Energon Toy Reviews: Grimlock & Swoop

in 2004, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Dinobot, Energon, Superlink

Energon

General Information:
Release Year: October 2004
Retailer: General Release (Toys 'R' Us, Kay Bee, Wal-Mart etc.)
Price: $19.99 (Depending on Retailer)
Transformation Difficulty Level: 3
Accessories: None

Images:

Dinobots were one of the most popular Transformers subgroups of Generation One. Dinosaurs as a group have always fascinated people, so take some dinosaurs
and have them transform into robots, and you have a winning combination. The Dinobot theme of dinosaurs becoming robots has taken on many forms over the years since Generation One, especially during the Beast Wars years. Still, many people always wondered why Hasbro didn't just go and create new Dinobots in the style and tradition of the original ones. In 2004, they finally have.

In an interesting bit of back story, this set of Grimlock and Swoop was actually originally conceived as being the first original molds to be introduced into Transformers Universe. However, feeling that they deserved higher production numbers, the molds were shunted over to Energon.

Grimlock Review

Always a fan favorite, Grimlock was the leader of the Dinobots in Generation One. As the years went along, Grimlock would appear again and again in a myriad of forms. This toy essentially brings him back to his roots as a simple T-Rex to robot Transformer.

Beast Mode:
Grimlock's beast mode is a modern day take on his original G1 dinosaur form. The original Dinobots were all mechanical dinosaurs who became robots. That is the case here. However, instead of using the "80's interpretation" of a T-Rex, which dragged its tail along in a somewhat upright posture, this design utilizes modern thinking, having the T-Rex hunched over with it's tail (mostly) horizontal.

The beast mode really doesn't skimp on the details. I'm quite impressed by the sheer amount of detail on this guy from front to back. The details are a combination of cut lines, shapes and raised tech details. Grimlock has everything from vents on the back, to wires on the legs. The shape of his head in particular is a bit more streamlined than his G1 predecessor. This follows the stylings of many artists whom, since Generation 2 have tried to make Grimlock look a bit less blocky and more sleek. This really works well in plastic form. The only oddity are the toes on the front foot. T-Rexes actually had three toes in front, not two. And from what I've been told, the original design sketches for Grimlock did have three. I guess this made it simpler for the design house that sculpted the toy, but still it would have been neat to see a more "proper" T-Rex, albeit a mechanical one.

Grimlock has fifteen points of articulation in this form. Now granted I'm stretching the definition a bit since I'm counging the ability for his claws to move on a hinge and his legs spreading out, something which would probably not be used in normal play, but does help with posing for display. Other points include his mouth opening and closing (revealing rows of sharp looking teeth), his arms and upper legs.

Grimlock's color scheme is based on his G1 colors - roughly. His primary color is grey, with some light grey parts for his arms and claws. For other parts such as his neck and tail, the designers used yellow. His legs are a combination of red, grey, black and yellow. While I understand the use of yellow since that was the color used for parts of Grimlock in the animation and comic books, it really doesn't work as nicely in three dimensional form. I mean, it looks okay, and offers good contrast to the grey - but personally I would have preferred these parts be painted gold, the color used for G1 Grimlock's vacuum metallized parts. Still, barring gold, it would have been nice if some spray ops had been used on this toy. It is so rich in sculpted detail that adding just one black or rust colored spray op would have really helped give the toy more character.

Still, Grimlock's beast mode is an excellent looking piece, and personally I'm hoping for a more detailed paint job on him down the road, perhaps even for Universe.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Split the tail in half and swing the pieces forward.
  2. Swing the rear of the dinosaur back.
  3. On the insides of the robot legs are two yellow tabs, swing these out to form the foot supports/heels.
  4. Slide the dinosaur legs up.
  5. Push the robot fists out of the lower dino legs.
  6. Flip the single claw back and the dual claws forward.
  7. Rotate the lower dinosaur legs around to form the robot arms.
  8. Swing open the two flaps on the back of the robot.
  9. Swing back the dinosaur head to reveal the robot head.

Robot Mode:
Grimlock's robot mode takes a bit getting used to. The proportions are very odd, even by Transformers standards, but a lot of it has to do with getting used
to his appearance. This is mostly because Grimlock is very top-heavy, and while his legs are also large enough to balance out with the top, the middle of the body is extremely thin. His arms are huge since they were the dinosaur legs, and he has a wide chest, but all of a sudden, his waist shrinks into this thin section that his legs are attached to. Honestly for the first couple days I had this toy I kept thinking "God that looks odd!" But now, it's not bad at all since the other details of this form work well, though I still have my reservations there.

The sculpt for Grimlock's robot mode is, for lack of a better term, "adequate". Some dinosaur mode details carry over, especially on the lower legs, so that gives good detailing. The robot head is also nice, blending styles of the original Grimlock head with some modern sensabilities. The waist area has one cool detail, a series of "teeth" details taken straight from War Within Grimlock's design. However, the main upper body is really kind of plain. There are a couple details on the sides, some tubes running down the center, but that's really it. I was surprised by how "flat" and plain this section looked. I must confess however that the hands are really sculpted badly. I mean, sure there are four fingers and something like a thumb there, but they're so big and non-detailed. Most Transformers figures nowadays manage to sculpt digits better, especially at the top of the hand where the fist closes. Here it's just blank, which is jarring to see.

Grimlock has fifteen points of articulation in this form, mostly owing to the robot arms. The articulation points on his arms are rather impressive, with swivel and ratchet joints coming into play. I do have one complaint however, which is the upper leg joint. That part is on a ball joint, but the upper leg piece is sculpted in such a way that the range of movement you get out of the ball joint is very limited. It's not like ball joints are new to Transformers or anything, most Beast Wars toys were developed with better leg designs. Basically, a cut section out of the upper leg piece would have allowed more freedom of movement. Either that, or going with a ratchet joint and hinge might have been better.

On a rather ridiculous note, Grimlock comes with no weapons. Nada. Not even a dagger or something. He has claws on his lower arms, but that's it, big whoop. Then it gets worse. Grimlock has peg holes in his hands - that don't fit Energon weapons, they're too small. This really, really bothers me. Energon introduced the "standardization" of pegs and holes so that weapons could be interchanged. Energon weapons are awesome because any Transformer in this two year range can use them. Yet somehow whomever was contracted to sculpt this toy just didn't get the memo. I mean, it's bad enough the hands are shabbily sculpted, but to not even offer up potential extra play value is just lazy. I mean, what the heck are the holes for? This is a sad, missed opportunity.

Grimlock's colors remain the same, but with more red and black showing thanks to the upper legs and robot head. His upper body is mostly yellow. However,
unlike the rather plain yellow used to paint parts of the beast mode, his is metallic flake yellow plastic, something I don't think has been seen often with
Transformers. While I still would have preferred gold, it is kind of neat that the designers used a nicer plastic when they could have just gone with flat yellow. Still, I would have liked to see more complex paint details eithe rin the form of black wash or dry brush, to give Grimlock a more worn look.

Final Thoughts (on Grimlock):
Overall, I do like this Grimlock toy for what it had potential to be - but at the same time I am very disappointed. Between lack of detail, a somewhat simplistic paint job, the inability to hold Energon weapons and the lack of accessories, you really have to ask what you're paying $10 (half the cost of the set) for when regular Energon deluxes (again, roughly $10) offer so much more. Basically, this toy feels like it should have gone through one or two more revisions before being released.

Swoop Review

The only aerial member of the Dinobots was Swoop. While other Dinobots like Grimlock and Snarl have been given more than one form over the years, Swoop was only (sorta, Kinda) redone once, as Beast Wars Windrazor. In Energon, Swoop finally gets a true 21st century update, with mixed results.

Beast Mode:
In beast mode, Swoop once again takes on the form of a mechanical pterosaur. This time however, he's a lot more angular than his previous incarnation. His entire shape seems to be designed to make him look like a flying dagger. His wings have really sharp angles and sleek ends that look like blades. His head is also very angular and sharp looking.

Most of the bulk on Swoop comes from the same source that the original Swoop got it from: the robot legs. In this case they form large booster rockets on Swoop's back, similar to the original, but in a much larger form. The boosters look awesome. Each has a huge thruster at the back, with cylinders and pipes running to the thruster on the sides. On the sides, inset in the booster is what appears to be a fuel tank. The wings have a good chunk of detail too. Each one has several wires, tubes, cut lines etc. that really look nice. What I really dig are the edges of the wings which are actually serated (not sharp, but they have that look), furthering
the "blade" analogy.

Swoop's primary color is light grey. Dark grey (almost black) is used for parts like his legs and boosters. His eyes are red and a small Autobot symbol adorns his head. The internal tanks in the boosters are yellow and his claws are blue. Unfortunately, his colors end there. In terms of his deco, Swoop has similar problems to Grimlock: the colors are simply too plain. With no spray ops, dry brush or heck, even small, painted details (such as the tech details on the wings), Swoop just looks plain, like the painters were half way done and just went home that day. I'm personally hoping this is given a new deco at some point for the Universe line and given a proper paint job.

There are twelve points of articulation on this toy. Included here are ball jointed wings, the beak opening and closing and the claws being able to move.
Considering the beast mode, there's not a whole lot you can expect from this toy, so twelve points of articulation is pretty darn good. I'm glad that the wings are on ball joints, allowing for a greater range of movement.

Unfortunately, like Grimlock, Swoop comes with no weapons. Whereas G1 Swoop had missile launchers you could attach to his wings, this Swoop has nothing for
firepower in this mode. It's really disappointing because there are spots the designers could have put holes or pegs for Energon weapons, but didn't.
As with Grimlock having no weapons (and being unable to hold Energon weapons), this feels like a "cheap way out" for the manufacturer to have finished his work on the figure and gone home, giving no exta effort.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Swing the boosters back and down to form the robot legs.
  2. Flip out the ends of the boosters to form the robot feet.
  3. Turn the figure over and flip up the robot head.
  4. Bring the two halves of the upper body together.
  5. Swing down the beast mode head.
  6. Pull the lower arms down and close the claws in.
  7. Rotate each arm on the lower hinge and swing it upward.
  8. Move the wings back a bit.

Robot Mode:
Swoop's robot mode is very much an update of his original G1 form. His beast head winds up on his chest, his legs are formed from the parts mounted on his back in beast mode and his wings are on the back. The designers event went so far as to try to emulate the look of his G1 head, which was rounded on the bottom with part of the beast mode head on the top. However, here the rather impressive head piece is just a small little yellow bit, which in itself is not the problem, it's just that the piece is small and plain. If it was a bit more angular or had a sleeker look to it, you could buy it more as an updated version of the old Swoop head. Instead, it looks like the animated Swoop head with a bit of yellow plastic stuck on top.

Like Grimlock, Swoop has some nice details in this form - just not enough. His arms have small wire/tech details on them. The shoulders have some tubes on them and the central body has some simple shapes on them. Perhaps the best details are the circles on the claws that represent (presumably) bolts. Still, I can't help but think that the designers could have pushed things a bit further with the details. It's really the chest and waist areas that are just really plain compared to other parts such as the wings and upper arms.

Now, lack of detail by itself isn't horrible. Sometimes with a medium level of detail and a good paint job, the combination makes the toy look great overall. Unfortunately, there are few surprises here. Dark grey, light grey and blue are the main colors. Yellow and silver appear on the legs and shoulders to add a tiny bit of detail, but overall a lot more could have been done color-wise. Believe it or not, something as simple as using some silver to color the tech details would have helped enormously.

Swoop has seventeen points of articulation in this form. I'm including the claws here. I'm also including the head, although I was almost tempted not to. The head is wedged in between the sides of the hinge that the beast mode head swings on. Because of this, the head can turn to the side a bit, but not all the way. I really think that part could have been designed better. Instead of a raised hinge, they should have worked the hinge into the chest piece. That would have allowed more freedom of movement for the head.

In terms of play value, Swoop is a nice figure, but he's quite limited. He only has claws, no hands, so he can't even pretend to hold anything. He has no holes or pegs for Energon weapons and/or Mini-Cons. He's very much a stand alone figure.

Final Thoughts (on Swoop):
Swoop has a very cool beast mode and an okay robot mode. The lack of weaponry or ability to use Energon weaponry is a definite downside.

Mega Dinobot

Since G1, Transformers fans young and old have always wanted a Dinobot combiner. There were five original Dinobots, the magic number used for most G1 combiners. Indeed, fans have done kitbashes over the years doing just that, merging the Dinobots into one Transformer. With Grimlock and Swoop falling under the Energon line, it provided the opportunity to take this idea and use the theme of the line (Powerlinking) to create just that, a Dinobot combiner, albeit one made of two, not five Dinobots.

Grimlock Transformation (starting in beast mode):

  1. Split the entire length of the body from neck to tail in half and swing those halves out.
  2. Push the robot fists out on the dinosaur legs.
  3. Flip the single claw back and the double claws forward.
  4. Rotate the lower arms around so the elbow joint can move up and down.
  5. Swing the dinosaur head down.
  6. Move the dinosaur arms up.
  7. Swing up the grey curved piece to reveal Mega-Dinobot's head.
  8. On the back, flip the clip down.

Swoop Transformation (starting in robot mode):

  1. Push the legs in to shorten them.
  2. Turn the lower arms around so the two claw piece faces front, then push the lower arm up.
  3. Swing the arms down, so they wind up next to the legs.
  4. Swing the back wing section up on the hinge.
  5. Push the yellow piece on the robot head down.
  6. Fold down the larger front foot pieces over Swoop's feet.

Combination:

  1. Attach the clip on Grimlock over Swoop's head.
  2. Flip up the wing piece and press it up against the back and position the wings so they stick up behind Grimlock's body sections.

Review:
Mega Dinobot (yikes on the name) is, appropriately, a mixed bag, just like the two Transformers that form him. On the one hand, there are some really interesting and cool design elements here. However, the physical realities of each sculpt simply get in the way of this giant being ubercool.

Let's start at the top, the part I believe to be the best part of the giant. Having Grimlock's tail/body halves splay out as almost wing like protrusions is
a really nice designe elment. Not only does it show off the sculpted detail on those parts well, it gives him a wide, imposing look. Swoop's wings sticking up from the back simply adds a sleek and dangerous looking element to the rather bulky top, a successful exercise in visual contrast. The robot head design should look familiar to many, it is the War Within Grimlock head design, complete with "teeth" inside the mouthplate. The chest (the top of the dino head) has a lot of that detailing I've been complaining about during this review. Here we actually see some cool details including a plate where the Autobot symbol is painted on. It looks not unlike the section where a CPU connects to a hard drive, giving it a nice high tech look. Kudos on this portion of the sculpting.

Where things get a bit awkward are the legs. And in this instance, I have to say that I think the designers tried their best, but they only had so much to work with. First off, because of the space between the spot where the two merge and the actual legs themselves, things look a bit elongated there (not too much, but a bit). Swoop's robot arms sort of just dangle there next to his legs, but in fact the original intent was to have the arms somehow connect with the legs to bulk them up. It's a darn good attempt, and I really, really give credit to the designers who actually made an extra set of feet to go over Swoop's feet to give Mega-Dinobot more size appropriate feet.

Mega-Dinobot has sixteen points of articulation. Most of this is concentrated in the upper body, with the legs having three points each. You do have to be careful however as the lower body mainly focuses on two ball joints for support. It's not hard to have Mega Dinobot lean to one side or flop over if he's not positioned correctly.

Once again, the lack of weapons, or ability to use weapons hurts the toy. I mean, Grimlock's arms are Mega Dinobot's arms, would it have been so hard just to make the fist holes the standard size? I guess so.

Final Thoughts:
The reviews above are harder on these toys than I normally am on most, I admit that. But I have my reasons. First, Hasbro can do better than this.
Within Energon alone it has proven it can provide sculpts and decos superior to this. Second, the play value of these guys is severely curtailed by the lack of any gimmicks (other than combining) or weapons. I mean, Dinobots of all characters lacking any sort of weapon (sword, gun etc.) is just incomprehensible. And more to the point, if you're going to spend $20 (or more, average non-large store price has been hovering around $30) on this set, shouldn't you get the same quality as you'd get by buying say, two deluxes on card for the same price? This set feels a lot like a smash and grab job when two such iconic characters clearly deserved more. Recommended only for completists or those who have to have updated G1 Dinobots.