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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Warcry's Review: Solar Storm Grappel

Name: Solar Storm Grappel
Allegiance: Autobot
Size Class: Voyager Class

Before the war, the skyline of nearly every city on CYBERTRON was distinguished by the remarkable silhouettes of at least one building designed and constructed by GRAPPEL. His work embodied the spirit and culture of his world, combining perfect functionality with unmatched elegance. It broke his Spark to see his works destroyed, one by one, as the war ravaged the world. Now he builds without art, constructing buildings meant to last only long enough to shelter the AUTOBOTS while they plan their next mission.

'Grappel'? It looks like Hasbro's unending duel with trademark law has once again led to deliberate misspellings along the lines of 'Skid-z' and 'Brakedown'.

Sigh.

The deliberately-misspelled Solar Storm Grappel represents the character Grapple, the high-society Autobot engineer whose toy was released in 1985. He shared a mold with fellow Autobot Inferno, with only a few minor changes to turn Inferno's fire department ladder truck into Grapple's construction crane. The new Grapple follows the same pattern, being a remold of the 2009 Universe Inferno figure. The new Inferno is a smaller pumper truck instead of a ladder truck, unfortunately, which makes this redeco much less obvious than the first one. But Transformers fans being what they are, huge segments of the fandom demanded it anyway without any regard for whether or not it actually made sense. I thought it was a terrible idea, but since I never got a chance to get Inferno and I've seen people rave about the figure, I decided to pick up Grapple to see if the mold was any good.

Robot Mode: Grapple is packed in robot mode and, alas, the figure really doesn't look very much like Grapple. I'll give the designers credit for trying, though. Grapple transforms almost identically to the original, which gives him pretty much the same parts layout in robot mode. Unfortunately, because of the vastly-different vehicle mode what you get after the transformation doesn't look much like Grapple at all. Where the original Grapple was tall and lanky with long arms and legs, the new guy is broad and powerful looking, with bulky, stubby limbs. Grapple's character model was drawn a lot 'chubbier' than the toy itself most of the time, but since most of my exposure to the character comes from the reissue toy I bought the better part of a decade ago that's what I see when I think 'Grapple'. If G1 Grapple was a pro basketball player, Reveal the Shield Grapple would be more likely to find work as a defensive lineman.

Most of this bulk is only evident from the front, though. Look at Grapple from the side or the back and it looks like a big chunk of his torso is missing -- much like the original Optimus Prime figure. The proportions are noticably odd, and have the unfortunate effect of only making him look good from head-on.

The new Grapple's colour scheme follows a very similar layout to the original: almost entirely orange, with elements of black, grey and silver interspersed to add some contrast. The new toy's orange isn't the same orange as the original Grapple, though. It's more yellow, almost the colour of a school bus. This isn't a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination -- the original Grapple looked like he was carved from cheddar cheese and this shade of orange is a lot more pleasing to the eye.

But when it comes to pleasing the eye, Grapple's crane is a big disappointment. Instead of hanging on his back out of sight, the new Grapple's crane is bolted into his right arm. Because of that it needs to be more visually interesting than the original's, but it fails pretty spectacularly at that. Although the molding is very detailed, the complete lack of paint makes it stand out in a bad way. A few splashes of silver or black paint would have served to make it a much more natural inclusion to the figure, but as it is the crane arm just sort of hangs there looking ugly.

His head is mostly black, with a silver face and blue eyes. It's a completely different head from the one Inferno sported. Where Inferno's head was based on the head that he and Grapple shared on their original toy, Grapple's head is based off of the one used for his cartoon and comic character model. Since I remember him mostly as a toy I'm not a fan of the new head, but I suspect I'm in the minority there.

His eyes bother me a lot, though. Cast from transparent clear plastic, they were then sloppily painted blue. At the best of times, this neuters the light-piping entirely other times -- like now -- they don't completely paint the eyes so the figure has a white racoon mask glow around the blue eyes. I'll never understand why they do this, honestly, because it almost never works.

Because Grapple is so bulky, you don't expect him to be very poseable...and he isn't. He's got a lot of articulation, but you can't do much with it. He has universal-jointed shoulders and elbows, but the crane bolted to his right arm means that you can really only do anything with the left. He's got similarly-jointed knees and hips, but his hips have extremely-limited movement. They can only swing about 45 degrees forward, slightly more to the rear and about 90 degrees to the side with some fiddling. That, combined with the figure being extremely top-heavy, pretty much nixes any useful leg articulation. His neck is on a restricted ball joint that only lets him look up about ten or fifteen degrees, and he has no waist swivel. And so, in spite of all his joints he's actually got less real poseability than the original.

Another area where Grapple disappoints is in terms of accessories, because he has a grand total of zero of them. Inferno, the original use of this mold, had a missile launcher attached to his arm. For Grapple Hasbro replaced that with the built-in crane arm, leaving him completely unarmed. To rub salt in the wound, Hasbro also remolded the figure's hands. Inferno had block-fists with standard 5mm fist holes, letting him borrow weapons from other Transformers. Not so for Grapple. His hands were remolded into a more aesthetically-pleasing open pose, but now they can't hold anything at all. Not a good trade-off in my books, especially considering most recent toys with open hands can hold a 5mm peg.

But what about the clip weapons, you ask? Surely, after doing so much remolding on the figure Hasbro would have given him a few 3mm clip bars? And they did, but they did a poor job of it. Inferno had a set of decorative bars on his shoulders that were widened slightly for Grapple to allow 3mm clips to attach to them. Unfortunately, the bars aren't 'deep' enough. They're too close to Grapple's body, so the clips can't bite down all the way and won't snap into place. That means they're less then useless, because anything you clip on there stands a good chance of flying off into the abyss when you're not looking. To make things worse, his crane features several pipes that are almost, but not quite, 3mm wide, so you can't clip them on their either even though it looks like you should be able to.

Among Classic-style figures, Grapple is a rarity -- his robot mode is actually less impressive than the original. Definitely a disappointment.

Alternate Mode: Unfortunately, the parade of failure doesn't stop there. Grapple's alternate mode is...well, it's a fire department pumper truck, painted orange with a stupid-looking crane bolted onto it. I wish I could put that in a way that wasn't so flippant, but it's pretty obvious that Hasbro didn't put any more thought into this than "The fans expect us to turn this into Grapple, so slap a crane on it and call it a day. No, don't worry. It's OK that it looks stupid. They'll buy it anyway." After the highly-realistic Constructicons we saw in Revenge of the Fallen, Grapple is a joke.

Grapple's colour scheme is the same here as it was in robot mode: almost entirely orange, with some black, silver and grey breaking it up. His emergency lights are made from clear red plastic, and his front and first side windows are clear. The last two side windows are painted silver, unfortunately, which works about as well as you'd think it would.

Because of the vehicle he was based on, Grapple doesn't look much like a construction crane. A pumper truck is basically a brick on wheels, and Grapple looks the part. Because the vehicle is so bulky, the small, delicate crane (obviously sized as such so it wouldn't be longer than he is tall in robot mode) doesn't have any visual continuity with the vehicle at all. Making him a scissor-lift or a cherry-picker might have been a better choice if you're looking to make the alt-mode look like a construction vehicle, but I have no idea how you would integrate that into robot mode. Really, deciding to turn this mold into Grapple was their biggest mistake and after that there wasn't much they could do to salvage it.

By far the biggest problem with the vehicle, though, is that it does absolutely nothing to disguise the fact that the back half of the truck is a collection of robot arms and legs. Looking at Grapple from any direction other than directly on the horizontal, you can clearly see his arms and feet. Look a bit closer and you can make out his legs too. You could could say it's a tongue-in-cheek throwback to the original, but however you slice it it doesn't make for a very convincing alt-mode. Obvious corner-cutting might be acceptable on a Legend or a Scout, but on a Voyager?

Just like the robot mode, I find that I like the new Grapple's alt-mode less than the original.

Transformation Design: Very simple for a Voyager, and not in a good way. Grapple isn't satisfying in either mode, And there's no reason for such a relatively unsophisticated toy to be as big as he is. 2/10

Durability: Despite being a giant brick, Grapple has one very obvious weak spot: his crane. The attachment isn't sturdy at all, and you could easily snap it if you use too much force. I don't mean simply detaching the crane from the rest of him, either (which would, let's be honest, make him a much better toy) because it's actually designed to attach back on if you take it off the joint. But you could easily break the joint itself. But otherwise...brick. 8/10

Fun: No fun in either mode, really. All he can do is stand there and look bricky. 1/10

Aesthetics: Grapple looks OK in robot mode, if not especially like Grapple. But in vehicle mode? Ugh. 2/10

Articulation: Lots of joints, but they're far too restricted to use them properly. 3/10

Price: I got him half-price and I don't think he was worth it. 3/10

Overall: I don't like Grapple. That much is obvious. It's not even that he's a bad toy (though he is). It's that he's boring. Honestly, as soon as I've taken pictures of him I'm putting him in a box, and a month from now I probably won't remember I own him. An utterly forgettable figure. The best thing I can say about Grapple is that he's convinced me not to pay aftermarket prices for Inferno. 2/10
 
 
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