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REVIEW: SORT-OF CONSTRUCTICONS By Thomas Wheeler

One of the first and most popular "combiner teams" for the original TRANSFORMERS was a six-member team of Decepticons called the CONSTRUCTICONS. They had the capability to transform individually from robots into an assortment of construction vehicles, and they could also unite to form the massive DEVASTATOR, a single robot comprised of all six smaller Transformers.

The original Constructicons were a bright green in color. During the GENERATION 2 era, two different recolorations of the Constructicons -- yellow and orange -- were also available. That was the last anyone has heard of the Constructicons.

Until now. Alas, no, they're not returning as part of ARMADA or ROBOTS IN DISGUISE.

Walgreens pharmacies, and I'm sure they're not the only ones, carry a line of third-rate transforming robots made by one of those no-name companies that generally are known by little more than "Made in China". They tend to rip-off existing concepts, sometimes right down to using existing molds, and get away with it to one degree or another by virtue of their own anonymity. Most of these robots in this particular instance are pretty pathetic specimens that would've gotten laughed out of the ranks of Tonka's second-rate Go-Bots, never mind even being allowed within two parsecs of the Autobots or the Decepticons.

But there's been a weird development. Somehow, whoever makes these (the only name on the package says "Distributed by East West Distributing Company"), managed to get their hands on the Constructicons! Moreover, they got their hands on all six, and the additional Devastator parts for each individual robot!

But here's the thing -- they molded each of the robots in a completely different color scheme -- rather intense ones, too, I might add. The end result is a "Devastator" that looks like he was created in the 1960's, not the 1980's.

The overall quality of the individual toys isn't bad, but it's not great. Certainly it's not up to Transformers level, but then one shouldn't really expect that. The biggest glaring omission is that in robot mode, the faces of a few of the individual robots aren't painted (the head for the combined mode is). Some of the parts seem a little loose, and one can see where some adjustments were made to the tooling, probably to eliminate the Takara and Hasbro copyrights, or to allow for whatever molding machinery was used to make these toys, which probably also wasn't up to Hasbro or Takara standards.

Are they worth adding to your collection? Well, maybe. I no longer have my original Devastator (in any color version), and trying to track down a decent set of Constructicons these days would be prohibitively expensive. Granted, there's no way these six rip-offs can really pass for a decent Devastator, either.

But, on their own, they're amusing enough, and the average Transformers fan (if there is such a thing) might get a kick out of owning them. I have certainly seen far worse rip-offs. I picked up a couple of Action Master re-dos a few years ago that practically fell apart in my hands. At least these ConBots (my personal nickname for them) have held together!

And, at $2.99 apiece, or less than twenty bucks for all six (plus a little time and effort in hitting enough Walgreens' or whatever to find them all), they're not a bad set, and certainly worth considering.

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But the news doesn't end there. Not long before Easter, I noticed something at Wal-Mart. This store gets in a generous supply of large but inexpensive Easter baskets, which contain several small bags of candy and a large toy item. Some of the toys are junk. Others, such as the remote controlled fire engine and helicopter, actually look quite decent. But there amidst the random display of baskets and there contents was -- an entirely different "unofficial" version of the Constructicons, and one that struck a lot closer to home!

This was a boxed set of the six Constructicons, this time molded in their original colors of intense bright green with putple trim. About the only thing to differentiate them between the originals was that there wheels didn't have chrome trim on the hubcaps.

Of course, they weren't called Constructicons, but neither did they come from this no-name company that produced the multi-colored carded versions, either. At least I don't think they did. There was actually a company name on the box. Some outfit called "MegaToys". Never heard of them. But they've got more guts than sense, because the package illustration was clearly that of the original Devastator, straight from Hasbro, right down to the Decepticon logo being visible! That's the sort of "whoops!" that legal departments for large corporations just love to have fun with.

But, assuming you can find it, this set is even less expensive than the multi-colored ones, and technically a little more color-accurate. You can get it with the Easter basket for about ten bucks at Wal-Mart. And you get some candy. Although I wish someone would tell me what the heck these Wonka BottleCap candies are supposed to be. Their flavor reminds me more of "Tums" than anything else, but I'm worried they're likely to upset my stomach, not soothe it...

Meanwhile, I'm really wondering just how far and wide the original molds for the Constructicons are traveling. Unless these two sets are by the same company, which I doubt, these may go down as some of the most repeatedly ripped-off robots in recent memory...!