As a kid I had a special love for the G1 Insecticons and they are the one group where my fondness leans far more to their original toys rather than the cartoon. Whenever new toys of the G1 Insecticons show up in any form - Liam's eyes go large. Kickback more than any of the others has always been in my top 10 Transformers list for oh....*checks watch*...about 30 years.
So what do we have here, in this box kindly sent along by TFS Express (via Maz)? Well, that would be a test shot of Forager - Fanstoys take on a Masterpiece Kickback. The first two member of the group were big hits and Grenadier almost single handedly turned me around on Fanstoys with his big lump of angry faceplated evil.
I have high hopes, I hope you can tell. If not, I am telling that I have high hopes.
Continue after the jump to see the full review of Fanstoys Forager
*Please remember that this is a test shot so may feature issues that are not found on the final figure
Before we dive into it, this review is the first run out of my brand new camera. So if you notice a jump in image quality, I will be blaming it on getting to grips with F-Stops, exposures and focal lenghts. In future this should mean much better photos.
Or I have wasted a ton of money.
First thing you need to know about Forager is that he transforms into a robot Grasshopper just as Generation 1 Kickback did. Really, there's some trickery going on here because from a distance this could be mistaken for the vintage toy by people misremembering a Transformer and saying "I had that one when I was a kid".
We all have those friends.
Kickback was predominantly black, so obviously Fanstoys Forager follows, but several other colours pop beautifully. The unified colour scheme of the Insecticons has always been a favourite of mine, with each featuring heavy uses of black, and then less dominant silver, yellow and purple that would make Prince proud (RIP great man). Supplementary colours like red and blue highlight small details to add some contrast to the long stretches of black.
Other colours like red and blue pop up to highlight small details, but really everything about Forager is robo insectagoth. As someone who regularly vocalises his dislike for chrome you can tell I don't handle it often by the amount of times you can see my mucky fingerprints all over it in these photos. Hinges allow the wings to fold outwards or inwards and I will hold my hands up and begrudgingly concede the chrome actually looks lovely here.
Forager continues the trend of dubious attempts at weapon storage we have seen with each of this group of Insectbots. Each of them have stored the weapon in a similar place at the back in between the legs. Here we probably have the worst example as on the previous figures the gun pegged in and sort of hid underneath but here it sits in a hole looking a little...suggestive?
Previous Fanstoys insect robots (it is getting harder trying to not just call them Insecticons!) came packaged with two sets of legs. One, a set of modern super articulated legs, and the other a replacement set styled more in keeping with Generation 1. Forager lacks the alternative set because his legs are fairly on point to G1 already, but still had scope for plenty of articulation.
Purple back legs are solid and have a couple of joints but work on the idea that you pose the whole leg from the hip, rather than just the purple part. In stark contrast to this, the front legs split into two and are covered in joints that can work against getting him planted. Reason for this being that his purple claws are angled so never sit flat against any surface and trying to adjust him can make the arms split.
That is a very minor thing to gripe about and the legs fit in well with whichever set of legs you picked for Grenadier and Mercenary to wear, which is why Fanstoys didn't need to include another set.
Foragers robot face is completely hidden by a mask which I feel deserves far more credit and time than I'm giving it but it's a wicked touch and there are a couple of those in this mode.
As far as alt modes go this is a pretty great modern version of that approach. Sure it looks mostly like the robot mode lying down with his head spun round but then that is exactly what G1 Kickback was.
The original Insecticon toys didn't take much to transform, you swivelled a waist, maybe a head and you were about done. Fanstoys have created a brand new transformation that takes cues from the original but with many modern additions.
No where is this more evident than on the head which lifts up and splits in half to allow the faceplate to fold in and the face to fold out in a way I can see other companies aping in future. That sets an innovative tone that the toy does continue with but it is about to get a bit fiddly.
Before you can transform the arms you need to rotate the wing forward in a particular way to allow you to open a clasp on the chromed ring. On this test shot, one of those was snapped off because it's such a small fragile piece. Fortunately it goes back into place and holds securely which if anything makes future transformations a little easier.
Once you have then rotated it into the correct position, a gap is created which allows you to pull the robot arms out of Foragers back with some force. On this test shot they locked in very snugly and required a bit of effort to get out but as soon as they do pop out you can spin the arms and the bugs legs on a resistant joint that again applies unwanted pressure to the plastic rail. It is not made from flimsy plastic but I can't recommend enough bracing it and trying to be as gentle as possible.
As a whole it's a very inventive and clever way to tackle Kickbacks transformation and on the surface the individual steps are all quite straightforward. But Fanstoys have this flair for throwing in something right in the middle of otherwise brilliant design to slow you down and make you scream curse words at the toy.
*Has flashbacks to the rotating piece in Spotters back packs.
Once transformed Fanstoys present you with a stunning looking robot mode who perfectly replicates the animation model from the classic cartoon with a few flourishes from the original toy thrown in to add some extra detail.
Doesn't he just look exactly like Kickback? Is there anything else you'd expect from a Masterpiece Kickback? It is breathtaking how close they have got it to the cartoon and by default the vintage toy, who was pretty well matched to the animation model.
Fanstoys cop a lot of grief over their faces but Forager looks spot on to G1 Kickback. Glossy, candy red on the visor draws you straight to it above everything else on the toy owing to how striking and contrasting it is to the mass of black, yellow and purple.
Calling this a clean robot mode is not doing it justice. If you were being harsh, you could argue the wings are technically kibble, but they are Kickbacks signature feature so it would be a silly thing to argue.
The clean approach even extends to Foragers back where there is virtually no kibble - but there is a slot for his gun to store like a novelty backpack. Someone needs to make a Jake from Adventure Time back pack accessory for this guy.
If you have read my reviews of Fanstoys Grenadier and Forager you will recall that my biggest gripe was that regardless of which set of bug legs you chose there was never a satisfying way to store them. They just hang out there on their backs and it was up to you to try and tidy them up as best you could. Fanstoys left you to it.
Thankfully they have managed to come up with an incredibly neat solution for Forager, no doubt aided by having fewer legs and parts to shift about.
Articulation is great and with him being unencumbered by back kibble he feels more intuitive to pose. There's not much in the way of ball joints here, everything feels more premium with smooth swivel joints that give you as good a range of motion as ball joints but provide a high quality feel.
His feet may be little, but the painted purple die cast is flat and keeps him planted securely with very little strife. Heel spurs come in the form of his bug mode legs folded up onto the backs of his legs, and the lack of back kibble means there's not much chance of toppling over. In fact he is incredibly fun to move and mess with because of that lack of kibble and the tightness of the joints.
For a test shot there is nothing loose at all and if the version shipped to retail is anything like this I'll be totally happy.
Multiple accessories have been packed in with each so far, but this test shot of Forager only came with one gun, a clear extra chest and Grenadiers replacement skull cap for the poor folks who have broken theirs.
The gun is chromed silver and takes all of it's cues from the cartoon and virtually nothing from the toy. Sliding it into Foragers palm requires some coordination as the circular Tommy gun like stock prevents the hand from closing, so you have to slide it in at an angle and close the fist around it. Once in it is very unlikely to come out with ease.
I prefer smaller guns like this because they don't draw attention away from the character which often happens when some bots come with inexplicably massive weapons that are more eye grabbing than the figure itself.
If your thing is G1 toys, then you can swap the chest for a clear plastic version that is rendered in clear orange rather than the vintage figures clear yellow. Not sure of the reason for that change, but it's quite striking when you put the original toys next to these. Put the three figures together, with the all clear orange chests and boom you have something so beautiful and unified.....I really should have taken a photo of it.
Slightly interesting is that Foragers clear plastic chest is the only one that has some painted details-if you were keeping score.
FYI the chest door does open, but there is no storage space in there. Awww.
If you already own Forager's fellow not-Insecticons, then nothing I say here will sway you either way. This is one of the pitfalls of buying into a sub group, you end up bound to collect them all regardless of how they turn out. We are slaves to completion.
Fortunately all of the quality touches you would expect from a Fanstoys product are present as is the quality finish which is close to perfect, and only bought down by that fragile clasp on the wing ring (I love saying that), that should have been engineered differently or been constructed to be much stronger.
Other than that, this has been by far my favourite of the three and has made me fall in love with the set all over again after Mercenary didn't grab me as much I hoped.
So that's me on the hook for another £50 this month.
Please do remember that this figure is a test shot so may not be reflective of the final product.
You can order Fanstoys Forager, and many other transforming robot toys from TFS Express who kindly provided this sample for review.
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Songs I listened to whilst writing this article: Prince - Purple Rain. RIP :(