(l to r) Gunbarrel, Whirl, & Makeshift

Okay, there are a few different backstories to go over here so I’ll summarize as much as I can. Transformers Universe 1.0 was a line of repaints and redecos of fan favorite molds from the past and molds that never made it to the US until this line, or did so in limited release. The “plot” was that a version of Unicron dragged Transformers from across the multiverse to fight for his amusement. The comics added in him feeding off of the battle…somehow. It didn’t make any more sense to me in Armada, frankly.

One of the lines tapped was from the UK. While the original line ended in the US, the UK continued making figures and comics along different lines from what Japan was still doing. (I don’t think a year has past since their debut that Transformers never had at least one official toyline and media in at least one country on Earth.) They created their own teams, each with their own gimmick. Some of them did make it to the US as the KB Toy Works exclusive Machine Wars figures. The ones we care about in this review are the Turbomasters, The gimmick for the toys was that the engine could transform into their weapon. Considering the fact that mounted and hidden weaponry are rather normal these days that might not stand out as much but back then the weapons were just set aside in vehicle mode more often than not, so I guess the idea of integrated weapons starts here.

Finally we get to the figures for this review. Whirl (I’m not even going to try to go into that history here and it might not be the same guy) is an Autobot from the 2004 period of the line, based on the Turbomaster Rotorstorm. His figure did get redecoed into Sandstorm for the 1997 Machine Wars line, making Whirl the third use of the mold. He comes with two Mini-Cons, Gunbuster and Makeshift. These two were part of the Armada line and are just recolors. Since I had the original and you don’t name both twins Steve I gave them new names–Skyport and Chopperhand respectively. The convention comics felt the same way I did apparently, but gave them the names Thunderstick and Skyscyle respectively. I will stick to their toy names for the sake of convenience. Now that we’re all up to speed let’s get the review started already.

For someone who isn’t a helicopter enthusiast otherwise I really do have a strange attraction to helicopter Transformers.

I’m not sure what good blue cammo would do for a helicopter since I’m no military expert, but I know what I like and this is it. No, his skids aren’t actually holding him up and are just there because even a Cybertronian helicopter would have them, but it’s a minor complaint. The color scheme works for him as does the translucent cockpit window, with his robot head easily mistaken for a seat. I think the translucent piece on the back of his head almost vanishes looking through the cockpit but that could be my eyes. The blades and the thrusters (in the back) also being translucent yellow works for being an alien copter but it wouldn’t fit in too well on this planet. You can see the arms from the top and especially the bottom but they’re easy to ignore otherwise. Overall this is just a really nice alien helicopter.

“What’s Airwolf got that I don’t?”

Whirl also inherits Rotorstorm’s attack mode. Flip the thrusters down and you have working missile launchers. You can leave the missiles there in the regular configuration but I don’t care for them, and they get in the way of robot transformation so I don’t keep them in there. The missiles had to be retooled from Rotorstorm’s in order to meet US safety regulations but the launchers are surprisingly powerful. At the foot of my bed I can launch them more than halfway across, though I do have a twin bed. It’s still impressive. The firing button is only accessible in attack configuration. They flop a bit in action but sit there just fine otherwise.

The instructions seem to have the blade either hanging down or removed but for some reason I prefer them like this.

In robot mode Whirl adds a bit of red and purple (which looks slightly brighter in this picture than it does on the figure) and the cammo mostly goes into hiding but otherwise the colors remain. He looks really cool, a good design for the tale end of the G1 designs. I probably would have enjoyed it more back then but not living in England I wouldn’t have been able to get them then. The eyes have some really nice lightpiping (where the translucent piece on the back of his head comes from), and that’s coming from a guy who doesn’t care about that feature. Then you notice the bar connecting his knees…

…and you start to see his big flaw. I don’t know why the original toy needed this. The knees seem pretty solid as does the forward and backward motion of the hips. There’s no movement in the ankles although I’d be surprised given his origins. He also has no shoulder movement, which is G1 typical. The elbows bend to aim his guns and that’s about it. The head doesn’t even move. Frankly they could have molded out that knee bar and it would be a big improvement but they’d have to do some real changes to the mold for better arms. I’m not sure about the head.

Lucky for me you don’t come here for my photo editing skills.

The Turbomaster gimmick remember is that the engines become the guns. In Rotorstorm’s case, and thus for Whirl, the engines that serves as attack mode launchers become guns in robot mode. They don’t quite allow the elbows to come all the way up so he’s always aiming slightly down but it’s good enough given his lineage. You can also use the copter blades as weapons but I’m not a fan of it. He can’t used them very well. They already have a hard time spinning in vehicle mode due to the fold up design but as handheld weapons you can’t have him hold them in any way that’s really good looking. I also leave the missiles off for the guns. I do like that the play option is there, though.

I’m not sure why I put them so far apart.

Then we get to his Mini-Con partners. We have Gunbarrel on the left and Makeshift on the right. Gunbarrel turns into a cargo plane, with a gun on the front indicating military use. No, that’s not why he’s called Gunbarrel, we’ll get to that momentarily. Makeshift turns into a double-bladed helicopter, like an Osprey or something. (The copter, not the bird.) For transformation the rotor assembly can turn so you have a tilt-rotor function. Intentional or not I couldn’t say. It works though. Maroon is an odd color but the tan kind of works for the plane. It is interesting that you have two helicopters and a cargo plane, making Gunbarrel the odd mode out here, plus I’m not sure he’s all that aerodynamic with that undercarriage, not that Makeshift’s really thick helicopters blade make any more visual sense. You’ll see why that’s important later as well.

Maybe it’s Gunbarrel’s aftershave? DO robots shave?

Robot mode is rather good on both Mini-Cons. Gunbarrel’s design overall does make him a bit backheavy but you can push the wings forward a bit to balance out the weight, though that means the arms are in a weird position. He also has decent knees, which Makeshift lacks. Makeshift’s blades now form his hands (hence the rename I came up with) and you can open them slightly to form claws. He doesn’t have knees but at Mini-Con size articulation was minimum even for the Armada line. There is no change to the colors but they work fine in robot mode.

As you should know by now if you aren’t that new here, the Mini-Cons have a joint gimmick, the ability to link up to a larger Transformer. This is what I should be showing you right now on Whirl except for one big problem. Whirl doesn’t have any Mini-Con “Powerlink” ports on him, gimmick activating or otherwise. While I can mostly forgive the articulation being a late G1 mold, back during the Armada line a few Transmetal Beast Wars figures were retooled to have ports on them. This could have been done with Whirl. I can see the guns having Powerlink ports, which would allow some connectivity in vehicle mode (the altered Transmetals had worse-placed ports). There are two spots on his regular helicopter mode and two on his robot mode that could have been retooled without losing their role in keeping the other mode together. However, it’s worse for these two.

It’s still a helicopter. It…sort of counts.

I’ve brought in Armada Cyclonus to help demonstrate. In addition to their usual Mini-Con gimmick of connecting to larger Transformers, each team had a shared gimmick. I’m pretty sure I brought this up in my Mini-Con overview article. Sometimes it was a design aesthetic and sometimes a shared feature. Gunbarrel (along with the rest of the Air Military Team) and Makeshift (along with his Emergency Team comrades) had a third mode that turned them and their respective teams into additional weaponry. Already Gunbarrel has a gun on his cockpit and could make a decent gauntlet but he could also turn into a multi-barreled cannon, hence his name. Each barrel is molded more like a jet engine so I assume he’s some kind of focused air cannon, hitting you like you were punched by a brick in a hurricane. For some reason only the top barrel that’s behind his plane cockpit ever gets painted on this mold, not just here.

Makeshift on the other hand turns into a three-barreled gun. The Transformers wiki called it a gattling canon but they’re all pointed inward, so if it fires I see something like that big gun on the Death Star, but not nearly as powerful. These could be good arm and shoulder mounted weaponry but Whirl is not able to make use of them. It’s disappointing playwise but it’s not like Hasbro and Takara ever cared about any weapon not formed from three Mini-Cons. Like I said in the overview they ignored the added weapons, armor, and tools a Mini-Con could provide naturally based on their alt mode so I’m not surprised they’d ignore weapon modes on later-end Mini-Cons in the advertising and media. Both of these molds saw multiple appearances with their respective teams so here they both left their teams (by force if you remember the line’s story) and I could see them teaming up with a guy who couldn’t use their abilities and could thus trust his friendship or alliance wasn’t just another larger Transformer using them for their talents. Working them into a sitting emplacement isn’t out of the realm of possibility though. It’s just a shame that two Mini-Cons with so much upgrade potential aren’t getting to use it.

Family photo.

Decision: Stays

Articulation and interactivity issues aside, all three are fun toys. Their individual transformations are fun to mess with, I do have an odd interest in helicopter Transformers, and they are good looking toys even if their posing has limitations. It’s a mold I wish I had in the G1 days and I’m loathe to weaken my Mini-Con army. These are a good addition to my collection.

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