"Generations" Brainstorm Toy Review


General Information:
Release Date: November 2014
Price Point: $24.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Amazon, Target etc.)
Accessories: Pilot (Arcana) figure; Blasters x 2

*Images above with asterisks are from Amazon.com. The text below in italics is from Hasbrotoyshop:
A genius scientist and diabolical inventor, Brainstorm develops advanced weaponry for the Autobots. Although many of his inventions are deemed too devastating for use in actual combat, it's possible his laboratory itself is his most dangerous creation. Brainstorm frequently ignores proper safety protocols, and an unwary visitor to his lab runs a high risk of triggering some half-finished doomsday weapon. In spite of this, he is allowed to continue his work, proof of just how valuable Brainstorm is to the Autobot cause.

Gear up for hardcore Transformers action with this awesome 2-in-1 Brainstorm figure! This crazy Autobot can launch a fierce double-fisted blaster attack at his Autobot enemies in robot mode. But if the mission calls for fast-flying recon, he can convert to jet mode. Keep converting him back and forth so his enemies can't keep up!**

**Part of this write up is clearly from a template and thus explaining the "double fisted blaster attack" and "Autobot enemies" doesn't make much sense in the context of Brainstorm.

In 1987, the "Transformers" toy line introduced a new sub-group known as the "Headmasters". These Transformers each included a smaller figure that transformed into the head of the character. The exact nature of these "pilots" varied depending on the fiction you read, but the gimmick was the same. Over the years, characters from the era of the Headmasters have made appearances in the "Transformers" toy line including the recent Generations Deluxe and Timelines Chromedome releaess. There was even a brief reappearance of the Headmaster "gimmick" (a small "pilot" figure forming the robot head) in the Armada toy line and then later in the Energon toy line.

One of the first Autobot Headmasters was Brainstorm. The character did not get a ton of attention in the G1 comic books though he was important to developing the Headmaster process in the cartoon. In the recent IDW Publishing titles however he has become quite prominent, so making him the first new Headmaster sculpt in years was a natural one.

"Pilot" (aka Arcana) Review

 Brainstorm's packaging only lists the Headmaster figure as "Pilot", but most fans will know him by a different name: Arcana. Every bit the scientist that Brainstorm was, Arcana also helped develop the "Master" systems that created Headmasters and later, Targetmasters. For the sake of this review I will refer to the Headmaster figure as Arcana.

Head Mode:
Arcana's alternate form is Brainstorm's head. This particular design owes itself to a combination of the original Brainstorm action figure's head and the current IDW Publishing version. It carries over many of the details including the distinct lines on the top of the head, the four panels that flank the head on the "helmet" section and his distinctive mouthplate with two small notches on either side. The original Brainstorm's head was rather wide, but this design is more narrow and sleek looking. Arcana is much smaller than his G1 counterpart, but in terms of proportion the head matches up better with the body than the G1 version.

Arcana is cast in an light grey color. Details are filled in with paint including orange on the mouthplate and yellow on the eyes, matching his G1 incarnation. You'll see some light blue on the back. These parts form the legs in his robot mode, but here there have been details added to this section that help it look more like the back of a head than small legs dangling in the back.

A bit of warning: out of the box Brainstorm's head is pushed in tight. I actually wound up popping Arcana's head out of his socket (fortunately it's a ball joint and snapped right back on). The head is removed by pusing the grey collar piece on Brainstorm down, which pulls a small notch forward. Theoretically this is meant to allow enough clearance for the head to pop right out. After I reconnected the head following my first try, I had to gently rock the head side to side and then it popped out. Since then it snaps very tightly, but I have not had a repeat of Arcana's head popping off. Still, there was one sad consequence of the initial removal: a bit of paint scraping on the sides of Arcana's head. This is perhaps the biggest flaw in the entire toy. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but it was a bit of a buzz kill after I gleefully unboxed Brainstorm from his cardboard and plastic prison!

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Swing the rear of the head down and straighten it out.
  2. The side panels swing up to form the arms.

Robot Mode:
Much to my surprise, Arcana's sculpt is not an updated version of the original G1 Arcana toy. Instead, it's a different design altogether. For instance, the original Arcana had a round helmet section on the head with rectangular pieces on either side of the head. On this new version, the "helmet" section is more rounded with circles on the side of the head and what looks like a small scope on the top of the head on the right. Even where there are similarities to G1 Arcana there are differences. On the center of G1 Arcana's chest there is a rectangle. This new version also has a rectangle, but there is a sunburst shaped design inside.

The arms on this mini-figure form the sides of the robot head, so it sort of looks like Arcana has two huge shields attached to his arms. Have no fear, there are arm details on the inside of these panels including individual finger details.

This mode shows off more parts that have been painted blue. This includes the legs and arms. The face is painted orange. The helmet section of the head is painted grey, but mine got a bit scraped up on the sides during the initial head detachment (see note above).

Thanks in part to his transformation scheme, Arcana has five points of articulation. His arms can move up and down and his legs swing at the hips and knees (as part of his transformation). The head is on a ball joint, so it has a wide range of movement. This same joint allows Brainstorm's head to turn when Arcana is in head mode.

Brainstorm Review

Robot Mode:
This Brainstorm design is largely influenced by this current appearance in the IDW Publishing comic book series, but that appearance of course borrows many design elements from the G1 incarnation of Brainstorm. The basic layout of the robot mode is the same as G1 Brainstorm. This includes wings and stabilizer fins on his arms, blasters with stabilizer fins on top, the vehicle mode cockpit being on his chest and the front end of the vehicle mode winding up on the back. Other details carried over from his G1 incarnation include the "L" shaped designs on his chest and the raised design with three horizontal lines on his legs. These details in particular all come from stickers that were used on G1 Brainstorm.

The more modern influences come into play in the design of his various body parts. This includes the wings on his arms which are very angular (versus the G1 version which were thicker and more straight). Several other parts such as his hip guards and feet have very curved and thin designs which look fantastic. You'll also see tubes embedded in this upper body near the head, a detail that is used in the IDW comic books. He really does have the striking look of the IDW version of the character and whereas the G1 toy looks rather bulky, Brainstorm looks sleek and dynamic.

If you look at my photos above, you'll note that in some shots I have the wings raised, and in others they are swing up against the arms. Both designs look fine to me. Having the wings up looks more like the way Brainstorm appeared in G1 and how he currently appears in the comics, but swinging the wings against the shoulders streamlines the robot a bit. My preferred method is leaving the wings out.

Brainstorm is cast in turquoise, dark grey, light grey and translucent yellow plastic. The turquoise makes up most of the figure with the dark grey used on several smaller parts such as the upper arms, elbows, thighs and feet. The light grey plastic is found on his forearms and lower legs. The translucent yellow is found on the cockpit window that forms the center of his torso. The weapons are cast in turquoise plastic.

The paint colors used on the figure include silver, red and turquoise. The silver is found on details like the vents on his upper arms, the smaller vents on is chest and the knee area. It is also used on the barrels of the two weapons. The red is found on the L shaped details on the chest and the lower legs. The turquoise is used on parts like the lower legs to give some visual continuity between the upper body and lower body. Some of these colors such as the red on his chest are influenced by the G1 action figure and they look great. I sort of wish there was an Autobot symbol on the chest or cockpit cover (as there will be on the Japanese version) but since there are already two symbols (both on the wings) I suspect the designers may have felt that would be overkill. One detail I would've liked is some type of detailing on the stabilizer fins that wind up becoming shoulder armor. The dark grey looks a bit plain, but that is probably my biggest complaint about the deco in this form.

There are twenty one points of articulation on Brainstorm in this form. This includes five in each arm and leg. There are no traditional ball joints on the figure. Instead, it is a combination of swivel, hinge and ratchet joints. The ratchet joints in particular help provide stability, especially on the hip area. The head can turn all the way around in a circle thanks to the ball joint on Arcana's head. The weapons included with the figure have 5mm pegs. Brainstorm can hold them in his hands or you can store the blasters by attaching them to the 5mm ports on his back (each has a visible screw).

Of course, Brainstorm's feature gimmick is his "Headmaster" ability. To allow the head to be pulled out, press the dark grey piece on his chest down, this slides a locking piece at the base of the neck forward, then you can pull out the head. When snapping it back in, be gentle, there is no need to press it too hard. Just pop it in gently and let it be. When pulling it out, do the same but in reverse. Push the dark grey piece down, pull the head out gently. If it refuses to budge, I found rocking it from side to side helps it come out.

An interesting note: when you push the head in, look inside the cockpit and you'll see a panel swing down (really the back of the pilot's seat). This panel says "SPD" "STR" and "INT" on it which represent the tech spec numbers of "Speed", "Strength" and "Intelligence". This is a homage to the ability of the G1 Headmasters to have the same stats show up when you inserted the head into the bodies. An interesting note: the stats used on the panel here represent G1 Brainstorm's stats, not the ones on the box making it a really cool retro homage in a very modern looking figure!

Transformation to Vehicle Mode:

  1. Detach the head and weapons. Set them aside for now.
  2. On each forearm, swing out the panel on the inside and swing each hand in, then close the panel.
  3. Swing the front panels on the lower legs up, swing each foot up, then push the panels closed.
  4. Swing the legs out a couple notches (or "clicks" of the ratchet joint) and swing them back.
  5. Swing the nosecone of the vehicle from the back forward.
  6. Swing the legs back completely, attaching them to the back of the robot.
  7. Push the nosecone section up a bit more to snap it into place.
  8. Swing each wing on the upper arms up.
  9. Swing each stabilizer fin on the upper arms up.
  10. Rotate each arm around at the elbow joint section.
  11. Bend each arm at the elbow joint.
  12. On each forearm you'll see a tab, attach that to the corresponding groove on the legs.
  13. Attach each weapon to one side of the nosecone.
  14. Transform the head into Arcana and seat him inside the cockpit. If the "Stats" panel is down, lift it up.

Vehicle Mode:
The basic shape of Brainstorm's vehicle mode is based on his appearance in the G1 series. This includes a long nosecone section with weapons attached to it, a cockpit towards the back flanked by small vertical stabilizers and wings sticking out at the sides. However like the robot mode the design of the parts that actually make up this form give him a much more sleek and streamlined appearance than his G1 counterpart. The wings and stabilizers sweep back dramatically and the front section is long with a curved shape that leads to the cockpit section. Unlike the G1 version where the cockpit cover made up a huge chunk of the torso, here it's smaller and more elegant looking. Smaller details like the vents on the back, angled points on the rear section (where the robot shoulders are) and sides along with the machinery details on the blasters really help elevate this sculpt.

The colors in this form all carry over from the robot mode, where the turquoise takes center stage once again with the dark grey forming most of the extra parts at the rear of the vehicle. Silver paint really shines here. It provides details on the blasters in the front, the sides of the nose section and vents at the base of each wing. The tampographed Autobot symbols are quite prominent in this form and the yellow cockpit cover takes center stage once again. Overall it's an eye catching figure that is really quite different than most of the bolder colors on other figures and in that sense, it distinguishes itself nicely.

In terms of functionality there are three main features. First is the cockpit which opens to accommodate Arcana. Second is landing gear on the bottom of the nosecone which swings down. It's not made up of wheels but is instead a flat piece of landing gear like you'd see on many scifi spaceships. Finally the front weapons attach via 5mm pegs, so you could take any old weapon and attach it for some extra firepower!

Final Thoughts:
Brainstorm biggest issue is that the head doesn't detach as smoothly as it should. It was quite the struggle initially, but afterward it became much easier. I would've tried to use a different mechanism than the one chosen (perhaps one more akin to the original G1 figure) but it's not enough for me to hate on the figure. I think he looks fantastic in both modes and he's fun to play with. I'm also very happy to see the Headmaster gimmick return, and the "stats" panel in his chest is a brilliant homage to G1. Recommended, but keep the "head issue" in mind.

Lightbox Gallery