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Transformers: Prime
by yo go re

Sometimes it really pays to not be an early adopter.

This Autobot trickster strikes quickly, then disappears behind a black puff of magnetic smoke!

Clearly the Transformers: Prime team has been taking lessons in useless brevity from the Marvel team. At least we know how he got his name, and that's new information. Smokescreen was a late addition to the cast, dropping out of the sky (metaphorically) two-thirds of the way through Season 2. He's a huge fan of Optimus Prime, and though he's highly impetuous, he quickly proves himself a valuable member of the team. But you won't find word one of that on the packaging anywhere.

When Smokescreen was introduced, it was clear from his transformation scheme that any toy of his was likely to just be a repaint of Knock Out, and sure enough, that's what was released in Japan. Transformers fanboys, being what they are, started paying crazy-high import prices in order to be the first to own him. Imagine their surprise when a US Smokescreen was announced - and he was an entirely unique mold. There's a lot of kibble on the arms and legs, and the detailing on his chest is 100% faked: it's a plate that flips up into place; as a consequence, it's flatter than it should be. Very detailed, but flat.

Smokey's got plenty of paint, but it's not very screen-accurate. He's got blue on his legs where there should be none, his knees are red instead of black. The red stripes on his arms have no animated equivalent, and the blue on his chest should be wider. The only annoying change is that he's missing the red on his forehead - it makes him look incomplete.

The articulation is up to current TF standards: hinged ankles and knees, swivel thighs, balljointed hips, swivel waist, hinged elbows, balljointed shoulders, and a balljointed neck. His feet are giant, so he'll stand up well in many poses. His accessories include an "electronet launcher" (a missile launcher with a pvc lattice on the projectile) and "shadow quill armor" (a harness that snaps over his shoulders). When the first images of this figure leaked out, many fans were worried that the armor wouldn't be removable, but don't worry, it is. You can take it off and never worry about it again.

There's been a lot of grousing about how frustrating it is to convert Smokescreen to his altmode. And sure, he's a bit fiddly, but he's certainly not the godless mess that Darkmount was. The problem is that the instructions would have you put half the hood/roof into place first, then the other half second; it works much better if you put them together first, then fold the rear end of the car up to meet them (or, when going back to robot mode, fold the trunk downward). It's painless, works easily, and everything still ends up right where it's supposed to.

Smokescreen turns into a sports car, as he usually does. It's based heavily on the McLaren MP4, but with all the changes necessary to keep Hasbro from having to pay - remember, the Prime universe has its own car models, so we don't know what it's actually called. It's sleek like a racer should be, but has more pronounced curves than Knock Out's mold would have afforded it. The car is 5⅜" long and 2¼" wide.

The accessories can be used in this mode, as well. The launcher plugs into the roof, while the armor wraps around the front fender. In fact, it was clearly designed for this mode, with the robot being an afterthought. There are clips on the sides where missiles could be held, and cutouts designed to keep from blocking the car's headlights. Safety first, even when you're covered in spikes and armor.

Smokescreen isn't a great Transformer, but he is good - and he's definitely better than a repainted Knock Out would be. But if that's the kind of thing you would prefer, you can pick one up at a somewhat reasonable price, thanks to all the early adopters who came to regret their hasty purchases and were looking to unload once this better version came along.

-- 03/26/13

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