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Transformers Timelines
by yo go re

This may be the most expensive toy ever. Not in terms of what it costs, but in how much it will cost you.

Over-Run tries to pass himself off as a suave connoisseur of fine things. It's not a facade he can really maintain for long, less because of his generally low intelligence and more because his interest in beautiful objects starts and ends with "blow them up!" His drive to seem sophisticated is in direct conflict with his enthusiastic love of explosions and action. The former is almost always on the losing side of that battle. He's not interested in the Decepticons' plans for conquest; he's just with them because of the greater opportunities for his kind of fun. He's always on the move, looking to create a bigger fireball, a larger bomb crater, and generally cram every microsecond with action.

In the '80s, this character was called "Runabout," but apparently that trademark is ungettable today - thus the name "Over-Run," which has definitely been used before. But because we don't have to abide by trademark laws, we're going to refer to him by his proper name in this review.

Runabout used to turn into a Lotus Esprit, but these days he has a more modern (and legally distinct) altmode. He's still a black sports car with red detailing and white hubcaps, but that's as far as the parallels go. The windows are translucent, rather than solid - at least, the front windows are. The back windows are painted on. There's a large red stripe on the hood and spoiler, and despite the fact that there's a rubsign on his roof, there's a giant Decepticon logo right there on the hood. Way to hide your allegience, guy!

In 1986, Runabout was a member of the Battlechargers, a two-character subset of toys that transformed automatically: pull the car back, friction-engine sends it forward, and after a few inches a catch releases and springs stand the robot up instantly. Today Runabout shares his mold with Wheeljack (and by extension, with Tracks, which is really shooting holes in my "only buy one of any given mold" thing), so his conversion is the same as theirs:

Remove the exhaust pipes from under the doors, lift the rear of the car and remove the folded blaster. Pull the doors out to the side, then swing them out to form wings. Yes, he has wings. No, he doesn't need them. Moving on. Slide the front end of the car forward and split it, making legs, then flatten the feet. Rotate the back tires around to the other side of the arms, and slide the windshield up to move both the arms and head into position.

The robot mode actually does a nice job of capturing the feel of the old toy. Of course, since the old toy was basically just a car that stood up, it's hard to get that wrong. You've got the hood becoming feet, the roof becoming a chest, and that's all you need. Of course, the old one didn't have wings, but that's what upgrades are all about, right? One thing that's missing is the way his head used to be backstopped by a gray panel in a big black box, but thanks to the design of this mold, you can fake it if you mis-transform him. Or as we call it, "Goldbugging." It's like "Tebowing," but about a thousand times less obnoxious.

Like Punch/Counterpunch, "Over-Run" gets a new head. It's based on the cartoon more than the old toy, because it looks more like a face behind a metal ski mask than a head with a square surface. Does that make sense? The old toy's head looked like a solid head - this one looks like a head with a helmet. Nicely done, TFCC! Which isn't something youhear often these days.

The "autotransform" feature on the Battlechargers rendered them little more than unposeable bricks, but this modern version moves much better. He has all the joints you'd expect - head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles - and they all move well. Since the old toy couldn't even move its arms, the only way he could wield his gun was by clipping it on his shoulder. This one keeps that alive with two shoulder-mounted weapons, but he also gets a handheld blaster as well. Only took 26 years! Of course, feel free to use the large gun on his shoulder, and pretend the little ones are Cybertronian cans of spray paint or something.

The figure is sold in nifty packaging. Rather than a blister card or a standard box, he comes in a two-piece box with a slide-off lid. It's made from very heavy cardstock, and inside is a foam tray cut to shape to hold the figure. The box is larger than it needs to be, because the club is thinking ahead: later this year they're releasing a figure of Runabout's buddy, Runamuck, and there's room in the box to hold him, too. The art on the front shows Runabout and Runamuck at the Statue of Liberty, a reference to Transformers #23. Fun fact: I only ever had one Transformers comic as a kid, and it was that issue; so I'm loving this set! Now the trick is, to get a Runamuck to complete it.

So, the figure itself is fine. Quite nice, in fact. He's a great update of an old clunker. He's the fastest sell-out in Transformers Collectors' Club history, lasting less than a day. But that's not why we said he'll cost you more than any other toy. After people renewed their memberships and ordered their figures, they noticed a problem: credit card fraud. The Club's store software was old and outdated, and hackers gained access to everyone's CC info. As more and more fans reported problems, the Club tried to shift blame rather than addressing the issue. It tooks weeks of complaints to get even a perfunctory statement, and that was "here are some articles proving how widespread credit theft is - see, it's not our fault!" Which means that they spent more time and energy complaining about third-party toys than they spent trying to protect their customers from identity theft. They've finally owned up to their security breach and are trying to fix it, but in the meantime, hundreds of customers have lost thousands of dollars. Maybe instead of Over-Run, they should have renamed this figure Over-Charge.

-- 03/06/12

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