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Transformers: Prime
by yo go re

You want to know what really bugs me?

A powerful Insecticon warrior who hungers for Autobot circuitry!

When Transformers: Prime introduced its version of the Insecticons, they were a horde of nameless beasts living on the abandonned Cybertron. They somehow made their way to Earth (seriously, it's never explained) and became cannon fodder for the Decepticons. When Megatron needed one for a particularly difficult job, he asked for the fiercest among them, and Grey Worm Hardshell stepped forward, and in the process got a name and a personality.

All the Insecticons looked alike on the show, but Hardshell was set apart by his facial scars - this toy, however, does not duplicate them, so it's perfectly serviceable as an army-builder: buy tons and tons of him! He's got a crested helmet, an eyeslit, sharp little teeth, and big wicked mandibles that look like they could bite through metal.

Hardshell, like all the Prime Insecticons, was a giant monster who towered over the average Autobot. Unfortunately, this is a Cyberverse toy, meaning he's only about 3½" tall; they never released a figure of Hardshell in a normal scale, so this is the only way to get him. At least he's a "Commander Class" figure (the larger of the two Cyberverse size classes), so he's got that going for him, but it's still disappointing that they didn't make a big one. That said, the shapes of his body match what was seen on the cartoon: a big angular chest, backwards-bending legs, big claws, sharp spikes on the shoulders, all that.

The toy has balljoints at the ankles, hips, elbows, and shoulders, then hinges in his legs (though those are really more for converting, you can use them to pose him). That's it for movement in this mode. He does have a weapon, though, a "Plague Missile Launcher" that can be plugged onto his arm, and fires its projectile via one of those pressure-activated balls.

Despite the tiny size, changing him to his altmode is challenging enough to be fun. Raise the kibble from his back, swing the shoulder armor to behind his head, unfold the forearms, straighten out the feet, raise the legs and fold them over on themselves, point the wings down, and rotate the waist all the way around! It's not just a question of laying him down and calling it a day.

When you're done, Hardshell has turned into something vaguely resembling a rhinoceros beetle, primarily due to the big honkin' nose coming off the top of his head! He has four red eyes, and his mouth opens, revealing his scary, scary fangs - but only when he's "in flight," because otherwise it'll hit the ground.

Other than that, the only points of articulation are the back legs and the wings - the front four legs are sculpted to look like they're mounted on balljoints, but they're actually a solid piece. You can plug the missile launcher onto his back. In this mode, Hardshell is about 4¾" long, and is the same olive drab he was in robot mode (which, it turns out, is accurate to the cartoon; not that you often saw him in clear, direct lighting).

It turns out Hardshell is a fun, well-designed Transformer. In fact, the only thing that's really wrong with him is his size: a Cyberverse toy is a consolation prize at best, but this is the only way Hasbro made him, and he's still worth picking up.

-- 05/13/14

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