Armada Toy Reviews: Smokescreen

in 2002, Action Figure Review, Armada, Autobot

Armada

General Information:
Price Point: Supercon
Retailer: General (K-Mart, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart etc.)
Release Date: October 2002
Transformation Difficulty Level: 3 (Advanced)
Accessories: Liftor Mini-Con figure, Missile

In recent years, Hasbro has begun to reuse a lot of their old trademarked/copyrighted names in the Transformers toy line. There are obvious ones such as Megatron and Optimus Prime, however there is a large number of names which have not been used since roughly before the Beast Wars. One such name is Smokescreen. In the original series, Smokescreen was an Autobot who used smoke to disguise himself and confuse enemies. How this particlar Armada Autobot relates to the name Smokescreen is not explained, but it is nice to see Hasbro trying to keep a grip on some of the cooler names in Transformers history.

Mini-Con Liftor Review

Smokescreen comes with Liftor, a Mini-Con that is easily one of the best Mini-Con figures to come along in the line so far.

Vehicle Mode:
Liftor is a futuristic forklift in vehicle mode. His colors are a combination of blue, black, orange and grey (a scheme that coordinates with Smokescreen himself). Liftor is not exactly a conventional forklift. His design looks like some hard driving vehicle that one would find in a Mad Max movie. It is sleek, yet aggressive looking at the ame time. The forklift mechanism works, but not in the way one might expect. By pushing both halves of the mechanism, it moves up, but instead of lifting upwards, it would toss whatever was on it back. The rear has a nicely molded driver's area with exhaust ports on the back and large headlights right in front of the driver and passenger windows. A Mini-Con symbol is etched into the front section of the vehicle. Liftor's Powerlinx point is on the underside of the vehicle in the middle.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Swing each half of the forklift mechanism to the sides.
  2. Swing the grey driver section back and down to form the robot legs.
  3. Flip the vehicle over and push back the orange piece that covers the robot head.
  4. Flip the lower arms down.

Robot Mode:
Liftor's robot mode shows much more black and some silver. Simply put, this is one of the best Mini-Con figures to come out of the Armada toy line. In terms of detail, this figure is nicely done. The face resembles Optimus Prime's in many ways, with the central crest, mouth plate and an antannae on the
right side of the head. The right eye has a big silver patch over it, resembling some type of visual enhancement device (targeting computer perhaps?). The chest portion is nicely sculpted with angled and beveled surfaces. Liftor also serves up one nicely articulated figure. In total, he has nine points of articulation, not bad for such a small figure that would normally have only about four. It was a pleasant surprise to find that his head could turn and that his arms could bend at the elbows.

Liftor is an awesome Mini-Con figure, and if he's indicative of the coming Mini-Cons, then much coolness is on its way!

Smokescreen Review

Vehicle Mode:
Smokescreen is a crane in vehicle mode. However, like his Mini-Con partner, he is not a typical example of his vehicle class. Instead of being long and boxy, Smokescreen looks sleek and angled. His profile is rather low, unless of course you lift up his crane. His primary color is orange while silver, black and blue fill in details. The crane is mostly grey with blue and orange details. The Autobot symbol on the top of the driver's area is painted red.

Smokescreen has two primary points of functionality in this form:

  • The crane arm can swivel around and move up and down. The hook can swing as well, but it cannot be extended (due to the Mini-Con gimmick). Attach a
    Mini-Con to the Powerlinx point on the crane arm, and it will extend outward, revealing a missile launcher at the end. Press the blue button to launch the
    missile inside.
  • There is a winch on the back of the vehicle with a rope and a hook at the end. The hook is designed to plug into any Mini-Con figure at its Powerlinx point and "tow" it. The line can be let loose or locked into place by moving the blue switch above the winch.

As if to add a bit of icing to the cake, the designers made panels that could be manipulated. The Autobot symbol can be flipped up to reveal some type of
armored hatch. The side doors with the blue stripe designs can swing forward, as if to protect the front wheels. Another nice touch is a small ladder molded into the side of the vehicle, leading to the hatch with the Autobot symbol.

Smokescreen's vehicle mode is a definite winner. It looks fantastic and has fun features.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Swing each half of the driver/passenger area out to the sides.
  2. Swing the side panels forward so they cover the front tires.
  3. Swing the front section of the vehicle down, then push it down to lock it into place.
  4. Split the front of the vehicle in half, then twist the orange sections around and point the black feet in the same direction that the winch is facing.
  5. Turn the crane so that it faces forward. As you do so, the robot head will reveal itself as well.
  6. Swing the robot arms down to the sides.

Robot Mode:
In this form, Smokescreen doesn't reveal many new colors, but his face is painted metallic blue and his eyes are red. His inner arms are black with silver fists. His waist area is solid blue. Unfortunately, solid is exactly why the color scheme here fails. If you take a close look at the toy, there is a lot of little design work and detail work. The sides of his legs have a large gear, tubes and a computer panel of some sort while his shoulders have circular details molded into them. The front of his legs has an irregular shape that makes for a very meched out looking robot. Unfortunately, the bright orange color washes out a lot of these details visually, giving the impression that this toy is plain, when it is definitely not.

In terms of overall design, there are three main changes I would have made:

  • Smokescreen should have heels folding out the back of his legs, allowing one to swing the crane arm back and out of the way. Right now, swinging the
    crane arm back causes him to fall back since he has no support there.
  • The panels on Smokescreen's hands could have easily been made to move outward a bit, allowing him to hold a weapon (such as Star Saber) and/or his
    winch line as he does in his package illustration.
  • An extra joint in the arms at the elbow (either to rotate the lower arm or bend at the middle of the arm) would have been nice, allowing for more dynamic
    poses.

Enough gloom and doom, the fact is, in essence there is still a neat toy here. Smokescreen looks rough and tough, owing in part to his wide face and wide upper body. He looks like the Cybertronian equivalent of a powerful construction worker. To its credit, the toy stands very well considering the rather heavy crane arm resting on Smokescreen's shoulder. Smokescreen (like Liftor) has nine points of articulation. For those curious, his head can be moved independent of the crane. His crane arm weapon can be utilized in this mode as well.

Smokescreen is not a bad toy at all, but he could have been taken a couple steps further.