GoBots Puzzler Review
Posted 14 January 2012 - 03:35 AM
I never liked GoBots much... I had a few as a kid (the blue Leader-1, Scooter, Scoops, the sub, the helicopter, the seaplane, the ambulance, a couple of others) and I liked that they were Matchbox-sized and partially metal, but the robot modes rarely looked good and the show was terrible. Once I got into collecting Transformers around 1999, naturally I investigated GoBots as well, and remembered Puzzler vaguely. I was impressed that he managed to beat Transformers to the punch of combining without any extra parts. I never really sought one out, but I'd occasionally see a crapped-up version at BotCon for way too much money and think, "hm, I should find one of those." Today, it worked out. So... worth the $50? Let's see...
PART I: MINT ON CARD
These must have been deadstock, discovered in some warehouse recently and distributed around Chinatown. The store owner said this was his "last set," implying he'd had more, and both this shop and another one had multiple mint-in-box Stax-es for $20 each (I didn't bite on those--robots should have heads, dammit). And as you can see, these cards were in nearly perfect shape, just a little warped from the years of storage. Three were unpunched! Hard to believe they're over 25 years old. Anyway, the packaging is nice. Unlike the carded Transformer combiner parts, these emphasize the combined mode more than the individuals. Each card has a large painted image and title of "PUZZLER," with a smaller image of the toy's alt-mode underneath. Plenty eye-catching and bright, and the art and title make it quite clear that these are part of a set. Especially nice is that under the individual name is "Giant Puzzler Leg" or similar. I like that, and it's definitely good for parents trying to figure out what to get their stupid kid for his stupid birthday. The back has simple but clear instructions on converting between the three modes, plus a cross-sell of all six components.
But there's also this: the packaging tells you nothing at all about who the hell these robots are. Are they here to help me? Should I be afraid of them? Not only is there no bio on the card, there's not even an indication of whether they're good or evil! And GoBots was supposed to be about good robots vs. bad robots! As much as I always say I'm all about nice-looking toys and don't care about the fiction, I recognize that part of Transformers' great success came from giving the toys personality and character to provide a play pattern for kids. That opportunity is totally missed here, and it's hard even for me not to miss it.
Seriously, was Puzzler a Guardian or a Renegade? I honestly don't know.
Next up, check out these shiny new toys broken free from their decades-long incardceration, in Part II: Vehicle Modes!
Posted 14 January 2012 - 04:01 AM
After slicing open all the bubbles, I had six shiny new GoBots. I transformed them all to vehicle mode immediately, and since that's where GoBots shine, that's what I'm covering next.
Basically, these things all look fantastic as cars. Well-proportioned, nice chrome accents, not too many visible seams, good painted detail. No clear windows, but that's to be expected given the size, and the windows are painted either grey or black in a nice attempt to contrast with the different car colors. There are painted details like taillights and striping, a few stickers, and lovely free-rolling rubber wheels. They've all got lots of metal in their frames, so they've got a good heft, too. They're bigger than the Matchbox-size GoBots, but smaller than Diaclones or even Omnibots. All in all, these look almost as good on a shelf as the early Transformers--with some, of course, inviting obvious direct comparison.
Rube may be my favorite. I always love it when alt-modes look like things to which I'd never give a second glance--just an average car on the street, couldn't possibly be a giant robot in disguise. And he's a well-executed Mercedes towncar, complete with logo on the grill. I wouldn't be surprised to still see one today. Just suits my tastes perfectly.
Crossword may be my least favorite. Kind of an ugly orange Porsche, with a strange decal on the hood. Still, nice detail with the venting in the back, and the window trim.
Jigsaw isn't great either, really. He's a mostly-white presumably-police car. No markings, none of Prowl's interesting details, just a white car with black trim and odd police lights. But hey, police cars tend to look boxy and crappy, so again, points for some kind of realism. I certainly wouldn't look twice at this on the street. Well, in 1985 I wouldn't.
Zig Zag is Bluestreak, or pretty darn similar. I like the blue color, and there are nice sculpted and painted details.
Pocket is famously Sunstreaker, of course. Good Lamborghini, but Transformers has done so many of those that I find it kind of boring. Still, the yellow-and-black combo is nice, and the chrome headlights and taillights are a great touch.
And finally, Tic Tac, who bears something of a resemblance to Road Rage. There's always got to be a red sportscar. The hood stickers add a little more color, and there seems to be some kind of molded logo on the hood and back, maybe Corvette?
So yeah, that's six very nice little cars. Lots of attention to detail, very solid, and if someone saw them on a shelf, they wouldn't necessarily think they transformed. I'd give the alt-modes all very high marks.
Next up, probably tomorrow... PART III: ROBOT MODES!
Posted 15 January 2012 - 03:28 PM
When I was a kid, I remember joking with friends that Sideswipe's "GoBot robot mode" was just the car stood on its end, with the head visible underneath and the lower arms flipped forward. Let's see how these stack up to the stereotype.
Rube's not bad as a robot. This particular one has a bit of a sticky left foot--when you fold the car front forward, the wheel's supposed to pop back Automorph-style. Right side works, left side has to be pried out. The legs feel a bit loose when fully extended, and the grinding metal-on-metal waist swivel feels dangerous. Not much detail in the robot parts--no fists, just a smooth chestplate and a sticker, but the overall effect with the colors chosen is the decent enough. Articulation: waist swivel, shoulders.
Pocket: There's that famous Sunstreaker face! Pocket's got scrawny little-girl arms and molded open hands. Any other molded or colored robot mode detail is really car mode detail, since he's just the car stood on its end with bits flipped out. The colors are still nice, and the head sculpt tries to be interesting, though it's diminished by the blobs of black paint that suggest a ghost face from a distance. Legs didn't want to fully separate, a common problem throughout the set. Articulation: shoulders, head can swivel down.
Zig Zag: Hey, it's Rube again! Actually, while the transformation is identical, they don't share any parts. Even the chestplates are different. Ziggy actually has molded fists, which gives him an edge. But, he has a mushier face. Anyway, same story as Rube, right down to the loose leg extensions. Not bad overall. Articulation: shoulders, waist swivel.
Jigsaw: Okay, this one's pretty bad. First, those arms are terrible. They're too heavy for the sliders in the body, so they slip or sag down. Plus, the arms are too long and lack molded detail except for a vague notch, so they don't look like anything (I assumed this was for some component in the combination. The truth was worse, as we'll see in Part IV). The robot chest has some detail, but not much, and the only new color is a yellow sticker. And then there's the head... not only is it kind of a sad-and-confused-looking design to begin with, mine was glued in crooked. The only real positive this one brings to the table is more leg articulation, as evidenced by the "Mammy" pose above. But overall, just not good.
Crossword: OH GOD KILL IT KILL IT WITH FIRE
You know that creepy monster with the empty-eyed baby doll head from Toy Story? That's Crossword. Plus he has the same leg-split problem as Pocket, where they just won't divide all the way evenly. Just awful.
Tic Tac: Finally, by far my favorite of the set. Interesting face sculpt, nicely designed robot details, lots of chrome and some new colors. Just a neat-looking little dude, especially impressive given how much he has to do to create Puzzler's head and chest. Tic Tac and the two leg-bots are the ones I'd want on a shelf by themselves, even if they didn't combine. But Tic Tac just wins. Articulation: individual knees, shoulders, elbow swivel.
So that's the individual robots. Definitely a mixed bag, and definitely they don't compare to early Transformers in terms of sculpt, detail, designs, or general build quality. But the majority look pretty good for GoBots, and they don't betray a lot of obvious sacrifices for the sake of the combination. That alone is quite an accomplishment, especially since there's no combiner kibble. They've all got bright colors, judiciously-used stickers, lots of die-case metal heft, and they're all different molds (even if two of them are twins in terms of transformation design). Overall, they make a nice set.
Of course, they make an even nicer set when combined, so that'll be covered in PART IV: PUZZLER! Coming maybe later today.
Posted 15 January 2012 - 05:25 PM
There was a gift set of all 6 Puzzlers that listed them as Renegades and gave them short bios on the back. Pocket knows Karate, Crossword has super strength, TicTac is the brains, Jigsaw is a master of disguise, Rube has super senses, Zigzag has super speed. Most of themkinda makes sense, the arms are strong and know karate, the head is smart, the torso is the master of disguise, one leg is super fast, and making less sense, one leg has super senses!
Edited by mignash, 16 January 2012 - 11:56 AM.
Posted 16 January 2012 - 01:14 AM
Finally! This is what I bought these damn toys for, after all. By their powers combined, here's Puzzler!
Puzzler's really a fantastic bunch of guys. He's big and bulky, with well-defined parts and proportions. Surprisingly, every component fits together well and solidly. He's got a waist swivel, his shoulders are on a clever sort of ratcheting joint, and his arms can swing out freely as well due to the cars folding over to become his arms. This step is particularly interesting, as it really isn't necessary--the cars can be clipped on without the fold, and the fists can still flip out on the right side and the arms still swing. But the fold makes Puzzler bulkier, more visually interesting, and means every component actually transforms in a significant way to become part of the gestalt.
Once together, he's very heavy, but stands very easily and won't collapse under his own weight. The weakest link is his waist, as it's just two small plastic "pegs" (the sirens) into plastic slots, but he can still be picked up by his head or chest and moved without detaching. Well, most times, at least.
He has, I would say, two flaws I'd consider significant. First, he has kind of a doofy face. He's got a big flat nose, big lips, and the same sloppy paint found on the individual robots.
Second, Jigsaw's arms continue to suck. Not only are they not huge and ugly because of some need in the combination, as I'd assumed, they actually get in the way even more in the combined mode! They just pop out and hang there awkwardly, making Puzzler's enormous white car-gut even more pronounced. The best single engineering improvement this toy could've used would be a way to do something with the front half of Jigsaw. Even turning Jigsaw around so the back jutted out instead would've been good, or finding some way to use the arms to lock together the weak waist. Fortunately, the rest of him looks good enough to overcome the waist area, but it's pretty lame.
Here's Puzzler next to his closest Transformers analogue, Menasor. Frankly, he shows up his successor in many ways. He's the same size, but he's heavier, he's got about the same amount of articulation (okay, waist instead of knees), he holds together as well, all the cars deform in interesting ways to make up his components, and of course his greatest strength: he requires zero extra parts. I'm still amazed by that, since no Transformer would accomplish that for a decade, and even now it's not always the standard.
Overall: I'm very pleased with my purchase, and especially pleased with the chance to free six brand-new 25-year-old toys from their cards. Puzzler kind of rules. He's not just a pile of cars, or planes, or tanks, stuck to a block with long pegs and with a head, hands, and feet jammed on; he's coherent and self-contained. The Transformers combiners certainly have better sculpts, details, weapons, etc., but Puzzler more than holds his own.
In the end, feat of engineering though he may be, he's primarily held back by, well, his GoBot-ness, and all the crappy paint, weak detail, awful head sculpts, loose joints, and poor build quality that comes along with that--with the individual robots suffering far more than the car or combined modes. Still, he's as close as you can get to the hypothetical concept of a 1984 Diaclone car combiner, and I think that and his overall good looks will probably mean he'll end up on my 1984/1985 Autobot shelf. I wouldn't have expected a GoBot to crash that party, but I can't deny Puzzler earned it. Highly recommended.
Posted 16 January 2012 - 08:18 AM
Since My Puzzler is nowhere near the condition yours is in, I modified Jig Saw's lightbars so that they could rotate 360 degrees and get rid of that gut/crotch. He ends up with a pronounced back side, but...I think it's still better than the weird gut/crotch.
Posted 16 January 2012 - 08:25 AM
I wish I would have found this myself as I would have been all over it!
Posted 16 January 2012 - 09:34 AM
I'm not sure which are the two orange cars you're looking at, but they're red, orange and yellow.
Though the red is kinda orangey. And the yellow might lean that way a little as well.
Posted 16 January 2012 - 10:56 AM
Rather than Menasor, I think his closest TF counterpart is Devastator - both are 6-men gestalts at a basic pricepoint. It's just a shame some of the sculpting on Puzzler isn't more 'iconic'
Posted 16 January 2012 - 11:10 AM
Neat to see these. I only ever had (and still have) Tic Tac (I had completely blocked that such a cool robot had such a goofy name.
It was neat to get a closer look at the others here.
-ZacWilliam, still prefer the look of Menasor there but I appreciate the more complexe engineering of Puzzler
Or the proverbial ailerons of Titanium Moosebots?
*Visit the one and only Cybertronic Bestiary.
For a mechazoologic tour of the mechanimals of Cybertron.
Posted 16 January 2012 - 11:11 AM
I really like this review. Too many reviews overanalyze the toys instead of giving an honest opinion. It's also really cool to see old toys get uncarded.
Edited by Esser-Z, 16 January 2012 - 11:13 AM.
Posted 16 January 2012 - 11:41 AM
Not sure what this problem could be. Photobucket glitch? It all looks fine to me...
That's interesting. I guess they changed Crossword to orange to add more variety. It's funny how Tic Tac's original hood stickers even more suggest Road Rage. I think if this thing weren't in such pristine shape, I'd get some Tracks, Prowl and Autobot symbol Reprolabels and gussy it up.
That's exactly what it seems to me he should've looked like. It'd also make the crotch less visually interesting, since it'd just be a bunch of hinges and joints, but I think it'd be worth it.
I thought Jigsaw's hood should maybe fold down, but that'd look too much like a diaper. Really, if the arms could just clip on to Tic Tac in some way to make Puzzler's waist totally solid, that'd be ideal.
That's what impresses me most. I've owned GoBots, and these only suffer from the usual GoBot lameness. They really don't sacrifice anything for the combination.
That's fair. I just figured Menasor had a more comparable appearance. But yeah, Devastator is just as appropriate for different reasons, and Puzzler certainly holds together better and doesn't require all that kibble.
Thanks! Not knowing much about GoBots, I wasn't sure how great the deal was, but assumed it was a good one since the cards were so perfect and it was all obviously brand-new. After a little eBay scouring, it seemed like it was a special enough find to warrant some photo documentation. Glad you enjoyed the review!