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Transformers: Prime
by yo go re

After Generation 1, the character of Ratchet pretty much disappeared from Transformers; it wasn't until the movie came out that the name re-entered the story. Since then, though, he's been an important part of the story, first in Animated and now in Prime.

Just because Autobot Ratchet chooses to avoid fighting doesn't mean he never learned how. His intimate knowledge of anatomy allows him to strike with surgical precision, making a fight against him a very painful losing proposition.

The original toy's altmode was a van that had been converted into an ambulance. The movie toy's altmode was a Humvee that had been converted into an ambulance. This, one, however? Totally just an ambulance. One based heavily on an SUV, but that's how a lot of them are made these days. The toy looks a lot like the animation model, though there are some missing paint apps - nothing too major, just a few lines on the sides. The molded details are all spot-on, from the shape of the grill and headlights to the doors and hatches on the back.

Unfortunately, an altmode with a lot of large, flat surfaces means one of two things: it's either a shellformer, or there are a ton of really obvious panel breaks you have to ignore. Both versions have their strengths and weaknesses (in that they each favor one mode over the other), but it's up to you which you prefer. Ratchet is the second type, which means if you'll have to ignore a lot of seams when you're looking at the back half of the vehicle mode.

To convert Ratchet, begin by folding down the side panels at the back of the bus. Tip up the front end, undoing hooks inside so you can raise the rear wheels, then split the front. Unfold the feet and swivel the lower legs into position, then swing the door/windshield area down to the ankles. Straighten his arms and fold the panels over the top after you rotate out the hands. Then finish up by pushing the backpack down, and the head will automatically pop up into place.

I didn't plan to pick up this Ratchet - after all, I already have this Ratchet, who's the same size class and color scheme, so I was in no rush. But the guy is just so cool on the show that he warrants getting the toy. His personality seems to be based on the Animated Ratchet: he's a grizzled old veteran, and just as much a scientist as a medic.

Ratchet is voiced by Jeffrey Combs - aka Herbert West, the Reanimator. The instructions show a different head than the toy actually has, but the one we get is the same seen in the animation. Like its G1 inspiration, there's a rounded "helmet" with a pointed red crest on the forehead. His face is silver, and he has light-piped blue eyes.

Considering how blocky Ratchet's altmode is, it's pretty impressive that his robot mode is so rounded. There's barely a straight line to be seen! His design makes him look like he's wearing a tall collar, which adds an air of professionalism to him - it's almost like he's in a jacket. There is a lot of kibble in this mode, both real and pretend. For instance, the cartoon design has the ambulance's doors end up on Ratchet's chest, and this figure has the doors sculpted there; meanwhile, the real doors are just hanging off his legs.

Ratchet comes with two accessories: short grey blades, cast in soft PVC. He can hold them in his hands like swords, but that's not how he uses them on the show. In fact, nobody has separate weapons on the show; rather, they're all made from their bodies. So Ratchet actually converts his hands into these blades, he doesn't hold them. Ah, but thanks to clever design work, the toy can do the same! Just put the blade in his hand, then fold the wrist down like you were going to change him back into his altmode. The blade then lines up perfectly, and it looks great. And when he's in vehicle mode, you can hide the weapons inside the body, or poke them out the front bumper.

Ratchet could have been a very dull figure: he's only got two colors, and his altmode is very boxy. But the robot turned out to have a very sleek, very cool design, and the colors end up looking very nice. This is a Transformer that's honestly fun to play with, and good on them for making the accessories so functional.

-- 05/01/12

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