Dark of the Moon Backfire with Spike Witwicky Toy Review

in 2011, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Dark of the Moon, Generation One, Human Alliance, Scout

Dark of the Moon

General Information:
Release Date: April 2011
Price Point: $9.99 (varies depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Machine guns x 2, Spike Witwicky action figure
Images: Image gallery of Backfire with Spike Witwicky

As the "Dark of the Moon" toy line began to be revealed during the time frame of Toy Fair 2011, some interpreted the "Cyberverse" Commander series of figures as the heir apparent to the position held by the Scout Class figures, a major staple of the Transformers toy line since the days of "Beast Wars". However, Toy Fair 2011 revealed this to not be the case. Instead, the Scout Class is being enhanced and folded into the "Human Alliance" sub-line of Transformers figures. Originally this line focused on large scale "Alternators" style vehicles with human partners, all based on the movie universe. The concept has been expanded now to include new characters that work together on the battlefield. In some respects, this sub-line is a near realization of the "G.I. Joe and Transformers" toys fans have wanted for years.

Spike Witwicky
To fans old and new, the name "Witwicky" should ring a bell. In Generation One, the character of Spike Witwicy was introducd in the Transformers animated series as the young companion to the Autobots who often ventured out on missions with them. Years later, Spike himself would become a Transformer when he took on the role of a "Headmaster", becoming the head of Cerebros, who in turn transformed into the head of the giant Autobot Fortress Maximus. Spike would serve as the template for future human characters who allied themselves with the Autobots, including Sam Witwicky in the live action films.

No statement is made in the tech specs of this character to say just how he is related to Sam Witwicky (if at all) but I think it's safe to assume he's meant to be related to Sam somehow. As a side benefit, this also allows Hasbro to exercise the trademark, ensuring they hold onto it for future use.

Spike Witwicky Review

Much like his Generation One counterpart, this Spike Witwicky figure does not really have any features that jump out at you and say "This is Spike Witwicky". Part of the reason for this is the head design, which does not feature a human head sculpt but rather a non-removable helmet (no hidden face there, sorry folks). The helmet itself has a nice design with a wide visor and a covering over the mouth area that extends forward a bit, giving the look of a more traditional Transformer head sculpt. The body certainly does have an "urban fighter" look to it. He looks like he is wearing a leather top and pants with thick military style boots on the feet. Covering his chest is a layered series of armor plates. He also has similar armor plating on his back, with a shell that almost looks like something you would find on a beetle.

Spike has a good amount of small details sculpted into his design. The clothing has wrinkles in several places including the arms and thighs. He also has small details like armor pads on his elbows and knees.

Spike is cast in dark grey plastic. Gunmetal, silver,black, yellow and red plastic all provide additional detail. The helmet section is painted gunmetal, with the visor eyes painted yellow. Black is found on his chest and boots while the silver is used for the front torso armor. The red, as you may have guessed, is used to paint an Autobot symbol, found on his left shoulder area. I do like the color scheme a lot as it looks good and it fits in with the theme of a character who fights in an urban environment. I can imagine Spike patrolling with Backfire through the concrete grey city blocks searching for Decepticon activity. In what may be an odd Q/A issue, there are some weird spots of orange paint found on the lower legs of my Spike figure. I don't believe they were meant to be there and they don't wash off, so I'm guessing some type of weird splash may have happened at the factory.

There are thirteen points of articulation on this figure. This includes the ability for his shoulders and hip joints to rotate as well as his wrists. Double joints are the key to allowing this figure to "pilot" Human Alliance Transformers, so while his shoulder and hip joints rotate, they can also swing forward and back to put him into sitting positions. Under Spike's feet are holes at the heel area which allow you to attach him to pegs on Human Alliance figures.

Backfire Review

Robot Mode
Backfire's robot design is a rather unusual one. With most Transformers that have two or three wheeled vehicle modes, you generally expect a somewhat sleek and thin robot form, but Backfire is anything but thin and sleek. Instead, he looks like a Transformer built for power that could deliver speed in his alternate mode. Some of the bulk comes from the way his parts come together in robot mode such as his legs, which are formed by halves of the vehicle mode coming together, thus making them fairly wide. He also has a torso that is mostly mad eup of the engine from his vehicle form, giving off even more of a powerful appearance. His arms are also rather thick, with two of the wheels from his vehicle form mounted on the side, looking like shields that are permanently attached to his arms.

Backfire isn't just about bulk and power however. There are some really nicely sculpted smaller details. The head sculpt for instance has a design that is reminscent of some Generation 2 head suclpts, with details that splay out in different directions form the center, all around a face with visor eyes and a mouthplate. It's a very intricate head sculpt that goes beyond the typical "helmet on face" design. His torso is also very impressive looking, with cylinders and tubes all lined up and down vertically. His weapons are also very interesting. Instead of typical weaponry with a standard sized peg to plug into fists, these weapons have a ball joint connected to a C clip. These clips attach to a piece that sits in front of each robot fist. To see the fists, you need to look at the forearms from the inside and you'll see four fingers sculpted into each hand (a typical sign of a movie universe figure). Each weapon looks like a big machine gun with a large barrel and a targeting scope. I really like the look of these weapons, and I think it's awesome that there are some C clip weapons being mixed into the figure assortments since many Transformers figures are now being designed with these weapons in mind.

There are four primary plastic colors used for this figure: black, grey, gold and translucent orange. The black and grey colors are primarily found on the arms and legs with the gold plastic in the center of the body. Gold is also used for several joints including the hip joints and the parts that connect the wheels to the arms. The translucent orange plastic is used for light piping on his head, but you'll also see it on the insides of his legs. The orange is a nice touch as it works as a bright contrast against the otherwise dark colors. Paint applications are done in silver, gold, black and red. Silver is the most obvious color. You'll see it on the engine section of his chest, the head and an Autobot symbol on each shoulder section. Black is found on the legs, but those details seem mostly intended for the vehicle mode. The gold color is used for details on the robot head while the red is a bit hard to find if you're not looking for it. The red color is found on the left leg, where it paints a ring around his exhaust pipe. Overall, it's a great looking color scheme that also plays into the "dark urban" motif of the character.

Like Spike, Backfire also has thirteen points of articulation in this mode. His includes four points in each arm and three in each leg. His leg movement is somewhat hampered at the knees due to the way each half of one of his wheels becomes part of the back of his legs, but you can swing them out to the sides to get them out of the way. While not exactly articulation on the figure, you can manipulate the position of his weapons by moving them on their ball joints. You can also attach the weapons to bars on his legs near the knees for some variety. This gives him four potential spots where you can attach weaponry, making him one potentially dangerous Autobot!

Transformation to Vehicle Mode

  1. Detach the weapons if attached and set them aside for now.
  2. Swing down the back of each robot leg, extending them forward to being forming the central part of the vehicle mode.
  3. Swing each leg down at the middle to connect the two legs together.
  4. Swing the robot upper body down so the section you just formed from the legs is now on top of the back of the torso.
  5. Push the robot head down.
  6. Connect the two rear wheel halves together.
  7. Rotate each robot arm so it looks like he has his hands up.
  8. Swing the gold joint connecting the arms to the torso into the sides.
  9. Connect the robot forearms together to form the front of the vehicle.
  10. Swing down the black bars in the front.
  11. Attach each weapon to the bars on the back of the vehicle.
  12. Position Spike so he can sit on top of the vehicle and hold onto the handlebars.

Vehicle Mode
I actually remember seeing a few of these "three wheeler" vehicles tearing up the streets in Manhattan not too long ago. They are rather interesting looking vehicles. Not quite a motorcycle and I don't think their owners or manufacturers would want them to be called "tricycles" either! With two big wheels in the front and one in back and a big engine sitting underneath, the power conveyed in Backfire's design comes through here, but this time out there is an added element of sleek design added in by the vehicle's top section. The are from the front to the back where the passenger sits has curved and angular lines that look nice and aerodynamic. Since this section makes up nearly half of the vehicle mode, it offers a nice contrast to the details on th elower portion of the vehicle. I could definitely see this vehicle handling the sometimes rough roads of a city.

Some of the smaller details on this vehicle are nicely done. The handlebars used to control the vehicle have two circles between them, possibly intended to be a spedometer and fuel gauge. The driver's seat has some nice, textured design on it that looks a lot like some type of leather and the wheels on the front end are each connected to the vehicle by joints that have springs and bars sculpted into them. I really like these little touches on a vehicle mode and they look great.

This mode shows off all the same colors as the robot mode, but the grey gets featured here since it makes up most of the top. This form also show soff some of the translucent orange plastic in the form of a headlight in the middle of the vehicle's front section. You''ll also see two small silver "tanks" on the sides of the vehicle towards the back. It's not a spectacular color scheme, but it fits in the theme of the character and looks good.

All three of Backfire's wheels can spin in this mode. Thanks to the ball joints on his weapons, they can rotate around to fire forward or back, which is a nice little touch. The Spike figure does sit on the vehicle without a problem, but I find his feet do not quite reach the foot rests as easily as it appears on package. You do need to do a bit of playing around with the position of the figure to get it lookling like how it appears on the packaging, but it is doable.

Transformation to Weapon Mode (from vehicle mode)

  1. Detach the weapons if connected and set them aside for now.
  2. Lift the top half of the vehicle up and swing it back.
  3. Split the rear wheel in half and rotate each half back.
  4. Swing the section with the driver's seat on it back.
  5. Connect the halves of the single wheel together.
  6. Lift the silver engine piece up and swing it forward.
  7. Bend the front end of the vehicle formed by the forearms up, using the cage to form a back rest for a seat on top of the weapon.
  8. Swing each of the front wheels back.
  9. Reattach each weapon.
  10. On the underside of the weapon mode is a peg that can be swung forward or back to accomodate a larger figure's arm/fist.
  11. Spike can sit on top of the weapon, though there's not much for him to grip on. Wedging him between the engine section and the seat back formed by the front cage is your best bet.

Weapon Mode
Unlike Sandstorm or Thunderhead, Backfire's weapon mode is truly made in the spirit of the Generation One Targetmaster Transformers. Sure Spike is shown on the packaging sitting on top as if he were using the weaponry on Backfire, but frankly he's not stable at all there and the weapon itself doesn't really sit flat on a surface. Why should it? Backfire transforms into a giant blaster, and he's meant to be wielded by another Transformer. His tech specs don't identify just what kind of weapon he is, but the front barrel end is really interesting looking and the use of the translucent plastic filling up the front of the weapon tells me that Backfire is meant to be dangerous in every mode! I also like the ability of the machine gun weapons to still be used in this form. I like to think of this weapon as both a projectile and energy weapon in one. The long form of the weapon also gives it a very "scifi rifle" appearance that I like a lot. What I give the designers a lot of credit for is developing a weapon that is obviously made from a vehicle form with wheels hanging off of it, but still manage to make it look convincing as a weapon for another figure.

The biggest reveal of this form is the translucent orange plastic in front, which contrasts wonderfully against the dark grey and black colors that make up so much of this Transformer. All the other silver, gold, black and grey details carry over from other modes such as the robot form.

Final Thoughts
So far the Human Alliance Scout Class figures have been very impressive. Backfire and Spike are certainly a strong pair in this two pack, however there are some small issues that get in the way of them being highly recommended. This includes the articulation interference on the robot mode legs and the odd orange splotches of paint on my Spike figures' legs. I will strongly recommend this figure however for a cool sculpt, neat motif and an awesome weapon mode.