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Transformers Kre-O
by yo go re

The first Transformers Kre-O line was not a raging success, if all the sets going on clearance was any indication. But apparently it did well enough to earn not only a second series but also a line expansion: other Hasbro properties are getting the Kre-O treatment now, and there are Kreons sold separately; both in blind-bagged form and now as boxed Combiners.

Constructicon Devastator cannot be defeated. Puny Autobots are always scorching me with their tiny lasers, but nothing hurts Constructicon Devastator. I smash and dismantle all who oppose me! Then I kick their bricks into the closest river!

Hates: Autobots. Thinking.
Favorite TV show: The one with the guys who blow stuff up all the time.
Prefers: Devastating to constructing.

The Micro-Changers Combiners are based on Generation 1 gestalts, stripped down to four components. We'll start by reviewing the individual bots.

Our first Constructicon in this set is Bonecrusher. Considering that the Kre-O characters have personalities that are sweetly Flanderized versions of their G1 counterparts, Bonecrusher probably loves destruction and takes great pleasure in turning everything he sees into rubble. In a cute way. Like, he throws temper tantrums or something. I mean, if Sunstorm just wanted hugs, Bonecrusher probably has something adorable going on as well.

Bonecrusher gets lots of detailing meant to suggest his old design. The head is a blocky square cap that looks very much like the toy's head, and taking a cue from the cartoon, he has a visor instead of individual eyes. There are treads painted on the front of his legs, which is where they ended up in G1 - but he also has the Kre-O version of tank treads (which really look more like bumpy chainsaws, it must be said) hanging off his arms. That's not a G1 reference, but it does somewhat suggest the blocky kibble he had back then. There's a complicated tampo on his chest that re-creates the design of the original Bonecrusher, but it gets completely covered by his vest.

His vehicle build is pretty good, actually. You just raise the robot's arms up, fold his legs forward and lay him on his back. Then remove the head and vest, and attach two new blocks - one of which is a translucent wedge designed to suggest a cab for the bulldozer. The scoop that used to be on his back now plugs into the front of the vehicle, and it remains hinged for realistic movement. Considering how simmple some of the transformations are, this one isn't bad. It's clearly a bulldozer, not a lazy robot.

Next we have Mixmaster, the Constructicons' mad chemist - and, if we're Kre-O-izing their personalities, he probably loves baking cakes or something. It's his secret passion, because he knows if the other Decepticons found out, they'd all make fun of him for it. And sublimating his desires makes him mad, and that's why he helps form Devastator, because it gives him an outlet for his rage. He's a secretly closeted cakeophobe, holding up signs that read "God Hates Pastries."

Mixmaster's defining trait in G1 was that his head was in a box. This one doesn't duplicate that, but it does use the same boxy headgear as Bonecrusher, so at least that's something? His legs are purple, matching his chest - at least, his chest until you put the green vest on him, thus covering up the black and orange details that make him look like Mixmaster instead of Generic Green-and-Purple Robot #7b. There are two tires on the outsides of his legs, and two more attached to the thing on his back that we can only assume is meant to represent his mixing drum. He's got two orange eyes and a mouth open to show his teeth. His robotic, cake-biting teeth.

His vehicle mode is pretty disappointing. Mixmaster is a cement mixer, theoretically, but there's really no "mixer" here. There's a gray tube thing on the back of the vehicle, and it's got a purple dealie sticking up off it, but it really doesn't look like a mixing drum. At all. Unless someone told you, you'd never guess what this was supposed to be. There's a green platform in the back, and the top of the robot's hat-thing looks like the front of a truck, kind of, but it could really stand to be in green instead of black. It'd be more accurate.

While the other characters' personalities get softened when they're turned into Kreons, Scavenger's bio was already pretty much there. He's got low self-esteem and desperately wants everybody else to like him. So he digs up anything he can find in the hopes it'll impress somebody, but usually all he gets is junk, which only serves to reinforce their opinion of him as a loser. Poor little guy!

Like Mixmaster, his legs are purple. And like Bonecrusher, they're painted with treads down the front, because that's the way the original converted. He also has those chainsaw treads hanging off his arms, but they look out of place here. More than usual. He gets the same blocky head as the others we've already talked about, and appears to have a soul patch. He has a scoop arm coming off his back that makes him look like a scorpion, but sadly it's on one of those vests that covers all his nice painted detail. He also gets a gun that's different from the ones the previous two figures had - it's got a scope and a stock.

Scavenger's altmode doesn't look like it did in G1, but it does look like an excavator, and that's what matters - that's the lesson Mixmaster failed to learn. Since he still has the square cap, he still has the front end that looks like a truck's windows and grill. The crane arm pivots and has three hinges, and a 2x2 green plate snaps into the back of the robot's legs to cover the purple. The entire thing is supported entirely by the treads on the arms, and that's pretty impressive.

Our final Constructicon (in this set, at least) is Scrapper, the team's leader. He's a designer and builder, but doesn't care about taking credit for the resulting product. Something that, honestly, is an admirable trait to have - and if he didn't take pleasure in including still-living Autobots in the structures he builds, he might not be a Decepticon at all. There's always gotta be one little flaw, doesn't there?

Scrapper is the only Constructicon to not use the square head-piece, which is weird, since back in G1 he had one of the squarest heads. This one gets the Seeker head, for reasons that will be important later. He's also the only one that doesn't wear one of those little vests, allowing you to actually appreciate the details on his chest; why didn't all the others work like this? If they could do it right one time, why not four times? He's got his scoop hanging off his shoulders, and the biggest gun in the set. A mighty cannon! A mighty cannon that pulls him off balance.

The altmode is pretty good, considering it's just the robot laying face-down. The front-end loader is low and flat, and has a scoop in the front. Well, a sticker representing a scoop - it's not actually hollow or anything. The rear wheels plug into the sides of the legs, just like they did on the robot, but the front wheels are just held in the hands, which is a little bit goofy. The robot's head is removed entirely, which helps, and you add a piece with a windshield sticker on it to form a cab. There are two exhaust pipes that snap onto the arms and keep them from looking so much like, well, arms.

So that's it for the individual Constructicons in this set. But you're not buying this set because it has four Constructicons, you're buying it because it has four Constructicons you can turn into Devastator. And note: that's not "combine" them into Devastator, because the individual little guys don't just plug together like the actual Transformers do. You completely disassemble them, then rebuild them as the big guy. "Big" being a relative term - his head is only 4¼" off the ground, which doesn't make him the smallest Devastator ever, but it's up there. Or down there. Whichever.

The construction is interesting. The arms and legs are extra pieces not included in any of the robot builds, but that was true in G1, as well. They really did try their best to capture the look of the original toy, such as making sure the kibble from back then is at least given a nod now: for instance, having a bucket as the right foot, a cement mixer cab as the left foot, and a crane arm hanging off the shoulder. They did a great job re-creating his purple chest armor, too. The arms and hips are balljoints, the elbows and knees are hinges, and the neck, waist, wrists and shins are swivels. Since the hands are made from little robot legs, you can also bend the "wrist" in a natural manner. His gun is even appropriately sized for him.

The reason Scrapper had a different helmet is that the Seeker head looks more like Devastator's traditional design, and it's used for the combined form. The instructions show him also using Scrapper's face, but the front of the booklet shows him with Mixmaster's. Since this is a Lego-style modular figure, you can give him whatever face you like.

Another advantage of being built from bricks? You don't have to accept the way the book says to build him. For instance, following the instructions, you're left with a few unused parts: three guns, four tries, three square hats, three heads, two green arms, a vest, a single tank tread, a C-clip, and a cube with studs on the top and front (to say nothing of the duplicate limb pieces included in case you lose one). But if you play around, you can figure out a way to build him that doesn't leave anything out. Here are some pictures:

Isn't that nice? Every single brick in the box is used in that Devastator, save for the red Kre-O logo brick, which is just for display anyway. It's a bit truer to G1, and offers a cleaner build overall.

If you like the Constructicons, there's a fifth one available in the blind-bagged Microchangers line: Hook. And again, since he's a Lego-knockoff, you can probably find a way to build him into Devastator if you try. I wasn't sure what to expect from a Microchanger Combiner set, but Devastator is pretty fun, and even if the individual construction vehicles could use some work, this is a fun new sort of toy, far better than Hasbro's previous attempts at Lego knockoffs.

-- 04/02/13

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