Armada Toy Reviews: Race Team
Price Point: Basic
Retailer: General (K-Mart, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart etc.)
Release Date: September 2002
Transformation Difficulty Level: 2 (Intermediate)
In a line that relies on the Mini-Con gimmick, it is necessary to have as many of the little critters as possible. To do this, Hasbro has focused the basic assortment of Transformers on three packs of Mini-Cons. These Mini-Cons are Transformers in themselves, and each three pack features abilities unique to the team.
Heading up the second wave of Armada Mini-Con three packs is the Race Team. The team is comprised of Dirt Boss, Downshift and Mirage. The three combine to form Skyboom, a shield that is meant to act as the counter measure to the powerful Star Saber formed by the Air Defense Team. It is also interesting to note that two members of this team share names with Generation One Transformers. Mirage is a name that was used for one of the original Autobots (and a name that has been used many times since for the same character or toys resembling the character) while Downshift was the name of a special mail away Autobot car from Generation One.
Vehicle Mode | Robot Mode
Dirt Boss is an off road SUV in vehicle form. He is mostly light grey with yellow, brown and black detailing. His windows are painted
metallic green and his headlights are gold. The sculpt does not include an amazing amount of detail, but the ones that are included are important.
Both the rear and headlights, door handles and side view mirrors have been sculpted into the toy. The Mini-Con symbol is molded into the left side of
the vehicle towards the rear. Dirt Boss has one Powerlinx connection point on the underside of the car.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Extend the front of the vehicle forward and split it down the middle.
- Flip the yellow robot feet forward.
- Flip out the rear lights and swing the robot arms forward.
- Flip the head up from the back and lock it into place.
Dirt Boss' robot mode shows off much more yellow than the vehicle mode thanks to the upper robot arms, feet and robot head. In contrast with the light grey that makes up most of his body, the yellow works. However, the problem with using such a bright yellow is that it works a little too well and is so bright, it looks plain. Considering how nice the paint applications were in the vehicle form, it was a shame to see that the robot mode
was left looking extremely plain. The robot head clearly has some nice sculpted detail, but it is drowned out by the bright yellow color. Even if Dirt Boss' eyes were colored (as they are on the prototype pictured on the packaging) it would add a lot of visual appeal and character to the toy.
Dirt Boss has six points of articulation. Two in each leg and one in each arm. However, the arms can only move up and down with his balled fist
facing up in the air.
Vehicle Mode | Robot Mode
Downshift's vehicle mode is a race car. His color is mostly dark grey with some silver and light grey towards the front of the car. Two bright yellow
flaps at the rear make up a spoiler, but they also look nice facing up (giving the vehicle an almost Batmobile type feel). Details are painted onto the
toy in the form of the number "3" on a blue and white background on the sides and front of the vehicle. the vehicle's mold is nice and sleek, and the driver's seat molded in the middle is a nice touch. Downshift's Mini-Con symbol is molded into the left side of the car. Downshift has one Powerlinx point on the underside of the vehicle.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Swing the middle to rear sides of the car out to the sides. Straighten out the arms.
- Flip the front of the car down to form the robot chest.
- Flip up the oval shaped piece on the car front to reveal the robot head.
- The robot legs can be split in the center to achieve better balance.
Downshift's robot mode introduces light blue into the mix of colors. His lower legs, robot face and fists all have light blue painted on. Downshift is one odd looking little robot. His chest and arms are absolutely huge compared to his skinny legs. Although the mechanics are sort of locked into place due to the toy having to combine with the other team members, some sculpting details would have helped make the lack of poportion less hard on the eyes. Perhaps molding some type of detail that resembles cannons on his arms would have made them seem more like arms with weapons mounted on than just huge arms. If the front half of the chest were able to fold down, that would also help the apperance of the toy a lot.
Downshift has six points of articulation, four of which are in the arms. The arms are on a ball joint, which is nice, allowing for a wide range of movement.
Fans who do a double take when they see Mirage are not going nuts, they have seen a similar mold before. Mirage is a heavy retooling and redeco of the Mini-Con that comes with Starscream, Swindle. This is no simple swap of one or two parts, not only are
there huge differences in make up, but there is also a difference in the transformation.
Mirage is mostly bright yellow with some dark grey parts and a silver driver's seat. The wheels are of course black. Unlike Swindle where the robot head was visible, but designed to double as a turbine of sorts, Mirage's head sticks out and is simply that, a robot head sticking out the back of the car. It would have been nice if the grooves along the edges of the head on Swindle were translated here as well. Unfortunately, Mirage has no paint detailing of any sort like Dirt Boss and Downshift. No numbers, stripes etc. This greatly detracts from his appearance as the yellow color is bright enough to overwhelm the molded details in the toy.
In terms of the retooling, almost every major piece of the toy is different. The spoiler is straight, not angled like Swindle's. The sides of the vehicle are much wider and have grooves and lines sculpted into them. The driver's seat is higher than the one Swindle has and the front nose section is much smaller than Swindle's.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Push the spoiler down to reveal more of the robot head.
- Swing the sides of the vehicle out to form the robot arms.
- Rotate the vehicle at the waist.
- Split the legs apart and flip the robot feet up.
In robot mode, Swindle is still mostly yellow, buthis legs are dark grey and his robot head is black with a red face. The sculpting on his face is rather detailed, showing lines leading to a mouthplate in the center. The legs have some detail on them as well in the form of grooves that resemble tubing and a circle and triangle near the knees on each leg. The lack of detailing is still bad in this form. Even one detail, say a number or word on the spoiler would have added a lot of visual appeal to this toy.
By using the Swindle design as its base, this toy unfortunately suffers from the same problems as that one. The arms cannot move up and down and the legs are stuck only being able to swing out to the sides. Since this was a very extensive retooling, it would have been nice to see at least an extra joint
created on the arms so they could swing forward.
On the one hand, Mirage is rather dull looking, but on the other, it is an impressive retooling. If Hasbro chooses to reuse molds/designs for future Mini-Cons, this is the right path to go on, they simply have to take it one step further and improve upon the mold.
With Optimus Prime | With Starscream
Transformation to Skyboom:
These instructions assume you have each member of the team in vehicle mode.
- Take Downshift and swing the robot arms back. Connect the peg near the wheels to the holes under headlights of the car. Flip the yellow wings up.
- Fold Dirt Boss' sides out, effectively flattening the truck. Flip the wings out and flip down the robot head.
- Connect the two yellow tabs on Dirt Boss to the two rectangular holes on Downshift's legs.
- Connect Mirage to Dirt Boss via the hole in his head.
According to the team's tech specs, Skyboom is meant to be a shield, the only defense against the powerful "Star Saber" formed by the Air Defense Team. The confusion this toy causes however is in its name and appearance. By all appearances, the three vehicles combine to form a jet of some sort. Mirage's sleek and narrow front section evokes thoughts of a pilot seat and cockpit and the wings on Dirt Boss and Downshift add to the appearance of an aerial vehicle. Also, the name "Skyboom" seems to fit an aerial vehicle, not a defense shield.
Confusion aside, the presence of Dirt Boss' head doubling as a handle definitely helps the toy work as a shield. Like the Air Defense Team, the peg (it's not much of a handle) fits into the hands of most Armada figures. The three parts hold together well and I would dare say that if you struck the Air Defense Team against this shield, the sword would probably fall apart first. Another nice incidental feature is that the sheer length of this shield allows Supercon sized Armada figures to protect almost their entire body from impact. Not a bad shield after all!
You do not necesarily have to use Dirt Boss' head to have larger figures hold Skyboom. Using the Powerlinx points on the inside of the shield, you can just plug the shield into larger Transformers.
In the reverse of what I said about the Air Defense Team, this group's strength lies in its combined form, not the individual robots. The disappointing thing is that there was a lot of potential in each figure, and that potential was not realized. The combined form is very cool as both a jet or a shield. I don't hate these toys at all, but they did not live up to expectations or their own potential.