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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Skyquake87's Review: E-Hobby Cobalt Sentries: Garboil & Howlback

Name : Garboil
Allegiance: Destron
Function: Information Control

Bio: Garboil keeps tabs on everyone. Not just the citizens of worlds under Decepticon control in his endless hunt for rebels, but also on his fellow Decepticons, weeding out potential traitors as well as looking out for potential candidates for the Decepticon Secret Police. When he's not doing that, he makes sure the 'right' information reaches troops and the public. Even if this information is a carefully crafted pack of lies. Despite his important position within the Secret Police, he has very little combat capability. His main weapon is in his vocoder, which is capable of generating a powerful cacophonic blast with a subsonic override signal, causing confusion and fear in his targets.

Name : Howlback
Allegiance : Destron
Function: Enforcer

Bio: Howlback takes her position as enforcer for the Decepticon Secret Police very seriously. She will brook no dissent from anyone, even amongst the Decepticons. She carries herself with an elegant air, which belies her ferocity. As part of her job quelling insurgencies and arresting or assassinating suspected rebels, she carries a set of Multi-Track Missiles, but her real strength is in her Feedback Shield, an energy barrier which absorbs energy attacks allowing her to redirect them at the target of her choosing.

The Cobalt Sentries are the elite Public Safety Unit of the Decepticon Secret Police. They work alongside their colleagues in the DSP rooting out potential traitors and moles and are easily identified by their distinctive blue armour.

These wee fellows recolours of Laserbeak and Ravage (or Condor and Jaguar, if you like) were released in 2005 as an E-Hobby exclusive alongside Takara's Transformers Collection reissue of Soundblaster, the rebuilt version of Soundwave from the Japanese Headmasters cartoon. In common with the majority of the E-Hobby releases, these 'recolours' of classic Transformers toys bring the Diaclone/ Microchange liveries these toys originally sported into the Transformers Universe. Albeit with Fort Max weak spots secret decoder stickers on (stick 'em Soundblaster to take out the big kahuna!).

The Transformers Spy Cassettes were always a decent bunch of toys, so its hard to say no to some new additions. At least it was for me. Plus there's the 'never gets old for me' thrill of seeing familiar toys in different get ups to give us some newer characters.


Garboil

Robot Mode: So Garboil is an angular and blocky blue robotic condor. I've always liked this mould as its just so darn cool. The beaky bird face is excellent, the wings are brilliant with these lovely circuit board foil stickers and there's some excellent detailing in the (rather large) taloned feet, with pistons and springs visible. The huge silver boosters/ sidearms help bulk out the robot mode, which would otherwise be a bit flat. The bright blue isn't as overwhelming as you might expect, although it would probably be a different story if Takara had done the boosters in blue chrome. 9/10

Alternate Mode: It's a Microcassette! Yeah, its not as sexy as a car or jet or tank but it works well for the Decepticon's whole infiltration / espionage ethos and works well with Garboil's function as what is basically a spin doctor. Or one of those ghastly plonkers that talks nothing but management double-speak. Or, to get all 1984 on you, new-speak. I kind of miss this sort of 'in disguise' element of Transformers. The join lines on this mode are pretty hideous, but I like the big foil/ lime green sticker that adds detail to the alt mode. 7/10

Transformation Design: The condor MC is probably the best of these Spy Cassette figures in terms of execution. The transformation is well thought out and the robot mode lends itself well to folding away to form a cassette. So well done Takara! Hooray for you! 9/10

Durability: Garboil is a tough little bot. It is possible to wrench the head out, if you're clumsy, but other than that its just the barrels on the laser cannons that are easily snapped off if you're not careful. 8/10

Articulation: Pretty decent for an early 1980s design the wings move, the head can bob about. Just what you need on a bird-based robot mode. 6/10

Fun: Yeah, Garboil is top banana in the fun stakes. Great little robot mode with some cool features, a slick transformation and a good alt mode for spy-based hi-jinks. 8/10


Howlback

Robot Mode: Howlback is a funky blue/ bronze Jaguar. A repaint of Ravage, she is a little bit two dimensional when viewed head on and is best viewed in three quarters profile prowling about. The proportions are spot-on for a small- big cat and I like the detailing in the head and feet. She comes with a pair of honking great missiles and whilst she doesn't look like it, she has some excellent balance. Takara were obviously impressed with her too, as they've not managed to mis-assemble her feet (something that plagues a couple of my reissues of Ravage). 6/10

Alternate Mode: Its a Microcassette! Who'da thought? In common with all the Spy Casettes, one half is a decent replica of the real thing, and then you turn it over to reveal a jumble of folded up robo-parts. The Jaguar mould is a less convincing in alt mode as well given how obvious the folded up animal legs are. Still, does the job. 6/10

Transformation Design: Howlback has a clever little fold-up into a tape job going on. I do like how the legs fold up and square off to form the bottom of the alt mode. Clever stuff. 8/10

Durability: Howlback doesn't feel especially fragile, but is a toy that could potentially be damaged if you're like Sid off of Toy Story. 8/10

Articulation: Actually pretty amazing for a toy mould from the spooky 1980s. In addition to a waggly head and tail, Howlback has some awesomely posable legs and feet with nice smooth joints for walking, running, pouncing, sitting down and lying about poses. 9/10

Fun: Once you get over the slightly 2-D feel of Howlback, she's lots of fun. With her articulation and cool prowly-cat looks, she a funky fun beastie. 9/10


Price/Value: It's an E-Hobby set, so if you bought on release in 2005, well done you. Anyone else, don't bother. These days, you'll be paying silly money for these two tiddlers. And unless you're a big show off, you don't want to be doing that. 2/10

Overall: The Spy Cassettes are some of the best Transformers toys ever made. I love that they have the same starting point of a dictation machine cassette and then bust out all these cool little robotic forms. The Condor and Jaguar moulds are a bit ubiquitous thanks to a seemingly never ending parade of reissues, but they still impress. Especially in this marvellously gaudy blue. Much more fun if you've a Soundwave or Soundblaster figure to get the best out them though. 7/10
 
 
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