Review by The Enthusiast
Like most of you, when I think of cutting-edge mecha design, I think of one place: Canada. And the Reboot Exo-Skeleton (hereafter RES) is the nadir of Canadian mecha.
Reboot was the first fully CGI-animated long-form cartoon series, debuting in 1994 and airing for three seasons. Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment (later of Beast Wars fame) created and produced the show. I’ve never seen the cartoon, but it appears to be similar to Tron, with a band of heroes adventuring in virtual realm of data or something. British comic artist Brendan McCarthy is credited with the designs for the entire property, but I can’t be sure that he designed this vehicle. Irwin, another Canadian company, manufactured the Reboot toys. Before Reboot, Irwin was primarily a Canadian distributor for foreign toy companies. After Reboot, Irwin filed for bankruptcy. The Reboot figures are typical mid-nineties mass market figures, workmanlike and respectable, but nothing special. I believe the RES was the only vehicle released.
The RES comes in a large glossy box (10.5” x 15” x 4”) with CGI renderings of the suit, but no photographs of the actual product, which I find irritating. You have no idea what you’re actually buying. In this case, the renderings are much more detailed than the toy inside. Both sides of the box have the same graphic, but one side is in French. Two versions of the RES were released, one with a figure included and one without. Mine is the latter. I picked up the pictured Dot Matrix figure separately.
Inside, the RES rests in a junky corrugated cardboard box (though it was originally twist-tied in). It requires minimal structural assembly (the arms plug into the shoulders, the tail plugs into the body), and there are a few pieces of kibble to tack on. A utilitarian instruction sheet explaining the process is included.
Once you’ve assembled the suit, it stands at an impressive 13.5”.
The RES is an obvious homage to Ripley’s Power Loader from Aliens. The industrial yellow color scheme, the clamp-like “hand,” and the pneumatic pistons all nicely evoke the Power Loader without copying it. It occurs to me that the tail is Geiger-esque, but I may be reaching.
The total design is just okay for me, though. The proportions feel off, with those wide hips and asymmetrical arms. There’s an awful lot of visual clutter, though certain areas, like the legs, are nicely detailed. The pilot figure just stands on a platform with a belt holding it onto the suit.
The suit usually tips forward, and the figure hangs off with no leg support. Presumably the armor is controlled by the character’s mind, but I’d like to at least see a helmet or something connecting the two. The box shows the Dot character wearing a visor and light armor the same color as the suit, which looks much better.
The RES is well articulated, with ankle, knee and hip joints where you’d expect, but the upper body is unusual. The shoulders are tilted at an angle, and while this looks good, the arm movements are non-intuitive. The clamp arm only bends in one direction at the elbow, while the other arm can twist at the elbow. Several segments of the tail can bend and rotate. Both “hands” can grip. While the shoulders are heavily detented (so much so that they feel like they’re going to break on every click), the rest of the joints are just rivets, and mushy. The whole thing slowly melts to the ground unless it’s perfectly balanced. The tail is essential to keeping the whole thing upright.
The plastic is solid, but the spindly arms are longer than the plastic can easily support, and they tend to sag and bend easily. The finishes are a tad undercooked. You have gray and yellow ABS, gray paint apps at the clamp teeth and feet, and silver paint apps at pistons and hips. It looks fine, but simple, like a toddler’s construction toy. I can’t help but imagine how great it would look with a custom paint job and wash, ala Jin Saotome.
I like this toy but I don’t love it. The novelty of an obscure powered armor suit is compelling, but not enough to overcome the toy’s shortcomings. Even though it’s Canadian/British-designed, it has a very American quality to it, lacking a certain subtlety and refinement. The RES would be great for kit-bashing, though, and it’s fairly common and cheap.
|Posted 28 April, 2009 - 06:15 by The Enthusiast