The "uncanny valley" is the dramatic reversal of perception that occurs when a facsimile of a human being becomes almost-but-not-quite perfect, at which point the reaction among onlookers switches from appreciation to sudden, instinctive revulsion. The theory goes that a clearly non-human humanoid - like C-3P0, for instance - is visually appealing because we perceive it as a non-human with human qualities, whereas an almost-human humanoid - like everyone in The Polar Express - is unsettling because we perceive it as a human with non-human qualities, which are even more disturbing if they're so subtle we only perceive them subconsciously. So as a rule, if you can't make a completely convincing copy of a human being, you're better off just throwing accuracy right out the window.
The point of this little lecture is that,
if a similar problem were to exist on Cybertron, this would be the solution: Bamblebee, the Changeable Robot.
You probably won't find Bamblebee at your local toy shop - not if they have any self-respect, anyway (so check Toys Я Us, as they clearly don't). No, this champion of Cybertronian half-assery would be more likely found in your local import market, lurking among novelty cigarette lighters and PVC statues of naked Japanese girls with enormous breasts. Be prepared to haggle, as anyone who stocks Bamblebee will no doubt have concluded he's worth his weight in shoddily-painted faux gold - with a little persistence and persuasion, you should be able to get this bucket of magnificence for a fair price. Me, I recently spent three weeks in Egypt, so the poor Sydney stallholders didn't know what hit them.
The first thing you notice about Bamblebee is his packaging, which is so... what's the right word... "unique" that I was sorely tempted to leave it unopened as a display piece. Eschewing the space-saving trend of modern packaging, Bamblebee's carded bubble is big and proud,
proclaiming to the world that this is as close as his makers could get to the real thing without being sued. And that they're not very good at what they do. Besides the card inserts - which I'm sure aren't stolen and mildly photoshopped from any other toy - Bamblebee's card displays his faction symbol, whatever that is - Autodeceptisuck, or something, I'd wager.
A point of interest is that, as well as half-assing the photoshopping of the faux-Transformers graphics, whoever put this lot together managed to get the sizes wrong, so that the card insert doesn't fit properly into the sculpted plastic bubble. The back of the packaging contains Bamblebee's bio and statline, both of which are in Chinese - that, I admit, is a disappointment, as I was hoping for some seriously bizarre double-translated "Engrish." But like I said, I was so entertained I could barely bring myself to open it up.
But open it I did, because that's how committed OAFEnet is to bringing you your reviews of junk like this. Bamblebee arrives in robot mode, but as is the fashion with Transformers
(or "Changeable Robots," even), let's start with his altmode. If you ever see a 1976 Camaro that's made of plastic, badly-painted, and with big, blocky hinges sticking out of the passenger doors, this is a perfect replica of it - the Decepticons (or whoever he fights) will never see through the disguise. Several paint apps detail this stunningly lifelike vague attempt at a car, including metallic blue for the windows, silver for the headlights, and glossy black for the radiator grille. All four wheels roll on their very loose axles, and sometimes they even roll in the same direction as each other. To its credit, the altmode is very structurally stable - with connecting pegs at every joint, there's no chance of pieces accidentally moving out of position.
Transformation is a breeze,
although the guide on the back of the packaging omits a couple of steps. Firstly, rotate the front wings and passenger doors ninety degrees - you'll probably have to give them a good whack against the side of a desk to get them to disengage from the bonnet. Then flip the hood down to form Bamblebee's chest - or possibly beer gut, judging by the placement - and rotate the front wings down to form his arms. Next, pull the back end of the car down and apart. Finally, reattach both legs, which will inevitably have popped off their joints during that last stage, seeing as the pegs holding them in car mode are about 500% stronger than the rest of the toy.
In robot mode, Bamblebee stands 6½" tall, until he falls over, which he does a lot. Some techy sculpted sections are revealed on such useful areas as the inner legs and the backs of the doors, and new paint apps are revealed on the legs - a half-hearted metallic blue stripe on each - the waist, and the face. If we're being honest,
the face doesn't look exactly like it does on the packaging, but to its credit it's no worse than any Star Wars action figure of Natalie Portman. Bamblebee is articulated at the shoulders, hips, and... well, that's about it, really. The shoulder joints are kind of weird, with the shoulders connected to the doors by balljoints, and the doors then connected to the arms with hinges. The hips are simpler, just plain balljoints. Admittedly there is a bit of kibble, but it's mainly limited to the front, back, left side, right side, and top. From directly underneath, there's very little visible car, except the arms, which are just the front wings with a couple of sculpted bits that might have been intended to be fists.
I have to admit, no matter how seamlessly he blends in with the movie Transformers, it's possible Bamblebee isn't an entirely licensed part of the Transformers range - although believe it or not, he is a copy of a real Transformer toy design. Still, there are plenty of Transformers you can buy because they're fun to play with, or good value for money, or present a very close replica of their CGI forms. This is the only one you'll buy for the sheer entertainment value of its existence.