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TFC Toys
by yo go re

Yeah, I'm a total sucker. Let us never speak of it again.

We've been reviewing third-party Transformers items since 2008, and there's been a real boom in that market. In 2011, TFC Toys began the most ambitious third-party project ever: "Hercules," a giant green and purple robot made from six smaller robots. You can see where this is going.

The first release, in August of 2011, was the oddly named Exgraver. He's an updated version of the G1 Constructicon Scavenger, who was rather unpopular with his comrades; they only put up with him because of his advanced sensors. He's a pathetic tagalong who's desperate to be liked and appreciated. He's got low self-esteem and is willing to do almost anything to get the approval of others - which is part of why they all hate him so much. If he didn't have the ability to sniff out materials the Decepticons needed, they probably would have scrapped him long ago.

Exgraver's head is very square - closer to the way it was drawn in the Dreamwave comics than the way it appeared on the original toy or the cartoon. He has a big red visor, which is light-piped, as are the two little circles on his forehead. The rest of his face is covered by a silver mouthplate - except for the nose, which is also silver.

The design of the robot looks very much like something that would have been seen sometime between Energon and the movie - which is to say, it's very square and blocky, rather than layered and organic. There are definite parallels to Scavenger, and not just the fact that his legs are made from treads: the angled sections on the sides of his waist for instance, the way his big square shoulders drop down so you can see the face, or the way the plates on his hands stick out just a little farther than the hands themselves. There are a lot more details on Exgraver, though! The silver pipes on his abdomen? The purple armored plating that runs up onto the top of his shoulders? All new, and all very nice. This isn't a copy of a toy from 1985, it's an update.

Another thing that's better on Exgraver than Scavenger? The articultion! Of course, with a 26-year gap between them, we'd damn well better see an improvement! Exgraver has a balljointed neck, swivel and hinged shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, swivel waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees and hinged ankles. Holy moly, that's a ton! And though none of the joints are ratchets, they're all strong enough to hold whatever poses you want to give him.

The figure comes with several accessories, and a few of them are weapons. First there's the bucket of his eventual altmode, which can either store on his back or be wielded on his arm like a wicked big claw. He also has two copies of the same blaster pistol: one in purple, one in translucent red. What's that about? I don't know, use your imagination. He does have some other loose kibble pieces, but they can be plugged into his back to get them out of the way.

The instructions for Exgraver are very much like real Transformers instructions: they're drawn in simple line art with parts highlighted as they move, and there are steps that are really hard to understand unless you know what they're supposed to be telling you.

Scavenger was a small excavator, like a Caterpillar 325 or something - Exgraver is still an excavator (hey, you think that's what his name is supposed to mean? Like, "Exgraver" is a mispronunciation of "excavator?"), but it's a massive mining version. You can tell by the size of the cabin.

The body of the construction equipment is 3⅞" long, 3" wide, and 2⅝ tall. It's very blocky, and there are large diamond plate panels on the top. The cab is actually a separate piece that plugs into the robot's fist, so it can be on whichever side of the vehicle you want. There's a big block of kibble on the front end between the treads, but it's not too bothersome.

The excavator's bucket arm is exactly as articulated as you'd expect: three hinge joints, at the bucket, in the middle, and at the base. It can also swivel where it joins the body of the vehicle. There's a manufacturing error with the proximal hinge, though. Something is wrong with the ratchets, so the thing just will not move. If you try to force it, it's just going to stress or crack. That's only a problem with the first edition, though: when they went back into production for a second batch, they made sure that was fixed. To take care of those who bought the first run, TFC Toys included a free replacement scoop with a future release (or mailed them to people who weren't planning to buy that).

If you think about it, the Constructicons were the first triple-changers: they have a robot mode, a vehicle mode, and a second altmode; namely, a bodypart for Devastator. Granted, that third mode was mostly accomplished through the addition of extra parts, but it was a third mode nonetheless. Exgraver doesn't skimp here!

Naturally, he turns into the right arm of Hercules. While the hand is a separate piece (one that stows on the toy, rather than having to be put aside like on Scavenger), the forearm is cleverly formed from the excavator's treads instead of being a separate launcher. That is outstanding! The gap where the hand used to be stored becomes a nice little niche for the bucket to tuck into, so it doesn't have to hang in the way. But it can, if you want a more accurate re-creation of G1.

The arm has good articulation, too. The elbow hinges and swivels, and so does the wrist. The thumb is balljointed at the base and hinged in the middle - the other four fingers have two hinges each. The shoulder plug is a strong ratchet joint, so it will be able to support this massive beast of a limb.

The figure's packaging depends on which version you get: there are several graphic design changes betwen the two, but the biggest, most obvious difference is that the first edition box is dark green, while the second edition is silvery gray. Keeping that in mind will let you know whether or not you're getting one with a bum joint in the digger.

Exgraver is in no way an affordable toy - SRP is $100, and even at half the price he'd still feel expensive. But the toy is well designed, well made, and if you're a giant mark for Devsatator the way I am (and can find a way to justify the cost to yourself), well worth it. I am super-excited about building Hercules now... but first we have a few more reviews to get through.

Exgraver | Heavy Labor | Structor | Dr. Crank | Neckbreaker | Madblender

-- 05/14/13

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