My descent into the depths of 3rd Party figures continues with my latest acquisition; Spark Toys ST-01 Alpha Pack.
So, Spark Toys the new kids on the block throwing their hat into the 3rd Party arena, bucking the trend we see lately from others they have gone for a character / design not seen as yet in toy form for their first offering….well that’s not entirely accurate. We did have the crappy Titanium Series version but let’s just move along shall we, no need to dwell on that.
I am of course talking about “The War Within” Optimus Prime, a design we initially saw brought to life by Don Figueroa in the vastly superior line of comics from Dreamwave.
We have of course had other releases of pre-earth Optimus Prime (Orion Pax too)……
But none have captured what I feel is a true Cybertronian aesthetic, a look which the Dreamwave comics in my opinion gave us. Have Spark Toys pulled this off ?, lets get on with the review and see what we’ve got shall we.
As ever I begin (for those who aren’t familiar with me or my reviews), with the box / packaging. I’m a box collector and as such I have a thing for appreciating effort in this department as much as the figure itself.
ST-01 comes packaged in a sturdy, not overly big, box using a good quality cardboard. Equally on terms with that of an official Masterpiece release.
Some nice detailed photos of the figure in both modes make up the packaging artwork. Monochrome matt’s with glossy colours overlaid and silver lettering. Illustration images on the back show figure detail and on the bottom we have some warnings and images of the next two releases, ST-02 Megatron and ST-03 Grimlock (get in !). Overall it’s a quality box, it definitely has that 3rd Party look to it, this is not a negative comment I should add. However it’s just me but I’m quite the minimalist, this being the case so far my favourite boxes have been from Badcube.
Out of the Box
Cracking the box open we find Alpha Pack is contained inside a two piece clamshell in his Cybertronian vehicle mode.
Accessories included are a blaster, axe, matrix, baggie with the instructions and collector card.
Both the gun and axe feel solid and go well with the figure, the tabs are a match for the official MP-10 so will be fit for use on him should you wish. The light piping on the blaster is great, I kinda hope another 3rd Party company comes up with an LED upgrade for this as lit up it will look amazing. Sadly though the matrix is pathetic, its small and quite fragile but the paint application is good. I see why it’s so small, the chest compartment on Alpha is also small in relation to the rest of his body and going back to Dreamwaves comics for reference, one or two panels do show the Matrix being substantially small in relation to Prime’s hands. However I feel for this toy release it would of not been too much of an issue for the Matrix to have been pre molded in the chest compartment or maybe even have been made from die-cast much like the one supplied with the 2002 New Year Special Convoy.
The instruction booklet is glossy and full colour with highlighted monochrome illustrations detailing the transformation sequence. The collector card is nice too, quite thick much like a credit card and staying with the credit card theme it also has silver embossed numbers on the front face, indicating I assume the production number. In my case here the number being 00374 of ?
Just a side note here but couldn’t not mention it, Alpha Pack is packaged really well. The figure itself had sheets of thin plastic in-between the sections to stop friction scratches and such whilst in the box, inspired.
Cybertronian Vehicle Mode
I’ll be up front, I think this is a spot on likeness of Prime’s vehicle mode in the comics. It’s not the same shade of red, in fact the toy here in hand is more a crimson than red. This leads me nicely onto the topic of the colour scheme. I say this and not paint scheme as this figure is mostly coloured plastic with painted detailing. Both the crimson and blue plastic have tiny metallic flecks in giving it a nice lustre and stop it from looking like a big chunk of plastic, even though that’s what it is as Alpha Pack has no die-cast whatsoever. Being the person I am I actually weighed it and you know what, he’s heavier than MP-10 ! Back in his Cybertron days Prime obviously loved the Energon Pie’s. Back to the details, Alpha has lot’s of detailing giving it that alien / futuristic look which is highlighted by the minimal but correctly placed paint application.
While in vehicle mode Alpha can store his blaster, clipping into a slot on the back section of the “truck”. I can find no location to store the axe and the instruction booklet gives no indications that this is the case either.
No rubber on the wheels but the soft matt plastic used could fool you into thinking they were and because of this he rolls smooth and quiet, thankfully lacking that plastic rolling noise we get on the official MP cars (you know the noise I’m talking about). Side by side with MP-10 and Alpha has the length on him but not the height, which is no issue and I have no problem believing that (in terms of the fiction) Alpha would go on to be MP-10
Transformation of Alpha is almost a standard Optimus Prime type transformation. Legs sliding out, front / cab moving forward to form chest and arms folding round with fists concealed in the forearms. I know for some collectors that’s putting it really simple and they may feel the links are tenuous but just calling it as I see it.
Transformation is possible without consulting the instruction sheet but I’d always advise giving them the once over to be sure, I mentioned Badcube earlier, give Sunsurge a try for the first time without instructions !
Halfway through this review and I get to my first real issue (tiny matrix has a letter from Prime so is excused from this list), the hinge plate for the back section (see photo close up). On first transformation it suffered a stress mark, not great considering I’m the most gentle of touch when handling my collection. This is where I do feel that a little die-cast would have been of benefit, sure there would have been a colour scheme miss-match but I’d take that any day over a potential snap-age (is that even a word?).
Now Alpha is in his robot mode and he’s looking bad-ass, a lot beefier than MP-10. I initially thought his head was a little on the…..well, little ! But as with my comments about the Matrix etc. a quick flick through a comic and it’s all good, the dimensions check out. Alpha has a good range of articulation on both the arms and legs, the hands even get a little extra special treatment with a fully articulate index finger, you know so he can point sternly at naughty robots or maybe give directions to the nearest Energon Pub. Staying on the hands and as mentioned regarding the weapons, they slot in much the same as MP-10 and allow an interchange if you desire. When not in use the weapons can store in slots on the back pack , and whilst not fully out of sight, they don’t look out of place.
Now I find myself here at the second and third issue with Alpha, the backpack and the waist “flaps”.
I know Ben pointed it out in his great video review (check it out if you can), the backpack could do with being able to clip or slot in somewhere. It doesn’t flap about or have to move to allow the waist to turn but it does just hang there, clipping I would tidy it up and maybe lessen the chance of more stress on that hinge.
Now the issue I have with the waist flaps is that they are loose, not such an issue in itself but the reason they are loose is because they are a little bit naff, well the way they attach is the source of the naff-ness.
It’s thin plastic pegs that move around too much and if you’re the heavy handed type, could easily snap off, maybe a good argument for a metal pin as they are only intended to move up and down or forwards and backwards (choose the term that suits you best).
Comparing to the robot mode of MP-10 and Alpha is on the short side, not by much may I add but like I said about the vehicle mode I have no problem believing that (in terms of the fiction) Alpha would go on to be MP-10.
I’m not going to lie, I love this figure, I knew when I first saw it and when he arrived there was a big smile on my face as I took it out of the box. I mentioned Sunsurge earlier, he’s another 3rd Party favourite of mine but the only other to make me smile like this was Sphinx. Alpha Pack is a big heft of solid figure, no die-cast (debateable if needed or not) but has the weight and feel of a figure laden with it. Many points of articulation, lots of detail and a lush colour scheme make this a must have figure for you’re collection, especially if like me you’re a fan of the Dreamwave series War Within. It’s not flawless or perfect, but name me a figure that is. Some minor issues as I’ve mentioned and one or two paint overruns here and there do not detract anything from this toy at all. What makes me even more giddy going forward is the fact we have not just Megatron coming but my all time favourite character Grimlock. If Spark Toys do as good a job with them as what they have here then their status in the ring with the other 3rd Party boys is well earned and secure.
Thanks to Kapow Toys Ltd, figures reviewed are available online via their website.
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