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Transformers Kre-O
by yo go re

Some other Kreons call me dumb. But I have one thing to say to them - "Bruticus annihilate!" Other Kreons might be smarter, but no one is as strong as me. Anyone who faces off against me better have plenty of spare parts, because I break Kreons like little toys!

Rival: Superion. He thinks he's so cool just because he's made of airplanes.
Hobby: Knocking over the things Hook builds. Hilarious.
Fondest wish: To fly. Like an airplane. Even though I still think airplanes are dumb.

G1 Brawl was a noisy, belligerent irritant to everyone around him - basically, he's anyone who's ever left a comment on a YouTube video. How would that be toned down to match the "softened" personalities that Kreons are given? Maybe he can't see the blackboard in class, so he thinks he's dumb and that makes him angry - again, just like your average YouTube commenter. You don't think being dumb makes you angry? People who were getting swindled by fake insurance are pissed that the Affordable Care Act won't let them continue to pay a company money to not have insurance. Big gubbmint gon' take mah freedoms 'way! Guh-hyuk!

Like the Constructicons, Brawl has a "vest" piece that serves two purposes on the toy: it allows things to plug into his back (a big gun barrel, in his case), and it covers up the intricate tampograph on his chest. Brawl's torso is grey, for whatever reason, but he has designs that match the chest and waist stickers on the 1986 toy. Because of his altmode, he gets the typical Kre-O "tank tread" pieces on his arms, and he's armed with a gun. His head is in a cute little brain bucket, and there's a smirk on his face beneath his orange visor.

Brawl is, of course, a tank. That's why he's got the tank treads. The Kre-O style has no hope of making a World War II-era tank out of a Kreon, but if you can ignore the fact that it's clearly just a little robot laying on its back, it definitely does look like a tank. The front end is sloped, there's a turret that rotates, there are tank treads... everything about it says "tank," just not "WWII tank." Maybe Brawl got an upgrade? Or this is what he looked like on Kre-O Cybertron. You do have to apply one sticker for this mode, to give him his Decepticon symbol.

Next we have the team leader, Onslaught. In Generation 1, Onslaught was a meticulous planner who preferred strategizing to actual battle. So in Kre-O terms, he probably keeps a little notebook full of plans for pranks, and he's always scribbling in it when nobody's looking. Then he gets super mad whenever somebody looks at it, and he punches them before running away.

Onslaught is mostly molded from dark blue plastic, though his groin is green and his face is black with an orange visor. He also wears a big gray helmet, though that's not a feature from G1 Onslaught - it's meant for Bruticus, when we get there. His chest tampo isn't covered up by anything: although he does get a big piece on his back, it's got its own ring to fit around his neck-peg rather than needing a separate piece to plug into. He has tires on the sides of his legs, and smokestacks on his arms (though mine seems to fall off very easily, due to loose tolerances).

His vehicle mode is unique among the Micro-Changers - he used to turn into an artillery truck, while this version is just a plain semi cab, but that's not what we're talking about. To give the truck length, he uses the Combiner legs, with their own waist piece to connect them. The entire cab is assembled together, then slipped over the robot torso, and the front-end of the truck fits on the neck. Basically, you can almost build the truck without using the robot at all.

While the other characters' personalities get softened when they're turned into Kreons, Swindle's bio was never really all that hard to begin with. As his name suggests, he's a hustler and con man - there doesn't necessarily need to be anything sinister about that, does there? Imagine him trying to cheat his fellow Decepticons out of their Energon candy or something; and because this is Kre-O and everything's light and fun, he always ends up getting the worse end of the deal anyway.

Like Onslaught, Swindle has wheels on his legs. Like Brawl, he has a vest with a brick attached to it. Now, I had the G1 Swindle toy, and I think something is wrong with this: the instructions quite clearly show the brick going over his chest, but on the toy they're homaging, the kibble was on his back; it seems certain the instructions have the vest going on backwards. Turn it around and you'll have a better toy. Nothing else makes sense. Rather than being based on the toy, like the other Combaticons, the tampo on Swindle's chest is based on his (really rather different) cartoon design.

Swindle's classic altmode is a jeep. A World War II jeep. The Kre-O version is still a jeep, maybe, but it's some kind of sleek futuristic thing. It's like a dune buggy, honestly, with its triangular windshield. Swindle really shows the limitation of the "Kreon as vehicle" form, since the front wheels end up twice as wide as the rear wheels. His gun mounts on the rear, but it overlaps with the glass and so has to forever point upward.

Our final Combaticon (in this set, at least) is Vortex, the team's interrogator. He's also the only character available in a different set, as well: the "Rotor Rage" set is based on Fall of Cybertron, and includes a Vortex Kreon to match. This one is more Geewunny, done all in grey and purple with a blue crotch. That's the way he looked back then, though for some reason FoC got confused and made him khaki and pink.

Rather than a vest, Vortex's carefully designed chest tampos are covered by a different sort of piece: in order to mount his blades on his back, they needed a peg that would still allow the blades to spin freely. To accommodate that feature, Vortex wears a little harness over his neck that has a peg in the back and a stud in the front. Hopefully we'll be able to trim this down like we can the vests, because otherwise we'll never get to see the ywllow and orange stripes on his chest. He has black blasters mounted (loosely) on his arms, and his eyes are a red visor.

To change Vortex-the-robot into Vortex-the-helicopter, you lay him down on his face. What, you were expecting something more complex than that? Well, you do have to turn his blasters around to point up/forward, and plug a little "crank" brick into the side of his leg to create a stabilizer, but that's all. There's none of the reconstruction the other figures went through in order to become vehicles.

So that's it for the individual Combaticons in this set. If you break them all down into their component pieces, you can then meticulously build Bruticus. Yes, break down and build: just as the Micro-Changers don't actually change from robots to vehicles, the Micro-Changer Combiners don't actually combine. Somebody really needs to talk to Hasbro about their use of terminology. If what you want is a big, piecemeal gestalt, then "good news, everyone!" (Note: "big" in this case meaning "about 4⅜" tall," because it's easy to be big when everyone around you is super tiny.)

Rather than relying on the Kreons to connect together somehow, Bruticus' arms and legs are extra pieces not used in the robot builds. The design really does its best to capture the look of the original toy by spreading out the kibble the way it used to be: Onslaught is the torso, Swindle is the right foot, Brawl is the left foot, Vortex is the left arm, and... Onslaught is the right arm? Okay, that's a difference. But as far as these things go, that's a minor one. Bruticus' complicated chest armor is re-created nicely, and you know he's got the two big back-cannons on his shoulders!

Following the instructions in the booklet leaves you with just a few leftover bits when you finish building Bruticus: three heads, four tires, a gun, a tan block, and Vortex's arms (as well as an extra set of limb blocks if you lose one). The advantage of Lego-style building sets is that you can reconfigure the set however you like, probably finding a way to incorporate those pieces into the final build.

The original Bruticus was built from five components, but this one is only built from four. However, in Series 1 of the blind-bagged Micro-Changers, the final Combaticon - Blast Off - was available. If you got him, you could probably find a way to work him into the build. Bruticus isn't as nice a toy as Devastator was, but the individual Combaticons have more going on in their favor than the Constructicons did. We'd still recommend waiting for a sale or a coupon before buying this set, but it's surprisingly good for a company that isn't 100% focused on building block toys.

-- 11/19/13

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