"Transformers Universe" Inferno 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: Missiles x 2, Missile holders x 2

Few molds have been reused as many times in such a short span of time as this one. In 2000, Takara released this first as Mach Alert, a new generation homage to the Prowl character. Then later that year it would be reissued with a "powered up" redeco Super Mach Alert. He was also released as a translucent version in Japan. In 2001, Hasbro decided to bring over Car Robots to the US. So Mach Alert became Prowl, who was also released in a super form.

Then, this past summer, the OTFCC exclusives Sideswipe and Sunstreaker were released as convention exclusives, slightly modified to go without the sirens. Now we're at the end of 2003, and as part of Transformers Universe, this mold has been pressed into service once more as Transformers Universe Inferno.

Long time Transformers fans, or those paying attention to the current US reissues at Toys R Us will note that the vehicle mode of Inferno is actually a big homage to that of Generation One Red Alert. For some more Red Alert pictures beyond those above, also check out Clamp Down's review. Indeed, Hasbro originally intended for this toy to be called Red Alert, but due to a miscommunication between departments, he was called Inferno by mistake. By the time the error was realized, the packaging had gone to press already.

In another interesting note, Inferno (and his fellow rescue vehicle Autobot Ratchet) 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.

Inferno 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:
The vehicle mode is where Generation One Red Alert's influence can be seen. It's amazing that the Lamborghini form that started with Mach Alert has been used for four different G1 homages now. The original one was a homage to Prowl, this past summer's Sideswipe and Sunstreaker were homages to those G1 characters. Each of those was appropriate and convincing, and this one is no different.

Inferno is mostly white, with red painted detailing on the hood and lower section of the car. On either door is a symbol reminscent of G1 Red Alert's "Fire Department" symbol, resembling a shield. This one is a bit more intricate, with orange borders, the letters "FR" (fire rescue) with the word "chief" under them (which G1 Red Alert had) and the numbers 928. On either side of the letters/words is a ladder and fire hydrant. This alone is actually quite a bit more work than I expected
from a redeco of this sculpt. Other details include a huge Autobot symbol on the hood and the words "Fire Rescue" on both the hood and the spoiler. At the rear of the vehicle, where the license plate would be is the word "Chief" painted in white letters on a black background. The small lights on both the front and rear are painted yellow, which looks great contrasting against the red. I also love the black strip with silver details in between the top and bottom sections of the car's front.

The fault I found in this mode is not in the design or concept, but rather in the execution. The car doors are made of translucent plastic (the smokey color seen on previous releases). This means the white has to be painted on to the car doors, which is fine, but the application on mine was sloppy (and the other one I saw on the shelf was no better). The white paint bleeds over onto the windshield, so if you swing the doors up to open them, you'd find white paint lines at the edge of the windshield, which just looks bad. Granted, this is not a flaw that every single toy in this run may have, but for it to even be an issue when none of the other versions of this mold has a similar problem is quite disappointing.

Robot Mode:
I was kind of surprised at the colors chosen for the robot mode. Although I had seen the Inferno sample (I know, it's misnamed in the gallery) at OTFCC, the gold color didn't quite register until I had this in front of me. Inferno's central body piece, upper arms, lower legs and feet are all gold color. The upper legs and lower arms are black. The same translucent smokey colored plastic from the windshield and doors is used for the front of the shoulders and the chest piece. While the vehicle mode was a bit sloppy, the robot mode is very clean. The central body piece is gold, but has red and silver details painted on to it. The lower legs are cast in gold plastic, but they are mostly painted red. The translucent chest piece has silver and red details and the Autobot symbol (and its border) is painted dark blue. While I understand they were trying to do something different than past releases where this Autobot symbol and border were metallic red, the blue is too dark to really stand out, and it gets lost in the dark plastic. Had the symbol been red, it could have stood out more and still worked with the red found on other parts of his body.

The two circles on his shoulder are both painted yellow. The mechanical details surrounding them are silver. Yellow was a good choice as it brings color continuity between the vehicle mode and the robot mode. The robot head is cast in white with the top half painted red. The face is silver and the eyes are gold. I actually would have preferred to see light blue eyes (as a further G1 Autobot homage), but it's hardly a big deal.

The missile launchers are all black, and the missiles are in the dark, smokey translucent plastic with the ends painted in a light blue to darker blue color. This is a nice touch as blue generally represents a pure flame, and it's not just a copy of Sunstreaker's missiles (which went from dark blue to light blue). The only problem is I think the mold is beginning to show evidence of wear and tear. These launchers work on the principle of launching missiles by pushing them at the back and causing enough stress to build up so they'll pop out. This is done by having the ball at the center of the launcher hold tightly to the launcher end. However, on the left side launcher of my Inferno, the "claw" that is supposed to grip the ball of the missile is so loose, it doesn't launch the missile properly. Now, I did check with a couple friends who say that their Infernos do not have this problem, so hopefully I just got a bum launcher out of the thousands that are out there. But still, this never happened with any previous versions of this toy I own, so it is a bit worrisome.

So, I'm a bit torn here. On the one hand, I love the homage that Inferno represents, I love the mold that he is a redeco of and overall, I like the new color scheme. The details such as the ladder and hydrant in the door symbols are great. However, at the same time, I think the quality assurance on this particular toy missed a couple things that shouldn't have been missed (if past versions of this sculpt are any indicator). In the end, if you do want this toy, you should inspecit it thoroughly when you see it in the stores. See if it has the windshield "bleeding" I mention above, and if you discover the missile launcher is defective, I do suggest returning it later on to see if you can exchange it for a better one. For those who already own this mold a few times over, if you're not a completist, then this may not be worth your time.

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