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PE-11 Scouting Force X

Perfect Effect
by yo go re

Oh snap! Nobody tell the TFCC we're reviewing this!

There's been a big boom in "third party" Transformers manufacturers in recent years. You've got FansProject, Mastermind Creations and more. Hell, at this point, the most impressive thing is that so far there's no overlap between companies: there are at least half a dozen people making things, and yet all the products are still unique. For instance, TFC Toys may be making a $600 Devastator and iGear is working on Masterpiece-sized versions of Ratchet and Ironhide, but only Perfect Effect is homaging Reflector.

The original Reflector was a camera, and the closest Hasbro's ever getting to that again is this kind of thing. But this, this is a traditional SLR camera, just like it should be. Granted, it's purple and white, which isn't exactly a normal color for cameras, but the shape is right.

The camera is 2⅞" wide, 1½" deep and 1⅞" tall. Of course, those measurements don't tell the whole story: there's a 2⅛" long lens that fits into the front of the camera, a fancy flash that rises more than an inch from the top of the body, and a tripod that's 2" tall and has a 2¼" footprint. The camera may be small, but it has a lot of extra pieces to make it look cool.

Actually, "small" is the keyword for this set. Just as Reflector split into Spectro, Spyglass and Viewfinder, this camera splits into three robots as well - "Scouting Force X." And it's hard to tell from photos, but these guys are tiny! They're each only about 2½" tall, which makes them smaller than the average Legends Class Transformer or Mini-Con. We just want to make that point very clear: this is an expensive set, and we don't want you to buy it and be disappointed with what you get.

Scouting Force X is inspired by Reflector's cartoon appearance: so yes, the three bots are almost identical, with one of them having a big circle in his chest and the other two sharing a single mold. We'll review one body, since the same things would apply to all three.

As we said, the Scouting Force X robots stand 2½" tall. The proportions are very nice, with large legs and feet, big forearms and a blocky torso with a green panel in the center of the chest. The head is a tiny little thing, with a complete face - mouth, nose, two eyes - instead of a faceplate or visor. The mouth is open, and there's a slight underbite.

The detailing in the sculpt is much more intricate than we expect from Transformers of this size, as is the construction: rather than solid limbs, he's built from multiple pieces; you know, feet, shins and thighs, instead of just "legs." And while the sculpt isn't swimming with fakey technological details (like a movie toy), there's still a lot of small details all over him - raised edges, in-set shapes, etc. It's very much the way Transformers were drawn on the old show (rather than the way the old toys looked). You absolutely can't tell by looking at the robot what he changes into - primarily since "what he changes into" is basically just "a box."

The articulation is superb. The robot has a balljointed neck, balljoints at the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, a swivel waist and what amount to "rocker" ankles. Basically, these little guys are crazy dynamos! And thanks to the large, flat feet, he'll stand securely even in extreme poses. The joints are easy to move, not too stiff, but they're tight enough the the bodyparts aren't flopping around, and he'll stay in whatever pose you give him.

The paint is top-notch, as well. The robots, like the camera, are primarily (off-)white and purple, though there's much more to it than that. Their chests are green, with a single red dot on the upper righthand side - a nod to the original Viewfinder. Each of the three robots gets color-coded stripes on their arms and legs, as well: the middle guy has green, while the two on the ends are red and blue. Then there are all the small, inconsequential details, like the golden trianges on the shoulders, the thin purple lines on the sides of the feet and similar tiny touches all over. Really, they look great - these are the kinds of paint apps you expect to see on a customized toy, not a "finished" one.

If you want a little more variety among your Scouting Force, you can have it: all the various kibble leftover from the camera becomes weapons and tools for the robots to use. For instance, once you remove the camera lens, you can take two panels off the sides, revealing knives sized for the robots, and the whole thing unfolds to reveal three guns hidden inside. Each of the members of Scouting Force X gets their own name and their own assortment of weapons.

SFX-01 Edge is the stand-in for Viewfinder. In the '80s the three parts of Reflector didn't have individual personalities, but that's since been changed, and Viewfinder was portrayed as a voyuer who loved to catch his fellow Decepticons doing something wrong and blackmailing them. Edge is designed with the lens in his stomach, as we said, but if you look inside, you'll see the shutter sculpted in there, as well. The camera's eyepiece splits in half and fits on his shoulders, and those two panels we took off the lens fit on his forearms. The knife plugs into the small of his back (as it does on all three bots) and the instructions show him wielding two of the guns.

SFX-02 Shield (nee Spectro) takes his name from the big barrier he carries. Made from the base of the camera, the shield is a tactical military style, as tall as the robot carrying it, and with a slot for the user to look through. There are spaces on the back of the shield where more accessories are stored: his knife, plus a scope and an extended barrel; those last ones can attach to the gun that Edge didn't take, turning it into a long rifle. The camera's flash splits into three pieces, and two of those pieces become Shield's shoulderpads, looking like missile launchers. If he's inherited his progenitor's personality, then he's simple-minded, happy taking orders and basking in glory, but will sell out anyone or shift blame if he thinks there's even a slight chance he might get in trouble.

SFX-03 Bullet doesn't get a gun, since Edge and Shield took them all. Instead, he has to content himself with carrying a massive Gatling gun formed from the camera's tripod. Think it might be hard for him to walk around carrying that thing? Well, that must be why the outer shell of the camera lens becomes a jetpack for him to wear! Spyglass, Bullet's inspiration, was an obsessive worker, wanting to learn everything he could and get ahead; since Spectro was so unsure, it was Spectro's job to convince him to go along with the scheme, while making sure he didn't betray them to save his own skin.

Getting the weapons into the robots' hands was very tough the first time - and similarly tough to get them out. But there's been no breakage (thankfully - I'd hate to have to try to return one of these third-party sets) and the hands seem to have gotten easier over time, so either the material is wearing away to an acceptable level, or I'm just getting better at finding the right angle to get the weapons in. Certainly none of the guns or armor pieces are loose, it's just not a struggle to get them in position. The extras really make the three Scouting Force X robots look unique, but they still feel like a team, and the fact that every one of the accessories can be stored safely inside the camera is a brilliant bit of engineering.

As shown in the (single one-sided sheet of) instructions, you can create a "super cannon" mode as well. Turn the barrel of the Gatling gun around backwards, plug one end into Edge's chest and the other end into the camera lens, then rest the resultant assembly on the side of Shield's shield, so it can still stand up. Voila, giant cannon of death! Reserved for only the most dire circumstance.

Scouting Force X is sold in a green and purple box, with renders of the three bots on the front and the camera mode on the back (which is also where you'll see the death cannon). Inside the box is a clear plastic tray displaying the three robots and all their gear in neat little rows. It's a little bit daunting at first, seeing all those weapons and various pieces, but as they come together it's very gratifying.

Make no mistake, this is an expensive set - all third-party releases are, but this one seems particularly hard-hitting due to the tiny, tiny size of the individual robots. But when you compare it to real Transformers, you can see where the money went: the bodies are small, but they're made from more separate pieces than you'd expect, and have more articulation; the paint is on par with what we see on prototype photos from Hasbro, before apps get cut during the production phase to save budgets; and there's a whole slew of fun accessories, which very few TFs seem to have these days. This is like an example of a Transformer that never had a single corner cut, and the pricetag shows why Hasbro never gets those to the market. If you love Reflector and can budget for the pricetag (seriously, I spent less actual money to buy my real camera than this will set you back) Scouting Force X won't disappoint.

-- 09/06/11

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