Energon Toy Reviews: Downshift

in 2004, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Combiner / Gestalt, Galaxy Force, Superlink

Energon

General Information:
Release Year: July 2004
Retailer: General Release (Toys 'R' Us, Kay Bee, Wal-Mart etc.)
Price: $9.99 (Depending on Retailer)
Transformation Difficulty Level: 3
Accessories: Missile x 1, Missile launcher, Dual Barreled Gun

Images:

There's no denying it, Transformers Energon is a line whose design ethic is largely targeted at providing homages to classic Transformers characters in new forms. Downshift is no exception. While his name has a G1 pedigree (Downshift was one of the three Omnibots), his design is a homage to the G1 character Wheeljack.

Vehicle Mode:
Downshift is a sports car in vehicle mode, I'd almost go so far as to call him a race car - but the form is a bit of both. However, instead of the typical rounded, sleek, curvy type vehicle, this one is sleek, but it has more angles than curves and its design actually looks slightly boxy because of it. This evokes the look of G1 Wheeljack's vehicle mode, which was sleek, but also had many straight lines and angles on it. Another design aspect that evokes G1 Wheeljack are the strips serving as covers over the rear window. A similar design was used on G1 Wheeljack's vehicle mode.

What makes this vehicle nice is that it has homage material incorporated into it, but it is also a cool looking car on its own. The front of the car is a bit longer than the rest, giving it a very forward sweeping apearance. The rear is rather compact looking, but it looks good thanks to the angle on either side leading from the bottom of the car up to the sides. The front has a cool design in the front, with a grill in the center and two angled headlights. The spoiler on the back helps complete the look of the vehicle.

Functionally, this car has plenty of potential for firepower. Right behind both front wheels are holes that fit the standard Energon weapon peg. Downshift comes with two weapons, a dual barreled gun and a missile launcher. In this form, both of them attach to the sides to form exhaust pipes, which look really nice. What's also nice is that each of these holes have designs around them resembling a gear, much like the images used to differentiate the different "Powerlink" types on the toy packaging. The weapons can each be swung upward to act as weapons instead of exhaust pipes too! Also, above each rear wheel is another hole that you can attach Energon weapons into. Interestingly, the place to attach an Energon Star is on the left side rear wheel, where the hubcap itself contains the Autobot Spark Crystal. Another feature that I really dig are the doors. Instead of opening the traditional way, these doors swing upward. Nice.

While his design has G1 Wheeljack aspects, it is perhaps the deco of this toy that resembles the classic character the most. Downshift is mostly white with green and red designs on him. While the designs are not the same patterns as G1 Wheeljack's, they certainly evoke the design patterns used on that G1 toy. What's nice is that the green and red are both used sparingly, just enough to give bold chunks of designs, but not so much that the canvas of white is overwhelmed.

Adding to the deco are the windows and headlights, all done in translucent orange plastic, which looks really nice on the mostly white car. The translucent red weapons offer a similarly nice effect when attached to the sides.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the Energon weapons and the spoiler.
  2. Holding on to the front section of the car, pull the halves apart a bit to separate most of the car down the middle.
  3. Move each half of the windshield/windows piece forward so it covers the hood halves.
  4. Flip the car over.
  5. Swing out the black panels on the lower legs and flip the robot feet out.
  6. Flip out each half of the robot feet and close the panels.
  7. Move each robot arm out to the side, and then downward.
  8. Swing the panel behind the robot head down.
  9. On each shoulder are exhaust pipes, swing them down so they point forward.
  10. The Energon weapons can each attach to the robot hands or you can connect them to the holes in the spoiler and have him hold the central peg of the spoiler.

Robot Mode:
Downshift's robot mode is a definite update of G1 Wheeljack for Energon. Design elements that hark back to the G1 character are:

  • The head design is clearly based on Wheeljack's cartoon appearance, down to the stylized mouthplate, three point crest and the "ears" on the sides of the head, though granted these are much smaller than G1 Wheeljack's.
  • The arm design is a direct lift from G1 Wheeljack. The wheels are near the shoudlers, he has shoulder mounted weapons (they were missiles in G1) and his lower arms have "car parts" hanging on the sides.
  • The chest design utilizes the same reen/white/red color scheme as the original, down to the patterns. The edge is even a windshield window.
  • The front of each foot has a small, flat piece coming out at the front edge. This is much like G1 Wheeljack's feet which were the front of the car with a similar flat piece.

While the homage territory is huge here, the robot mode does have some nice detailing that differs from Wheeljack. The leg design (aside from the feet) is very much original and nice, with each leg having a healthy dose of line detail. I especially like the vent details on the lower legs which evoke G1 Optimus Prime's legs. The waist and arms are also full of nice, multi-level details. Of course, the toy also offers a sculpted Autobot symbol, this time
right in the middle of the upper chest.

Downshift has eleven points of articulation. For the most part they are good ones, including the ball jointed arms. However, the leg articulation could have been better. This would have required a different design on the waist section (which in Powerlinx mode, becomes the shoulders/arms) such as having the front panels of the waist swing forward to allow the upper leg to move forward.

Color-wise, Downshift brings in a healthy dose of black and a light gold color. These are used alternately for the arms and legs. Silveris used on the legs and robot head, adding detail. It's not a ton of painted detail, but frankly the toy doesn't need it as it looks nice and clean the way it is.

Transformation to Upper Body Mode (Starting in Robot Mode):

  1. Detach all weapons from the figure.
  2. Swing the halves of each foot and flip them back into the lower legs.
  3. Swing the halves of the waist (and thus the legs) out to the sides.
  4. Straighten out each arm and swing them back.
  5. Swing back the upper chest section (which includes the head and arms) to reveal the Powerlinx point.
  6. Rotate the head/arms piece around.
  7. Swing the head/arms piece up and snap it into place between the halves of the waist (now the shoulders).
  8. Rotate the lower leg pieces around so the Powerlinx robot arms face up.
  9. Downshift can connect to any other deluxe sized Energon Autobot with a Powerlinx combiner point.

Upper Body Mode:
Like his vehicle mode, Downshift's upper body offers the potential for a lot o' Energon weapon linking. The robot arms form mounts on either side of the head, and each one has a hole for an Energon weapon. Then the small exhaust pipes on each point forward like guns. Then you have the Powerlinx mode robot arms to attach weapons to and then on the underside of the arms you have two more holes for Energon weapons.

Downshift's upper body is one of my favorites among the "Upper Bodies" in the deluxe ranks. Aside from potentially being heavily armed, Downshift's proportions are really nice. He doesn't look too big or too gimpy. A nice job.

Transformation to Lower Body Mode (Starting in Robot Mode):

  1. Straighten out the arms.
  2. Move the arms so they stick straight up.
  3. Flip the upper body back to reveal the Powerlinx point.

Lower Body Mode:
Like the upper body mode, the lower body mode manages to arrange the four holes for Energon weapons in such a way that you can heavily arm Downshift. In this case, the holes are on the outer parts of the legs and the robot arms (behind the legs). Also, as with the upper body form, the lower body has good proportions on the mid body and legs. The kibble hanging on the back is basically unavoidable, so the most you hope for is that it can be utilized somehow in the form and that it doesn't get in the way too much. Downshift manage to accomplish both.

Final Thoughts:
Downshift is a fantastic homage to a classic character. Like Rodimus, it's hard to mistake just what the designers were going for here. Add to that his ability to become good upper and lower body sections, and you have one cool Transformer here. The only part that kinda bugs me is the leg articulation. Other than that, this guy is recommended.