"Transformers Universe" Autobot Ratchet Toy Review

General Information:
Price Point/Size: Deluxe
Retailers: General (K-Mart, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Kay Bee)
Release Date: November 2003
Transformation Difficulty Level: 3 (Advanced)
Accessories: Crescent weapon, Rifle/missile weapon, Blade/missile weapon.

It is fair to say that the world of the Car Robot brother molds are being used to their limit. This past summer, the OTFCC Transformers convention used two of the three molds (Speedbreaker and Mach Alert's) for exclusives. Now the mold that was originally Wildride is now being used in Transformers Universe (after having been redeco'd for Car Robots and twice in Robots in Disguise). The toy's new identity is Autobot Ratchet. Note the name carefully. Like Jazz, Hasbro lost the rights to the name, so to try to keep it in some form, they have registered "Autobot Ratchet" instead. For most of this review I will just refer to the toy as Ratchet.

In another interesting note, Inferno (and his fellow rescue vehicle Inferno) are part of "Machine Robot Rescue", something one can assume is a sub-group of the primary Autobot team. What's interesting to note here is that competitor Bandai has a line in Japan called "Machine Robo Rescue". It would seem Hasbro is trying to grab the title (sort of, it's off by one letter) and use it before Bandai can execute it here in the US.

Autobot Ratchet is also among the first wave of Universe toys to come with a print catalog. This toy has been reviewed so much recently that I'm not going to do a detailed review, but rather focus on the changes made to the toy. Check out any of the reviews above to get a better feel for the toy if you've never played with it or never read any of my previous reviews.

Vehicle Mode:
When originally conceived, Wildride was based on a Mercedes Benz SUV type vehicle design. However, once brought into the US, the toy was modified a bit to avoid possible licensing issues. Specifically, the headlights were changed to be rounded headlights instead of the more angled, "company accurate" versions. Also, Hasbro covered up the rear "lights" with solid colored plastic and just smoothed them over. These design changes have been carried over to the Universe version of this sculpt.

Ratchet is mostly red with some white on the sides and top of the vehicle. Some parts are painted black, including the front bumper section and the cage holding the spare tire at the back. What's nice is the black is used for small details as well. The door handles are all painted black. The edges of the windshield are painted black as well. The same goes for the rear windows. The front grille piece and the engine under the hood are still vacuum metallized plastic. But the rails on the sides (which used to be vac metal) are now just painted silver.

Like Inferno, Autobot Ratchet uses stickers/heat stamped details. On the hood is a large Autobot symbol. The word "Emergency" is above the symbol. On the sides of the car are the words "Emergency Rescue" in black. Unfortunately, the other details are not as nice. On the top of the vehicle, there is a white section with pictures of a ladder and fire hose. In front of that on the top of the driver's section is a picture of a siren. In my opinion, these stickers cheapen the toy a lot. It just screams "We could not/would not spend the money to put a couple extra parts on despite having used this mold twice already." I mean, comparatively speaking, you could pay the same price for an Armada Supercon that is a vehicle with some gimmick that comes with an extra figure (the Mini-Con). It really would have been nice to see a bit more effort put into this. If anything, they should have sacrificed the whole "ladder" concept and just put a siren on top. Shoehorning an SUV into a rescue vehicle like this is one thing, but doing it so cheaply is a let down.

Now, I'm not blind to the economics of the situation. Clearly Universe is a big cost cutting move. But since they didn't modify most of the releases for Universe thus far (Razorclaw being an exception), it would have been nice to see that extra bit of effort go into this toy.

There is another problem with this version of the Wildride mold. The weapons for the robot tuck underneath the toy in this mode, with the edges acting as rails along the sides. The weapon which resembles a triangular blade has been thickened to the point where it scrapes against the ground when you roll the toy along. Another fellow fan has reported that the weapons on his are so thick that a couple wheels don't even touch the ground. Sounds like this is one flaw where your mileage will vary depending on your luck. I do not believe this was done on purpose, rather I believe that after being used over and over, the mold may be degrading a bit, causing the piece to be thicker and its shape less well defined.

Robot Mode:
While I have problems with the vehicle mode, Ratchet's robot mode seems to have faired better. In an attempt to keep the color schemes of the "Machine Robot Rescue" team consistant, Ratchet is a combination of black, gold, red and silver in this mode. The weapons, upper right arm and main body are black. The main body has some nice painted details using white, red, silver and gold. They really help to bring out the sculpted detail. The left arm, right lower arm and legs are cast in silver plastic, but painted parts add layers of colors including gold and red. The robot head is silver, with a white mouthplate and gold eyes. The "laser sight" on his head has a blue end now.

In this mode, the joints are all nice and tight (if not tighter than the original). The thing that you can really see here is how badly the weapons came out. The parts which form the rails look bloated and a bit uneven especially at the parts where they connect to the black sections, and as mentioned before,the "blade like" weapon is more puffy now than before. If Hasbro can reproduce Beast Wars weapons or even G1 weapons accurately without this "bloat", why not a mold that they just used about two years ago?

So the final verdict? Basically, if you can get any of the previous versions of this toy - get those instead. While great in concept, the execution of this toy leaves much to be desired.

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