Friday, May 29, 2009

Toybox of Fail: Transformatrix

First time here? Please take a moment and read the Toybox of FAIL Disclaimer. Thanks!

"And now for something completely different."

Years ago I picked up today's FAIL at a Dollar Store. Since I wasn't reviewing Bootlegs at the time, it ended up sitting on a shelf in my LEGO workshop, all but forgotten. Over time it must have migrated to a pile on the floor...and from there it slid under one of my rolling sorting bins.

That's where I found it while working on a bit LEGO build recently. Dusty, forgotten, and hiding under a cart.

Hardly a heroic move...but what do you expect from a bootleg? Even if it a knock off of the uber-heroic Optimus Prime...

Say hello to Transformatrix the Light Up Action Figure! He comes carded on cheap cardboard with a flimsy plastic blister! Fun from the get go!

Yes, a this is a Transformers knock-off. I don't know a lot about anything past the earliest Transformer releases, so I can't be sure this isn't a direct copy of an existing TF mold. I hope not, though, as there are some really crappy things about the design of this toy. (I'm sure someone more knowledgeable on this topic will chime in - be sure to check the comments section.)

I must admit that he looks pretty bad-ass here, though. He comes with a gun and axe as accessories - both look like actual Transformer accessories to me. Well, cheap and brittle recasts of Transformer accessories, anyway...

This guy does come with an "action feature"...

A push-button Red LED in his chest! If you read the Undiscovered Playthings blog you already know that "LEDs in the Chest" became something of a standard bootleg feature in recent years. This guy is one of the early adopters of that trend.

The back shows the two versions of this toy that were available. I passed on the second version, not knowing that in a year or two the Transformers Movie would be changing Optimus' look.

There's also a mailing address for the distributor. Smart move, that.

Looks pretty good in truck form if you don't mind those gaping holes.

Wait...gaping holes????

Yes. Gaping holes.

As mentioned earlier, the transformation leaves a bit to be desired. Giant holes in the cab of the truck allow for the arms and head to be snapped on. And when he transforms back into a truck, the arms and head apparently are just left lying on the ground for scavengers to pick up and recycle.

Another FAIL was in the quality control - they didn't screw this guys right leg together! As a result, the pins that hold the legs together in the truck form pull the leg assembly apart when you switch back. There's some quality fun right there...

...but, really, how much quality can you expect for a buck these days?

Even in a bootleg...

Episode 696

Read the comic here.

While the strip sometimes (okay, often) heads off into unscripted territory, the underlying structure has always been the feud between Scotch and his brother. It's just taken me nearly 700 strips to get to the point where I could reveal that little tidbit.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Toybox of FAIL: Farm

First time here? Please take a moment and read the Toybox of FAIL Disclaimer. Thanks!

Little White Dragon has a very strange sense of place and history. The Pirate series started out with a Pirate...but ended up in the Wild West. City started out at a gas station...and ended up on Mars.

I'm a bit worried as to where today's journey will lead. We start out on a Farm.

*Whew*. It is a farm!

It says so on the box! And look at that Happy Farmer! Everything is going to be okay this time!

Oh, sure there are some very distinctive Non-LEGO parts in the kit. But we've seen so much of that in the past that we're almost immune. Maybe these are Playmobil molds. (If someone recognizes, them, be sure to post in the comments!)

And here's our happy farmer. SO happy is he, in fact, that he doesn't have any pants on. That's kind of awkward.

And he's wearing a black hat. That's never a good sign.

Maybe things are a little more sinister than I thought.

Here's the full playset. You have a leafy orange plant...that seems benign.

And a shovel. That fits the theme.

And a field of wheat or corn. Creepy, but still logical.

But...why does our Pantless Farmer have a hammer?

Looks like he wants to talk to us...

"The world is full of sinners. I will cleanse them all.
I will pound them clean. With my hammer. With my LOVE."

Um. I think it's best if we back away slowly from this bootleg.

And don't make eye contact with that farmer....

I mean...oh no. he's spotted us.



Oh. And, just for the record, I figured out what line LWD has been knocking off. It's not LEGO. It's not Playmobil. It's the knock-off...sorry...."Fully Compatible with Major Brands"... "Best Lock". Check out their Farm set.

Yep. That's the same parts as today's FAIL.

So LWD is cloning the clones.

A sad, pale Xerox of a Xerox.

As always, many thanks to Joe from The Undiscovered Playthings for sending me this set to review.

Episode 695

Read the comic here.

Yes, I planned this from day one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Toybox of Fail: City (Yet Again)

First time here? Please take a moment and read the Toybox of FAIL Disclaimer. Thanks!

Yesterday, we reviewed a Little White Dragon bootleg called City. Today, we review another Little White Dragon bootleg called City.

Monday's City bootleg was a set that seemed to be appropriately titled - a gas station is indeed something you'd find in a common city. Tuesday we had to give up on logic as we were presented with a City set featuring a robot who lives on the moon.

What will today hold? Town or Space? Maybe a Space Town? Or something even more unexpected?

Why, a moon buggy! And, judging from the red sand he's driving around on...he's on MARS!

Maybe he's on his way to a City.

The mini-figure has the same general features of the other LWD people we've seen - a non-LEGO body with a LEGO-cloned hat. The visor on the helmet is non-LEGO, though - it barely attaches to the helmet at all. Why they didn't just copy the visor design is a mystery that will never be solved.

...or maybe not. The figure style and many of the mysterious parts from previous LWD FAILs have been identified as being cloned from the clone brand Best Lock. Yes, for some strange reason LWD decided that making knock-off LEGO models was best done using molds swiped from a LEGO competitor.

Sure. Why not?

We also have an answer to the mystery of where the figure shown in yesterday's "City Set" label came from. Apparently this fellow is the mascot for the LWD City-Space subset.

The set itself is similar to the classic LEGO Space set Crater Crawler. Except that it sucks. Still - "realistic" space vehicles tend to be on the minimalistic side, so maybe this design isn't all that bad.

But I still don't know why this set is labeled "City". You think LWD could have sold more of them by calling them "SPACE".

I suppose the day that bootleg toys start to make sense is a long way off.

Light years away.

As always, many thanks to Joe from The Undiscovered Playthings for sending me this set to review.

Episode 694

Read the comic here.

As is her purpose, Mary Sue stands in for the reader to point out that despite the promise of simplification, things have gotten confusing again.

Bilbo speaks for me, showing how straight forward and linear everything is.

Fox points out that, as usual, I'm full of it.

Tomorrow: An actual plot point. I promise.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Toybox of FAIL: City (Again)

First time here? Please take a moment and read the Toybox of FAIL Disclaimer. Thanks!

Today, another something new and different! A set called....City!

Yeah, yeah. I know, I already did that joke with the multiple Pirate sets last week. But, sadly, we're in for another round of repetition as Little White Dragon rolls out yet another in their Playmobil/LEGO hybrid line. It's time once again for City!

As you can see, it's another Town-esque rip-off that....hold on.

That's a robot.

On the MOON.

Zooming in, we confirm it's a City Set. Says so right there on the label.

Maybe they mean a city on the moon. Let me look at the box again.

Hrm. No. No city there. Just the vacuum of space. And a giant robot looking for a hug.

I've had a few requests for instruction sheets to be included with the more interesting FAILs, so here you go. One City Robot instruction sheet. Not that it'll do you any good. Most of the key elements here are non-LEGO clone bricks.

Here's a detail shot of some of the more unusual bits. The grey technic pin is a direct-from-LEGO steal, but the "tube with clip" in new. The gear-shift/antennae almost look to be a superior mold...until you try and assemble them. Both of mine ended up with cracked bases and thus extremely floppy levers. Not exactly a hopeful sign.

Still, the toy went together okay, and even looks something like the box art.

There's a real problem with this set, though. And for once it has more to do with the design of the set than the crappy quality of the parts. Take a close look at the side angle above. Notice anything odd?

Like...say...the fact that the head is just resting on the shoulders without being attached in any way?

Now go back and look at those "super valuable" instructions.

Yep, this is the way this toy was designed. With a removable head.

I'm sure having your head fall off at the slightest movement is a feature, not a bug. Personally, I think Little White Dragon has been reading too many Microsoft press releases.

But either way, this City is still FAIL.

UPDATE: Author cannot follow simple instructions!

"Suck it, Doyle. Suck it hard."

Yes, it's sad but true. I served myself a big portion of FAIL with this review. Turns out if you pay attention to which direction the hollow studs are pointing on those two 90° angle plates the robot's head and torso actually assemble into a nearly solid mass.

That said, step 2 in the instructions can't actually be performed as shown - you have to clip the yellow plate onto the completed sub-assembly, not just slide it in as the diagram shows.

No, it's not much of a defense. But I just hate being bested by a bootleg.

As always, many thanks to Joe from The Undiscovered Playthings for sending me this set to review.

Episode 693

Read the comic here.

The nice thing about the Red Herrings is that they work on so many levels. herring or not, the Red Herrings are still vital to our lack-of-plot plot, as the next few strips will clarify.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Toybox of FAIL: City

First time here? Please take a moment and read the Toybox of FAIL Disclaimer. Thanks!

Today, another something new and differrent! A set called....Pirate!

Okay, just kidding. We're moving on to a new sub-series in the Little White Dragon bootleg line. We've left the worlds of the Western Mutant Pirate behind us and traveled to...the CITY!

There isn't an exact match in the LEGO catalog for this bootleg, but the basic construction of the pumps has been around since 1986's Service Station.

Here's the collection of odd parts. The hose assembly is actually a duplicate of LEGO construction, but normally LEGO would have attached the ends before sending the product out to consumers. LWD, unsurprisingly, had no such concern. The handle for the hose is non-LEGO, as is the briefcase. Both are very close to their LEGO origins, but scale and details have been modifed enough to suggest these are new molds - or at least molds copied from yet another innocent victim.

The mini-figure has a standard LEGO expression on his face, but considering the odd geometry of the piece used for the head I can't claim it's a direct copy of LEGO's design. The hair, at least, is definitely not a LEGO part - a switch from the cloned hats in the LWD Pirate sets.

Here's the whole set. Note the giant pliars/scissors and drill; strage tools for a gas station attendant. "Wash your windshield? No? How about I trim some hedges for you?"

This set feels more like a Playmobil set than a LEGO knock-off to me. Maybe that's just the packaging getting to me, though. Or the fumes from the plastic.

Yeah, gotta be the fumes.

As always, many thanks to Joe from The Undiscovered Playthings for sending me this set to review.

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day here in the US. I hope everyone has an enjoyable day off - but that we all also take at least a few moments to reflect on just why the office is closed today.

The Toybox of Fail will auto-publish as normal, but the comic will be up much later, maybe tomorrow.