I’ve recently started getting back into collecting Transformers toys, primarily because of the Titans Return line offering designs I love, even for characters I’m not familiar with. The Robots in Disguise figures I’ve bought, on the other hand, have been because my son and I enjoy them from the show. Soundwave and Blur, my latest two buys, are exceptions, as we’ve not seen any episodes with them, yet. However, their designs really caught my eye, especially Soundwave’s. I’ll be reviewing Soundwave, comparing him against other RiD Warriors but also Titans Return Deluxe figures.
Soundwave looks powerful. This alone made me put him in my cart. His robot mode has the broad shoulders, puffed-out chest and thick limbs of a gladiator. His vehicle mode has an aggressive front end that looks as much like an attack dog as combat vehicle. Whichever mode he’s in, he looks ready to take down some Autobots. This appearance is a 180 from his sleek and stealthy Prime iteration.
In general, this version of Soundwave has more in common with G1 Soundwave than the last decade of cartoons. He’s blue and grey in the same spots, has red bands around the wrists, a yellow outline around his chest plate, and if you look close you even see designs on his waist that match up with G1’s cassette playback control buttons.
Unlike many of the Titans Return figures, Soundwave doesn’t seem like he’s hollow. In robot mode, flaps cover up most of the negative space on his forearms, and wheels in the calf design makes the figure appear solid. That is until you turn him around, and find that the back of his torso is mostly exposed, hollow forms. If you don’t usually play or photograph your figures from behind, this won’t be an issue for you. I’d have to say that if we’re going to be forced to have these empty holes on the Hasbro figures, then I prefer the trade of moving that from the limbs to the back.
Soundwave’s alt mode is consistent with earlier RiD Warrior vehicles such as Prime, Bumblebee and Strongarm. Which is to say, it has problems. Like the others, it doesn’t transform easily. The earlier Warriors are too reliant on small pegs and clips to provide friction, leading to breakages that render “complete” transformations impossible. In comparison, Soundwave has too few points of friction or clutch. This means that the fold-out flaps from his forearms, don’t line up evenly with the wheels, the wheels don’t necessarily sit perpendicular to the ground, and there are obvious gap issues.
The technical issues of the alt mode are resolved by how fun it is, anyway. He rolls great, and his energy wheels up his cool factor. He’s built like a tank, making him fun to ram into other bots. The holes for his cannon have some tooth to them, which allows you to aim the cannon easily while preventing unwanted spin.
Robot mode can be equally fun. With a little backlight, Soundwave looks like he’s coursing with energy due to the Jolly Rancher-pink translucent wheels and face. His wide feet easily support pretty much any stance you can put him in, including some where the back foot has only a toe touching the ground. His hips, shoulders, elbows, and neck are all ball joints that increase his range of dynamic poses. Notably lacking is any type of wrist articulation, since his hands aren’t part of the transforming process, leaving plenty of room in the design for at least a simple swivel.
The action starts to fall apart due to some frustrating problems with lack of clutch in his arms.
First, his torso locks into place by lowering the shoulder joint. Internally, small clips grab the rails on the roof of the vehicle mode (or, cropped dog ears, as I see them). So, as long as you keep the shoulder joints down, there’s no problem. Yet, there’s so little friction there that most arm-raising actions pop the clip out of place. Once this happens to both arms, the whole chest starts moving like you’re starting to transform him. If you’re using his cannon in the traditional shoulder-mounted position, you won’t notice the problem because the gun keeps the upper torso in place. But if you use the cannon as a hand gun, or simply remove it, the problem shows up fast.
The other issue in his arms is that the friction pegs that lock his upper arms into place don’t have any corresponding holes, or anything, to clutch. If you try to bend his arms at his elbows, that upper arm is going to come out of place. So, you need to hold him by the upper and lower arm to pose, meaning I can’t naturally aim his hand during the course of play.
In the end, I’d probably have returned this character for the engineering quality issues if I weren’t so enamored with his design. My son and I agree that he looks awesome and fun. However, this won’t be a figure he can enjoy as much on his own because the difficulty of placing the arms properly in alt mode, and the arm looseness problems in robot mode.
If your main concern is getting a Soundwave that looks cool and poses well for photos or display, then this is a great figure, and the issues I’ve found are mostly irrelevant. But if you or younger Transformer fans in your household need more playability, I’d opt for Blur in this wave.