Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: Rampage and Depth Charge

Well, folks, you can thank Labor Day for this one.  When my two favorite
record stores were both closed for the holiday, a trip to the suburbs
became a maniacal search for the two Ultra Transmetals, which took me from
King of Prussia to Cherry Hill to the middle of New Jersey and back.  U-2
provided the theme song as I braved high winds, thunderstorms, heavy
traffic, and strip malls... "In the name of love...."  And they continued
to do so as I returned to Philly in the darkness: "I still haven't found
what I'm looking for..."  As I got back into town I decided to take a
five-minute detour to my usual Walmart (Delaware Ave) before calling it a
night, just in case, even though I'd checked there two days before.  I
checked the normal spot... nothing, just the usual peg warmers and two
Tripredacuses that refuse to sell.  Remembering tales of other ATTers, I
scanned the rest of the aisle... and there, tucked away on the upper shelf
on the opposite side, were a bunch of BW boxes I'd never seen before.  I
didn't have to look twice.  I grabbed 'em and headed for the register;
Survivor provided the closing theme for the night: "The search is over;
you were right before my eyes..."  Damn, all that driving for nothin'. :]

The boxes are about the same size as the combiner teams, but thinner and
turned on end.  They both have the attractive packaging style begun by
Optimal Optimus.  $19.76 at Walmart.  For some reason they come with an
older catalogue than OpOp, which shows the combiners and most of last
year's normal beasts (Spittor, Retrax, K9, etc.)

RAMPAGE: As others have reported, his crab claws are freakin' HUGE.
Together they're as big as his main body.  They're jointed, of course, but
in an odd way -- the hinge is almost in the middle of his crab forearm, 
rather than the base of the claw.

The crab mode looks awesome; however, to my disapointment, it doesn't seem
possible to stand him on his legs.  I was expecting tighter ball joints on
such a large figure.  His crab eyes are a bit smaller than I expected from
the show, and are nearly hidden beneath his back armor (large orange
chrome piece.)  The crab jaws are hinged sideways, like Scavenger's
mandibles, meaning he can open and close his mouth... but in doing so 
he bangs his eyes against his shell.  Ouch.  The "hell belcher" cannon (as it's been
dubbed by HooperX aka EmarZero) sticks out from under his face in this
mode, but can be removed if you like.  The cannon has a single rubber
wheel under it that, when spun, causes the barrels to rotate Gatling-style, which in turn
causes the missiles to fire in very rapid succession.  Color-wise he's not
such a mess as previous Transmetals have been, mainly because the 4 or 5
shades of red and orange all blend into one another -- he's like a walking
sunset.  Elsewhere are purple (mainly the crab claws), greyish black (crab
legs) and light grey.  A good mix, especially in crab mode where the
purple and orange chrome dominate.

Transformation to robot mode is surprisingly simple, and similar enough to
some other recent TFs that it almost feels like one of those wierd
oversized knock-offs.  The transformation in question is also used on
Airazor, and somewhat on Rattrap.  The torso piece unfolds from underneath the
animal parts by two hinges near the shoulders, and snaps into position 
against the backpack.  The waist follows a similar procedure, and his robot legs 
unswing from being balled up underneath him (like Retrax).  It's an 
easy way to get a good looking beast mode (just tuck the robot underneath the animal) 
but with the backpacks we're getting I really think the designers need to investigate some new
approaches... in retrospect it's to Optimal Optimus's credit that he
doesn't use this approach.  I had some trouble getting Rampage's head to come
all the way out; it has to be turned forwards before swinging the chest
piece down. 

And yes, as also reported, Rampage does have a helluvalotta backpack.  Not
only that, he has giant shoulder pads with one pair of crab legs attached
to them; they stick out and double his width -- it's got to be hard to 
walk through doorways with all that junk.  The other two pairs of crab legs 
hang off of his forearms, which is an extremely awkward place for them -- 
imagine if you had two arms growing
from *each* of your wrists.  That's what Rampage has, and it makes posing
his arms rather difficult.  Although the little tank wheel between them
does look like a cool weapon.  His claws hang off his back and reach
almost to the ground (if it weren't for them he'd have very good robot
proportions.)  And the last bit of kibble is his crab antennae, which
stick out of his abdomen and just hang there.  His robot face looks a
little odd to me, again because I'm used to the sharply defined and
somewhat simplified cartoon rendition.  The toy version looks like a
knock-off by comparison... but it's basically the same as we see on the
show.  He has molded... crab skin, I guess.  It's this irregularly
indented stuff.  I like it... much better than the molded fur that most
earlier TMs have. 

Sheesh -- that's the famous "shotgun"??  It looks like a little brown
stick, about the same size as TM Waspinator's "weapon".  I was expecting
something more substantial, like G2 Dreadwing's small missile-launching
guns.  The hell-belcher dwarfs it.  Ah well.  He comes with three
missiles, and sadly, they're too small to draw atomic and peace symbols

Okay, now for the challenge... to get him into tank mode.  I'm going to
have to cheat and look at the box, 'cause I have NO idea how to get these
rubber strips (which fold up inside his claws, secured there by two of his
wheels) around the other three wheels, which are located among the ball
joint bases of his crab legs.  Dang... to get in the right position for
tank mode, the crab arms have to be manipulated a number of odd ways.  The
small half of the claws end up as front bumpers while the large halves
raise up to shelter the treads.  THE TRICKS: 1) there are two pegs, one on
his crab arms and one on hs chrome back shield.  When the large claw
halves are in the right position, the pegs and holes will lock together
and hold the claws in place.  2) what to do with the crab legs -- fold the
front pair into an upside down V and push them into the claw, angle the
rear pair forwards but still inside the tread, and push the middle pair in
so that the ends are lying forwards on his back shield like an extra pair
of cannons.  3) Make sure the robot legs are spread apart, not tucked
together, so they don't interfere with the hell belcher's rubber tread. 

OH!!  I just remembered something... [*dig dig* *change change* *plop!*]
Welll, howdy!!  Getting Quickstrike to stand on Rampage's back is not the
easiest of tasks, and at the slightest bump he slides right off of that
smooth chrome surface.  No wonder he got run over...  

Anyway, I'm afraid the treads just don't roll that well, no matter how 
you position the crab legs.  The base of the legs is what really gets in 
the way, and there's no way to move that.  Fortunately the hell belcher's 
single wheel is there to take up the slack, allowing him to putter along 
on your tabletop.  He's about as wide as he is long in this mode.  The 
treads are thin and seem rather diminutive compared to the rest of his 
massive bulk.  Still, this is one of the  best looking TM vehicles 
we've gotten.  As I'd hoped, he really does  look like a strange cross 
between a crab and a World War I tank. 

Overall: Gimmick-wise, a rather ambitious attempt which doesn't quite
work.  Still, I really appreciate the thought.  He looks great and is tons
of fun, and is a much better buy at $20 than OpOp was for $30. 

DEPTH CHARGE:  Jeez, I haven't even gotten him out of the package, unlike
Rampage whose twisty ties are littering the back seat of my car along with
countless others.  Oops.  The inner box liner got somehow taped to the inside
of the outer box, and when I pulled it out through the bottom of the box the top
flap came with it.  Ah well, I'm no box freak.  Hey, cool, he has a long
3-segmented tail, like a real ray... For some reason these twisty ties are
not only wrapped about twenty times each, but they're covered with packing
tape -- that's how my box got ripped.  What's next?  A padlock? 

Cool! He comes with a little "cybershark drone" that looks like a tiny
great white which swallowed a torpedo whole.  Since it's an animal
companion like the Cyberbee obviously this means he's Scorponok, rebuilt
by the aliens into a Maximal, just as Optimal Optimus is Optimus Prime and
Optimus Primal fused into one being by the Matrix, the same way Megatron
and Megatron are rebuilt into Unicron by the aliens, which is why they
seeded the planet with energon to destroy it because they're humans from
the future trying to keep the human race from evolving by creating it.... 
oh gods, I've been reading Season 3 speculation again, forgive me... 
anyway, the cybershark attaches to his underside for storage. 

Not only do they have Depth Charge tied to the package, they've got him tied to
himself!!  Several of the twisties are just wrapped around his components
for no discernable reason.  Damn, if they have to keep him tied up like
this he *must* be -- umm, *serious*, as Ben put it.  More I shouldn't say,
not that I know much more... Okay, he's free to maneuver.  Good grief that
was an ordeal.

In manta ray mode he is a big ol' hunk of Transmetalness.  The tail about
doubles his length.  Getting it to stay on is a bit tricky; the ball joint
is on a hinged piece, and it's easier to get the tail on if you swing it
down, attach the tail and swing it back up.  The end splits off to become
a sword, while the directions instruct you to use the remainder to help
balance him in robot mode (I am not making this up!)  His mouth is a long rectangular slit that makes him look like a
flying vacuum cleaner.  He lauches yellow disks from it, sorta like Laser
Optimus's trailer-mounted disk launcher, but these kinda remind me of
pizzas for some reason, probably because the mouth looks like a pizza
oven.  I can almost see him shouting "Eat hot pizza, Predacons!!"  The
lauching action, which is rather weak, is triggered by a little dorsal fin
on his back.  The pizzas fire better if you load them properly, which is
done by lifting a big chrome panel on the top of his manta "head" to
expose a round chamber that will hold all seven of the disks... well,
there *were* seven... one seems to have gone AWOL...  The cybershark also
fires two regular missiles, and unlike the pizza launcher, these things
have got some kick to them...

Depth Charge's "wings" are gently curved and have two
hinge joints, allowing them to flap up and down like a real ray -- the
kind of thing the original Terrorsaur needed.  Their undersides have a
nicely molded techno-organic look to them, and also have raised Maximal
symbols like OpOp, although these are highlighted with gold chrome.  Gold
chrome also covers his "head", while the rest of his body is blue with
purple and yellow trim, and a light grey tail and "mandibles".  IMO it's
not a very attractive combination, looking a bit too much like Nightbeat's
preschoolish scheme, but at least it's not messy.  BTW the "mandibles" are
soft rubber and will bend sideways a bit with no damage. 

Whoa.  This guy's transformation is COOL!  The best I've seen in quite a
while.  He comes apart in all sorts of ways.  Basically the manta head and
"spine" stay in place, while everything else rearranges around them.  The
waist pieces and legs swivel around the chest piece via a complicated pair
of levers that reminds me of those systems that garbage trucks use to pick
up dumpsters and unload them.  The manta mouth ends up on his chest, while
the eyes and brows end up as his lower legs.  Waist snaps together in the manner of
Inferno, Silverbolt, Cicadacon, etc.  The wrists pop open Transmetal
Optimus-style, to allow gold chrome fists to rotate out.  His backpack 
isn't as bad as one might think, since it's basically just his manta 
wings and the stuff holding them; the problem is that it's 
cantalevered out a couple of inches.  If they'd made his manta "spine" 
collapsable (allowing the wings to hang closer to his body) he'd stand 
up much better in robot mode, but I believe that would interfere with 
the pizza-firing mechanism. 

His robot-mode face is Mr. Unhappy, sporting a big mean-lookin' frown.  It
turns back and forth, and he looks like he is searching for someone's butt
to kick.  His torso is stout, but he has good proportions IMO -- the thick
body just makes him look tough.  I'm still not sure what to do with the
wings... do they go up?  Down?  Folded?  Unfolded?  He has double knee
joints, and those wierd rubber mandibles end up sticking out from between
the two joints.  He also has a chrome mudflap covering his butt -- wait,
forget I said that... Ah, rotate the wings forward, into the space 
between the body and the supports, and he's not quite as top-heavy. 

The pieces holding his wings are the equivalent of Rampage's crab arms in
complexity.  They have five joints each, making it hard to tell which way
they're supposed to go.  Getting him back to ray mode is NOT easy.  The
garbage truck levers have to be in JUST the right spot, and they tend to
not stay together -- one slips out of place, then the other while you're
fixing it.  TRICKS for going back to manta ray mode: 1) Remember, the
"eyes" on his robot-mode chest are NOT the same eyes as his manta ray
mode; like TM Megatron, they're purely decorative.  2) Push the legs out
of the way, snap the blue waist piece onto its peg on the side of his
manta ray face, THEN fold the leg up to form the side of his face.  Much
easier than trying to do it all at once. 

Spacecraft mode just consists of unhooking the wings, extending their
levers straight out, and rotating them to the verticle position, like
giant tailfins.  Not very impressive, but also not nearly as much trouble
as Rampage.  This "mode" really seems like an afterthought... and it 
looks like a cross between a mechanical manta ray and a TIE Fighter 
from Star Wars. 

Overall: Doesn't look quite as cool as Rampage, and gimmicks aren't nearly
as ambitious... but he's still very good.  Worth it for the challenging
transformation alone.  Though if you can only get one, definately make it

And with that, I begin a long vacation from Transformer-hunting...
Robert Powers of the Ever-Changing .sig [Architecture & misc.] [Transformers]_________________
| Too embarrassed to admit just how far into NJ I went yesterday...|

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