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By Thomas Wheeler

It takes a whole lot for a new toy line to impress me. A toy line has to have a huge amount of imagination, creativity, and quality in it for me to show some interest, especially if it's not based on something that I readily recognize. Frankly, it's been years since anything has done that.

R.E.V.s did it. This new line from Playmates Toys doesn't seem to be on very many people's radar, and that's a shame, because it's a very cool toy line. R.E.V.s stands for Radically Engineered Vehicles, but really, it's a line of robots, that look more than a bit like Bionicle with a measure of Star Wars Battle Droids thrown in. There's a lot here to appeal to fans of Star Wars, Bionicle, Transformers -- even G.I. Joe, seeing as how the smallest ones in the series are about 4" in height and could pass for weird Battle Android Troopers.

One of the things I find interesting is that the robots come in four different size ranges -- 4", 5-1/2", 7", and the big ones, that look like they're close to 12" in height, although they're bent over in their packages and it's sort of hard to tell, and I haven't been able to afford to bring one of those home yet. And yet their overall designs are quite similar, and they're intended to be to scale with each other despite their drastic size differences. I think that's sort of cool.

Recently I brought home one of the 5-1/2" R.E.V.s. His name is CRUX. He's one of the MavWrecks, the good guys in the concept. And if Crux has one extremely unusual point, it's that something pretty drastic happened to him somewhere between prototype and production. Somebody, somewhere along the way, made a very considerable alteration in his basic color scheme.

Crux, as pictured on his own package, is a robot that appears to be equal parts yellow and black. His head is yellow with some black trim, his "collar" is yellow, his mid body is black with yellow stripes, his ipper legs are yellow, his lower legs are black with yellow stripes, and his arms are mostly yellow with a fair amount of black on the lower arms.

But that's not the Crux that's in the package. The Crux that you get is almost entirely orange, with some black trim on his torso, the backs of his legs, and his lower arms. It is a seriously drastic alteration, and I really sort of wonder how and why it happened.

To be perfectly blunt, the new color scheme is not an improvement. One curious thing about most of the R.E.V.s toys to date is a distinct lack of bright colors. They tend to use either dark or rather pale and muted shades. There's not really a lot of bright colors on the robots, and they could really use some. There's no good reason I can think of not to use some bright colors on these guys. It might help them sell better. Frankly, I wouldn't mind at some point if another R.E.V.s came out with something akin to Crux's original color scheme, even if that robot has a different name.

But the orange isn't that bad. It's still a cool-looking robot, and I'm not really complaining. I'm just surprised, and a little mystefied about it.

These R.E.V.s toys have a truly astounding degree of articulation. They move at the head, neck, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, ankles, and even "toes". Their relatively narrow limbs give them a greater range of motion than a somewhat stockier "human" figure in the same size range and articulation level could expect to have, unless that "human" figure had some double-joints in the limbs.

One small complaint -- I think Crux was packaged a little too forcefully. His lower legs are a bit askew, and one can see a bit of warping around the knee joint. Crux is molded from a somewhat flexible plastic -- which I consider rather unusual for a robot -- and I think he got a little warped in his package. He still stands up okay, but one can sort of tell he's not quite as precisely "aligned" as he should be. This isn't the first time I've had this happen to an action figure, and I've been told that it's possible to correct this by briefly boiling the action figure, which makes the plastic more susceptible to being reshapen, at least briefly, making the necessary correction, and then putting the figure into cold water to resolidify the plastic to its proper level. Personally, I've never tried it. But I might.

Crux comes with a fair sporty-looking car. This car has not been as heavily recolored from its prototype stage as Crux himself was, although the yellow hubcaps have been painted orange. Does someone at Playmates have something against the color yellow? Anyway, the car is predominantly silver, with a black top and blue detailing. It looks like a foreign race car, a street racer of some sort, and it's about 5-3/4" long. It's not intended for Crux to get in and drive it. He can either conceal himself underneath it, or the car can be separated into various parts, and used as a sort of body armor on the robot -- making him look more than a little like someone trying to be a Transformers Alternator, frankly...

The car, on its own, features a "pullback" motor, where you roll the car back, and then let it go so it can "REV" forward. Don't blame me for that pun, people, I'm just repeating how the package describes it.

Two spring-loaded missile launchers are also included with the set, which can either be used by Crux, or attached to the sides of the car.

There's also a CD-Rom with the toy. The CD contains a commercial for the toys, which is 30 seconds long and has some CGI animation along with shots of the toys. Also on the CD is a comic. It exists in a normal PDF format, but there is also a Flash animated version of the same comic, with sound effects and voice acting, which gives it a little more life. The story in the comic goes as follows:

At secret testing facility outside of Detriot, Dr. Tucker has created R.E.V.s as peacekeepers that hide within an urban setting. Fearing that the R.E.V.s would be too powerful, Dr. Tucker instilled in his machines personality, in order to give them a consciences so they would not be mere killing machines. The head of the facility, Malik, wants to use the R.E.V.s as nothing more then mere killing machines. Tucker, taking a number of the good R.E.V.s with him, makes an escape, but they are persued by the evil R.E.V.s that are still loyal to Malik.

The R.E.V.s in the story all appear to have thier own distinct personalities and quirks. Also, they mention other R.E.V. projects hidden around the world, leaving the story open for more characters to be brought in later.

Also on the CD is a PDF file containing all the profiles of the characters, which appear to be the bios printed on the packaging.

Just outside Detroit, huh? Sort of figures in a way. I like the idea of other R.E.V.s projects as well. When Playmates showed off this new line at a Toy Fair back in October, some of the pictures I've managed to dig up have shown more toys than can be accounted for in the line known to exist to date -- even allowing for some radical color changes.

Speaking of character profiles, here's the one for Crux:


Focused and Fighting for Freedom!

A pacifist, Crux would rather debate a problem than have to fight over it. But when push comes to shove, this wise 'wheeler can push back... and hard! Built from the remains of a prototype model, some say Crux may have once been the most powerful R.E.V. ever created! Unfortunately for him, all records of his previous form have been deleted. Uncertain of the future and what it may mean about his past, Crux charges forward in the hopes that the MavWreck crusade may lead him to more information about his history!

Oh, do NOT get me started on the irony of THAT file card given the radical change in this guy's color scheme between prototype and production version! Good grief!

Oh, well, irony and altered colors aside, Crux is still an impressive addition to an extremely cool toy line, that I sincerely hope manages to survive long enough for us to find out what surprises might be hidden in those "other R.E.V.s facilities" that might make it to the toy store shelves.

Crux, along with any of the R.E.V.s, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!