their larger brethren or take on unconventional vehicle modes. In the case of Waterlog, his design is unconventional in that he does not so much look like a standard Cybertronian, but instead he looks a lot more like a humanoid wearing a suit of armor. Indeed, his design is reminscent of another line of 80's based toys: The Centurions. The elements that remind me of that old toy line are the helmet like shape of the head (round, complete with rebreather) and his back section, which looks more like an attachment or back pack instead of a part of his body.

Where Waterlog does look more robotic are the smaller details. Much of his arms and legs are very blocky in shape, though the way parts are sculpted gives them a certain elegance. For instance his shoulders are rectangular and large, but lead to leaner forearms and finally hands with fingers and thumbs sculpted into them in minute detail. His legs are similar, with the thighs starting wide leading to thinner lower legs. The "back pack" is where he really projects a sense of power thanks to two large rectangular sections leading to two huge cannons, and wings sweeping out to the side. Each of the cannons and wings have really nice line details etched into them including a set of vertical lines on the cannon barrels and tubes set in the middle of the rectangular sections leading to the cannons. The details that give Waterlog the most "personality" however are on his robot head, where not only does he have a round shaped "helmet" section, but his eyes are sculpted like a pair of goggles, set over his rebreather with tubes leading out to the side. This aquatic theme makes him the perfect partner for a water based Transformer like Undertow.

Waterlog is cast in translucent green and gold plastic. These are actually two very classic nautical colors. In the old days of some classes of sailing ships, gold, or copper colors were found on a lot of parts of ships (and sitll are in some designs). The green can be interpreted as a color of the sea, ranging from the water itself to algea. Often, colors are chosen simply because they look cool, but in this case they also fit a particular theme very well. There are three simple paint applications on this figure. One are two neon orange circles at the ends of the cannon barrels. Next is a black outline over his goggles, and finally there are silver paint details over his rebreather. It's not a lot of paint, but somehow this figure doesn't need it. There's plenty to take in visually and he looks great.

There are seven points of articulation on this figure. This includes four ball joints (the shoulders and hips) and surprisingly, head articulation, something that is exceedingly rare with Mini-Cons. I was very surprised to find the head can turn and discovered it on a lark when I decided to just try to move the head a bit. I'm very impressed.

Transformation to Vehicle Weapon Mode:

  1. Position the arms down to the sides.
  2. Swing the legs back so they are folded onto the back of the figure.
  3. Angle the ends of the wings downward at an angle.
  4. Attach to Undertow (or any Mini-Con peg) using the Mini-Con connection point in the center of Waterlog's torso.

Vehicle Weapon Mode:
From the transformation description, this doesn't sound like the most impressive mode, and truth be told he is basically just lying on his stomach with his legs on his back, but th eway this mode looks attached to Undertow works very well. The wings on the sides add an air of sleekness to Undertow, making him look more aerodynamic (not saying he is, it just looks neat). Having the big cannons on Waterlog now pointing forward as additional weaponry for Undertow looks really awesome as well.

Transformation to Weapon Mode:

  1. Swing the robot legs up, then bend the knees so the lower robot legs are parallel to the torso.
  2. Raise the arms up and connect them to the small pegs on the sides of the thighs.
  3. Fold the wings on the sides up, covering the sides of the arms.
  4. Rotate the robot head around.
  5. Use the peg on the back of the figure to attach to any compatible Transformers figure.

Weapon Mode:
This is what I refer to personally as the "Targetmaster" mode, referring to the first generation of mini-figures from Generation One that formed weapons. Like those old figures, Waterlog becomes a weapon by basically folding his legs one way or the other. Having the arms connect to the legs via a peg is a nice touch and makes the mode a bit more solid. The ability for Waterlog to turn his head makes more sense now. Otherwise, he would just look like a little guy staring up at the sky as he's being used as a weapon. The head turning completes the illusion of a whole other mode. The wings folding in actually give the figure the illusion of bulk as well, looking like the figure has consolidated into a more compact and solid form. Again, the dual cannons are quite an impressive sight and make for one dangerous looking weapon.

Transformation to Power-Up Armor Mode:

  1. Position the arms down to the sides.
  2. Swing the legs back so they are folded onto the back of the figure.
  3. Attach to Undertwo's chest peg using the Mini-Con connection point on the torso.

Power-Up Armor Mode:
This mode is really just a very minor variant on the vehicle weapon mode, and perhaps is the least convincing form (though that's not as disparaging a remark as it may seem considering how cool the other modes are). What I look for in these "Power Up Armor" modes is first coverage, how much shielding does this armor provide? In this case there is plenty. Between the wide sweeping wings and the bulk of the middle of the figure you can easily see how this is a piece of armor. The only unsuccessful part are the cannons sticking up in front of the face. If you defy the instruction sand rotate him down, he then looks odd with two cannon barrels pointed down. Personally I would have preferred the cannons be on hinges so you can manipulate their position, but that is not a huge deal in the face of how strong the other modes are and how well Waterlog covers Undertow overall.

Undertow Review

Robot Mode:
Waterlog already established how well a theme can be followed in a figure, and this continues (or rather was based on) the nautical theme that Undertow uses in his design. For the most part, a lot of elements on this figure seem to be inspired by the sea or looking sleek enough to glide along the water. The head design looks a lot like someone wearing some type of modern scuba gear, complete with a rounded helmet portion covering a face (with creepy slit eyes, like some type of sea creature) and tubes running down the sides of the head. Each of his arms have angled designs on them, reminscent of fins on a shark while his legs have a very angled and sleek design courtesy of the fact they become the sides of his jet boat mode. Another neat design is found on the inside of his legs, where a small black panel with details that look like pipes and a wheel that looks like the kind used to seal pressure doors on a submarine. I always love small touches like this that aren't "in your face", but still present.

Undertow isn't all about being sleek and angular however. The center of his body is more bulky, with guns on the chest, his Mini-Con peg in the center and a relatively blocky waist/hip area. Running along the sides of his torso are pistons that look like they belong to a high powered engine. More dangerous looking hardware appears in the form of two huge gatling guns that are connected to his lower arm. Seriously, these puppies are actually longer than his arms in length. It's a very impressive sight, especially on a figure of this scale.

The only design elements I'm not fond of are his super obvious Power Core Combiner limb connection points that wind up on either side of his head. They look rather out of place, as if they were put there because there was nowhere else to put them. I know it would have cost more money, but it would have been cool if the joints hinged back or something, moving out of the way of the head so it could be featured more visually. As it stands, you look at the design, absorb the coolness of it all and then think "What the heck is that on the either side of his head?". This isn't a major thing, and really I chalk it up to being a personal preference, your mileage may vary.

Undertow is cast in four plastic colors: grey, gold, black and translucent green. The colors are rather evenly distributed throughout the body. His head is a combination of black and translucent green while the arms are grey with gold and black used on the elbow joints and weapons. His torso is a good combination of the colors, with grey, gold and translucent green alternating form part to part. The waist and thighs are grey while the lower legs are black. Additional detail is provided by paint applications done in neon orange, gold, silver and black. The most heavily used color is gold. You'll find it on small details such as the crest on his head and a vertical part of his waist area, but they are most prominent on his gatling guns. Each barrel is painted gold, making them even more striking looking than they already are. A bit of gold trim is found on his legs and feet as well. Silver is used on his face, but you'll have to angle him and look under his translucent green helmet to see most of it. Neon orange is used on two small details on the sides of his hips while the black is found on his center chest plate. Aside from the gold, his paint applications are small, and that is due in part to how many different colors already exist just from the plastic. I think had the designers applied more color, Undertow could have wound up looking far too busy.

There are seventeen points of articulation on this figure, with four in each arm and leg. The arms each have two ball joints, one at the shoulder and one at the elbow which allows for a wide range of articulation. The legs have hinge joints at the hips, allowing you to swing the legs out, the front and back. I am counting the ability for the arm mounted weapons to turn around as well. Each of Undertow's fists can accomodate a standard Transformers weapon such as Mini-Cons or Energon weapons. He also has a peg in the center of his torso to allow him to link up with Mini-Cons in Power Up armor mode. That's quite a bit of functionality there, and even better his joints are really tight, allowing you to pose him easily even if he has Mini-Cons on him.

Transformation to Vehicle Mode:

  1. Straighten up the Power Core Combiner limb connectors on either side of the robot head.
  2. Swing each of the robot feet up.
  3. Swing the front half of each lower leg down.
  4. Swing the translucent green "cockpit" piece on the robot chest up over the head.
  5. Swing the shoulders/arms forward on the gold hinges.
  6. Rotate the forearms so the weapons are facing out to the sides.
  7. Rotate the weapons around so they are pointing up.
  8. Rotate the robot legs around so the pointed ends run parallel to the weapon barrels.
  9. Connect the tabs on the inside of the black, pointed sections to corresponding holes on the black sections of the Power Core Combiner limb connector pieces.
  10. Slide the tabs on the back of the black sections that form the sides of the boat into the corresponding slots on each forearm.
  11. Swing back the small black panels on the sides.

Vehicle Mode:
The backing card on Undertow's packaging describes this vehicle as a "jet boat", but it could also be called a "speed boat". Either way, this is a sleek version of a boat that propels itself using water taken in and then expelled out the back. The sleek form helps it get some really good speed and it looks like the type of vehicle you'd want to ride into battle to do some damage while evading weapons fire. The profile of the vehicle is very low with the highest parts being the angled panels formed by the robot arms. The "cockpit" section in the center has an interesting shape, with two extensions in the front, looking sort of like the head of a manta ray while mirroring the front end design of the boat as well. The front extensions curve in and come to a point in the front, giving the boat a really sleek appearance. Undertow isn't all elegant lines however, he also has some heavy duty weaponry! The gatling guns from the robot mode are now mounted onto the sides of the vehicle, and on either side of the cockpit are dual barreled blasters. Even without Waterlog attached in vehicle weapon mode Undertow cuts a formidable shape!

This mode reveals one new paint color: grey, matching the plastic colors used on the arms and chest. This appears on the top of the vehicle's front section. Gold is seen on the sides, where it is used to paint lines running from the front to the back of the vehicle. On the left side, a silver Decepticon symbol is found towards the front. I like the gold trim design in particular as it matches up in color with the gatling gun barrels while looking like a design you'd find on a real life boat.

Unlike most vehicles, this one doesn't require wheels so the bottom is just flat without anything to "roll" the vehicle on. The gatling guns can be moved in a circle to blast targets above, in front, behind (or even under) him. While Waterlog is the intended additional weapon, you can attach any Energon weapon or Mini-Con with a compatible hole.

Transformation to Power-Up Combiner Mode:

  1. Swing the robot arms forward on the gold hinged sections.
  2. Swing the Power Core Combiner limbs on either side of the head down.
  3. Pull the chest panel forward.
  4. Swing out the Combiner head and rotate the middle section around.
  5. Put the chest panel into place.
  6. Swing the robot feet up.
  7. Swing the front half of each leg up.
  8. On the back of each lower leg, swing out the Power Core Combiner limb connection piece.
  9. Swing out the legs to the sides.
  10. Rotate the legs at the hip hinges.
  11. Swing the lower legs down.
  12. On the back, fold the forearms up and connect the fist hole to the tabs on the gold hinge piece.
  13. Rotate the weapons to face forward.
  14. Attach Waterlog in Power-Up Armor Mode to the chest.
  15. Attach Drone limbs as appropriate.

Power-Up Combiner Mode:
If I stopped this review right now, I would already give this figure high marks as a Scout Class figure with a Mini-Con. The Combiner Mode simply sent things over the edge. The only newly revealed part is the Combiner head, but what a combiner head it is! Instead of a typical helmet/face design with some greebles, what we have here is a full on example of taking a theme in a figure and running with it. The head sculpt is based on old style diving helmets. The design of these helmets generally involved being a large dome, with holes on the front, sides and even the top to allow visibility to the person inside. It is that design this head sculpt replicates with some fantastic detail including cross hatch patterns on the viewing holes, mimicing the protective cages found on the old style helmets. The back has some tube designs as well, hinting at "breathing equipment" being stored somewhere in the body of this robot giant. These tubes even extend down to the piece the head is attached to on the back, showing just how detailed the designers get when sculpting these figures.

I will confess that I am currently on a huge "Bioshock" tear. I played the first game late last year and am currently having a ball of a time with the second. Among the characters in the games are Big Daddies, characters that you encounter (and sometimes fight) in the game. Their head designs are based on old diving helmets, so having an image of a giant Transformer with such a head lumbering around the battlefield is just awesome in my book!

Another fantastic design element is where Undertow's weapons wind up in this mode. I'm a big fan of over the shoulder weapons and these just look plain awesome right next to his cool head sculpt. I also dig that you can position the weapons both vertically and horizontally. In this form, Undertow has fifteen points of articulation. This includes the ability to bend at the knees and turn the legs in and out. I'm also counting the ability for the shoulder cannons to be moved up and down thanks to the arm articulation from the robot mode. All the Drones I connected worked out great and all the joints are tight.

Final Thoughts:
Undertow rocks. If this does have to be the swan song of the Power Core Combiner line, the small line of Transformers is definitely going out with a bang. Highly recommended!