REVIEW: HOT WHEELS BATTLE FORCE 5 - TANGLER ATV with AGURA IBADEN
I've been a Hot Wheels fan for just about as long as there have been Hot Wheels. I have a fairly vast collection of the cars, although I will also readily admit I'm not quite as die-hard a Hot Wheels collector as some people out there. However, I have enjoyed and supported the line for many decades. That having been said, there have been some concepts within Hot Wheels that just haven't quite worked as well as hoped, and it's generally been when Mattel has tried to work some story concept into a special line of Hot Wheels cars.
Several years ago, there were the AcceleRacers. These were cool cars, and there was apparently some animation somewhere to back them up, but that and a few track sets was about it. The cars were a popular enough collectible, but the overall concept just didn't go much of anywhere.
And Mattel made the unfortunate mistake of linking Hot Wheels to the live-action Speed Racer movie. We know how that fared.
It's probably fair to say that Mattel has tended to have a little trouble working story themes or specific concepts into their otherwise juggernaut powerhouse toy line known as Hot Wheels. Well, they're trying it again. And honestly, this time, I hope it works, because I think they've got a pretty cool concept on their hands.
It's called BATTLE FORCE 5. and it currently airs on the Cartoon Network
Fortunately, there was a short entry on Battle Force 5 to be found on Wikipedia. It reads:
Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 is an American/Canadian 3D CGI animated television series created by Mattel, Nelvana and Nerd Corps Entertainment. A two-episode preview aired on the Cartoon Network in the United States on August 24th, 2009. The series made its official debut on August 29th.
In the series, Vert Wheeler and Sage assemble a team of racers to compete against the robotic Sark and the animalistic Vandals in the Battlezones to determine the fate of the Earth.
Interestingly, there was a recent revision to this entry, which I had checked before, which made an oblique reference to the AcceleRacers concept, claiming that "It's been years since the events of AcceleRacers". Whether there's any real direct tie-in, I'm honestly not sure. From what I know of AcceleRacers, Mattel COULD make a conceptual connection, but it'd be a stretch.
There are three basic aspects to the Battle Force 5 toy line. There are Hot Wheels-sized cars and track sets. There are some mid-sized vehicles. And there is the line of somewhat larger vehicles, that include small action figures. This is the aspect that I am choosing to pick up, for obvious reasons. For this review, I'll be taking a look at the TANGLER ATV, and its driver, AGURA IBADEN.
You know, some of the vehicles in the Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 line are more plausible than others. Stanford Isaac Rhodes' Reverb looks like a rather futuristic sports car, but it's not impossible. Vert Wheeler's Saber -- not so sure.
The Tangler is a wild-looking thing, but if it could be built strong enough, I think it could work. If you take the basic principle of an ATV, and give it a tire design not unlike the Mars Pathfinder vehicle, with its individual suspension to help it get over the Martian landscape a little more effectively, and then paint it tennis ball neon green, you've pretty well got the Tangler.
The only concern I would have about a real-life incarnation of this contraption is whether or not the "stalks" on which the tires are mounted could be made strong enough to endure the sort of off-road chaos that the average owner of something like this would put it through.
The Tangler has an almost insect-like look to it -- and it's not just because of the cartoonish grasshopper green of its main color. The central body of the Tangler has a framework canopy. Whether or not it is meant to be enclosed by glass or not, I'm not sure. I suspect the animated series would reveal that. However, other vehicles in the line do have windowed canopies, so perhaps it is meant to be open.
The main body of the Tangler has a large silver area behind the cockpit, which I assume is the engine, and a thick underside, which appears to have plated, ridged armor. The top of the canopy has a small, rear-firing double-barrered weapon, and the underside of the Tangler has a spring-loaded missile launcher that rotates.
The four bulbous wheels of the Tangler, and the rear wheels are noticably larger than the front, are positioned on four long "stalks", each with springs and hinges molded to them. The hinges and springs are of themselves non-operational. However, each of the four legs does move at the connection point of the main body, and of course all four wheels turn.
The Tangler's positionable legs give it two basic forms. When the four legs positioned inwards, the end result is a sort of "high rise" ATV. The instructions indicate that all you have to do is push down on the top of the vehicle to snap the four legs into their "outer" position, but I would personally recommend moving each leg individually. Of the four legs on the particular Tangler that I bought, two are very tight and not easily moved, one is about average, and one's a bit on the loose side. As to which might be "correct", I haven't the slightest idea, and as long as none of them outright fall off, I'm not going to worry about it.
The two front axles do seem to have some common point in their assembly, though. Moving one causes the other to at least twitch a bit.
With the legs more spread out, the Tangler measures close to eight inches in length, and is 5" wide. With the legs in, the Tangler's length shortens to less than five inches, and it's height goes from about 3-1/2" to almost 4-1/2". At this scale, that's a fairly considerable alteration.
Just for myself, I think the vehicle looks more impressive with the legs in the outward position. It's a little weirder, and it looks better able to handle a wide variety of terrains, as though each of the bulbous and rather armored-looking tires is better able to handle a rough spot independently if need be.
According to the Wikipedia entry on the Tangler, the vehicle is armed with grappling lines and can turn its metal wheels into claws for fighting or climbing. One can see some evidence of the grappling lines, assuming that's what those two silver spirals on the separate little arms on the front of the vehicle are for. The metal wheels do not turn into claws.
The character that comes with the Tangler ATV is named Agura Ibaden. She's the team's only female member. Wikipedia describes her as a "skilled hunter". The toy package calls her a "quick, fearless warrior princess".
If we take the Vert Wheeler figure from the Saber vehicle set as "average height" for a person in this line, he comes in at around 2-3/4". Agura is slightly smaller, at 2-1/2". Still, from the sound of it, she's not someone I'd want to pick a fight with.
The Wikipedia entry also describes her as the team's special operations expert as well as second in command. The package seems to corroborate this last part, at least, describing her as "First lieutenant to Vert Wheeler".
Also according to the toy package, her vehicle is more versatile than I thought. Apparently those weird legs are designed to allow the Tangler to "spider-walk" over rough terrain. Told you it had an insect-like appearance to it.
The figure is very nicely designed. The uniforms for the characters in the show have been likened to the movie TRON (in fact, the concept has been called "TRON meets MASK" by more than a few people, and they're not far wrong), in that they're futuristic, highly detailed body suits in particular individual color schemes.
Agura's outfit is green, but there's a bit of a variance between the character design and the actual figure. The character illustration, derived from the animated series, I presume, shows the character wearing a dark green bodysuit with lighter green trim. The figure is wearing a green body suit with near yellow trim. I'm not complaining, really. It's an observation as much as anything. But Mattel couldn't get a little closer here?
The sculpted detail is excellent, however, and surprisingly intricate on a figure of this size. I have little doubt that the original sculpts were at a larger scale.
Articulation isn't the greatest, but then this is being regarded as a vehicle line first and foremost. In fact, you have to look in the die-cast aisle to find it. Agura is articulated at the head, arms, and legs.
The head is nicely done, as well, and very articulated. Agura has the rather unusual hairstyle of dreadlocks pulled back into a thick ponytail in the back. The sculpt duplicates this very effectively. The painted detail on her face, including the eyes and very narrow eyebrows, has been extremely well done.
I wish I saw a bright future for this line. Unfortunately, I don't, really. It doesn't seem to really be flying off the shelves, and I think that's a shame. If nothing else, there's one more member of the team who needs to be made as a figure, but I'll be surprised if it happens. If anything has hurt the line, especially this portion of it, it's that it's stocked in the die-cast aisle. If they would even move this portion of it into action figures, I think it might fare better.
However, a recent addition to the Wikipedia entry on the series makes me think that they could at least do one heck of a set of repaints of they wanted to. It seems that in Episode 12, the team encountered some sort of Negative Dark World Battlezone. This basically presented a gimmick which has been used before, but somehow, I always manage to get a kick out of it. It's the "Mirror Universe" bit, and the show introduced us to Battle Force Negative Five!
Would Mattel make these? Will they get the chance? We'll see...
Meanwhile, what's my final word on this set? It's cool. The Tangler ATV vehicle is interesting, futuristic in appearance, with some interesting features and capabilities. The figure of Agura Ibaden is nicely made, and given how tough it can be for females in a boys' concept to get their turn as action figures, I'm almost surprised to see her at all!
And how often do you see an action figure that has the Hot Wheels logo stamped on the bottom of its foot?
My recommendation is to give Battle Force 5 a chance. Mattel's come up with a cool concept here, and they're making some very cool toys to accompany it. I'd like to think it would have a longer run than I'm afraid it's going to have. But, I intend to give it my support as much as possible, hence this review.
The HOT WHEELS BATTLE FORCE 5 set of the TANGLER ATV and AGURA IBADEN definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!