The original Universe line was a strange old beast. Full of eye watering lurid recolours of previously available toys, itís a wonder anyone found them appealing. Whilst the European lines of the early 1990s and the subsequent Generation 2 toys were a nightmare vision of Cybertronian rave culture, they at least had some semblance of a complimentary colour palette to give them a certain uniform look. Not so the Universe line, which with its pin the tail on the donkey approach to colour matching only exacerbated the disparate nature of the line. The line was a pan-generational gathering of Transformers from across the multiverse and had representative toys from each era of Transformers to that point brought together to do battle against Unicron. Whilst the RiD, Beast and Generation 2 eras were fairly well represented, it fell to the trusty old Comabticon moulds to represent for the ĎG1í era. Well, sort of. This Universe version is actually RiDís Runiation combiner team slung into the melee, but its highly likely the RiD characters got a third outing simply because those characters would be more familiar to the target market at that time.
On their sixth outing, the moulds sport a sort of desert camo pattern. Itís a bit rubbish really. Only a year earlier in 2003, the toys had been given a rather fine redeco in an urban camo (i.e. black and white) colour scheme that more accurately matched actual camouflage patterns. Here, the Commandos would only be able to take cover and not be spotted in a wheat field. Not exactly common in the desert. Despite not being massively successful, the uniform colour scheme really suits the team, particularly given their military functions. The tan carries over nicely to the individual robots, so much so that I do often wonder if the toys would have looked better in just a simple tan livery.
Originating in 1986, these moulds are marked by their simplicity and durability. They came at a time in Transformers development when pretty much all the decent Takara moulds had been used and there was a need to develop original product. Perhaps mindful of the fragility of the original Diaclone/ Micro Change moulds, the switch was quickly made to simpler, tougher toys. The more delicate designs of the earlier figures were abandoned in favour of making tough, solid toys that could withstand a battering from children. The line quickly became characterised by simplistic colourful blocks that eschewed much of the detailing and finesse of the í84 Ė í85 line up. The Combaticon moulds are a prime example of this. Designed for quick, instant play the figures are pretty basic and next to the more complex moulds of some of the Universe toys, they do look positively anachronistic. Theyíre not without their charms though.
The unfortunate thing about the various í86 merge groups is that whilst the interchangeable limbs are a nice play feature, it also meant that a huge majority of the smaller Ďlimb-botsí were terrible looking things. With the Commandos being straight recolours of the Combaticons, thereís no hiding from this. Whilst Movor (the space shuttle) and Rotor (the helicopter) are decently acceptable, poor Rollbar (the jeep) is just dreadful. Armorhide (the tank) falls somewhere between the two camps, let down by a severe lack of detail. If itís not the pea-sized heads that cause mirth, itís the comically oversized limbs that each of these smaller robots has. The central Ďleaderí robot, Mega-Octane doesnít look so bad, he is all straight blocks and looks like something out of one of those ĎHow To Draw Robotsí books. The red plastics used on the robot modes seem to be of a slightly different composition and quickly develop stress marks, so thatís something to watch out for. Itís why my Rotorís gun just swings about in his hand. I say hand, but itís really just a post on the inside of half of the back end of the helicopter.
The various vehicle modes, whilst having obvious problems of scale, are all quite fun and again solid enough to be slung about without any risk of damage. Mega-Octaneís base mode (a carry-over from namesake Onslaught) is pretty rubbish though. Itís a ramp with guns. Woo. I was so impressed I couldnít even be bothered to take a properly focussed picture. The ramp attachment is a swine on this version of the mould. Once you clip it in, you canít get it out!
The combined mode is where it all comes together. Ruination is oddly more impressive than Bruticus. Maybe itís the different colours, ridiculous amount of weaponry or the limb configuration, but he just looks so much more coherent and butch than the earlier Bruticus toy. It doesnít look as gangly and slim as Bruticus. A big part of that is the ability to clip the ramp onto the cannons on Mega-Octaneís back, which not only gives the gestalt a proper back, but fills him out somewhat. The golden coloured gestalt parts also work really well with the tan, black and orange visible on the combined form.
If it werenít for the wispy camouflage pattern, the Universe version of Ruination would be worth a punt, as it is, heís overshadowed by the much prettier RiD Urban Camo version and the more solid plastics available to both earlier versions of the mould. That the toys are pretty basic even by the standards of the time make him one only for obsessives that have to have every version of the mould going.