Robots in Disguise

Top Ten Beast Machines Toys

(2000 - 2001)

A few notes about these lists, and my biases - These lists are centered around the American market, basically meaning that, where possible, the American name for a given toy will be used over others (Optimus Prime instead of Convoy, for example). Also, 'new' toys that are recolored or repainted versions of older toys will not do too well here, except in those cases where the changes constitute a significant enhancement to the original version. Also, I reserve the right to list a group of similar robots, or a robot formed from a group of smaller ones, as one unit. Finally, I know it's not necessarily fair, but I tend to give a better mark to a toy if it has a good presence as a character on its TV show or comic. These aren't just toys, they're living robots with personalities, after all. Now on with the show!

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS - 'Beast Machines' was the first line to follow the rather successful Beast Wars toyline. The theme of this line was the 'nature verus technology' style battle between the techno-organic Maximals (similar to the cyborg Transmetal-2 designs, but a bit more organised, and with more transparent parts) and Megatron's Vehicons, who turn into somewhat anthropomorphic vehicles. The biggest problem with this toyline as a whole is it comes off as rushed, and inconsistent. The toys and their representations on the TV show didn't look much like each other, mostly because the toys and show characters were designed at the same time from the same concept artwork, but ended up at different places. The 'Battle for the Spark' Beast Machines toys from 2001 went some length to correct this, as many toys were designed around their TV likenesses. The other problem was a wide variety of confusing toy sizes, inconsistent with the TV characters, and making play and interaction difficult. Smaller characters get large toys, and behemoths get little toys. Even leaders Optimus and Megatron, who traditionally get some of the largest toys in other toy lines, got surprisingly small toys. Only after the Beast Machines line ended did Optimus Primal get a toy even close to the gigantic 'Supreme' Cheetor. I really like many of the toys, Vehicons especially, but overall Beast Machines strikes me as a line (and a television show) that had a lot of wasted potential, and a little more time and planning, instead of rushing the toys to market for the start of the year, might have done wonders.

NOTE - A few toys were unreleased as 'Beast Machines', was cut short in favor of the new 'Robots in Disguise' line, later finding their way to stores under the new line. I will consider some of these as Beast Machines toys because, in the case of Megatron Megabolt and Air Attack Optimus Primal, they obviously have a far greater connection to the Beast Machines line.

10. Night Slash Cheetor
It seems that every toy named 'Cheetor' in Beast Machines comes off badly, except maybe this one. The cat mode is rather weak, but the robot mode makes up for it, with his nifty twin quick-draw swords. The fact that he can stand pretty easily puts him head and shoulders above the other taller Cheetor toys. His color scheme isn't exacty Cheetor-ish, but I think it looks a bit better.

9. Obsidian
Undoubtedly the simplest toy in the line, as the transformation is semi-automatic. It works for him though, as he looks very nice in both modes. It's recommended you keep his legs together as one unit though.

8. 'Megabolt' Megatron
A toy based on the 'big giant head' form Megatron had in the second season of the TV show. with spidery legs and a robot form that were never seen in the show, yet don't look out of place either. It loses a few points for having weak knees, and for being a rather small toy designed to represent one of the largest objects in the entire TV series.
NOTE: This Megatron was released late, in the 'Robots in Disguise' line and exclusive to Kay-Bee toy stores. Still, it's good we didn't miss out on this little gem.

7. Tank Drone
Another example of a small toy repesenting a large thing. Still, it shows off the design, bulkiness, stability, and good looks of the TV CGI model, which the original Tankorr toy didn't quite match, and tacks on an interesting spinning cannon gimmick that works most of the time.

6. Cycle Drone
Like the Tank Drone, this toy was designed to better match the animation model than the original toy of Thrust did. It was a bit of a toss up whether to rate this toy or the Tank Drone higher. The Tank Drone doesn't need to lean on its arms to stand up (the Cycle Drone can't balance on its wheel, but it can split it into feet, which looks wrong to me.), but the Cycle Drone has a better overall sense of scale, being a small toy that represents a fairly small drone.

5. Tie: 'Air Attack' Optimus Primal, 'Blast Punch' Optimus Primal
A recurring theme, more toy remakes to make up for the earlier Optimus Primal toy, which was not a great design, not to mention too small. The gigantic 'Air Attack' Primal is probably the best match to his TV persona, and caps it off with a ton of electronic gimmicks and the voice of Garry Chalk, the TV voice actor. 'Blast Punch' Primal is not quite as large or well proportioned, and wears a bit too much bright orange, but I find him charming, easier to deal with overall than his larger, and smaller counterparts, and a bit more to scale with many of the other Maximal toys.
NOTE: Air Attack Primal was released after the Beast Machines line ended, as part of 'Robots in Disguise'. It was an exclusive to Toys R Us stores.

4. Jetstorm / Sonic Attack Jet Aerodrone
The toy so nice they repainted it twice, once as the 'Sonic Attack Jet' drone, and once again as the Jetfire homage 'Storm Jet' for the Robots in Disguise line. There was even talk of a convention-exclusive black version to play the Decepticon Skywarp. It's a very nice toy, with good looks, unobrusive gimmicks, solidity, and overall quality. I think it looks best with the legs snapped together in 'hover mode', though it can't stand up like that. IMO the original Jetstorm toy color scheme, in navy blue and yellow, looks the best of the multitude of repaints.

3. Stryka
One of the two girls in the Beast Machines toyline, though you might not know it to look at her. She pulls off the feat of transforming from a boxy six-wheeled buggy to a rounded-off robot mode, and you might not even guess that one mode could turn into the other if you looked at them side by side. She's also very solid, and not likely to come apart easily in either mode. Finally, she has a perfect gimmick, where a button causes here cannons to move in a machine-gun action. On many other toys, the gimmicks either are unimpressive, only work some of the time, or wreck the looks or posability of the figure. Stryka's does none of these things, and works well and convincingly in either mode. She may be a stocky female, but she's a first-class toy.

2. Blackarachnia
The other female in Beast Machines, and also one to match up reasonably well with her TV incarnation right out of the gate. It's also impressive that they could make a transforming toy as feminine-looking as Blackarachnia, though she is rather hippy and has a spider tail hanging off her rear like a dress bustle. Also, most toys that turn into insects or spiders wind up with a mass of bug legs sticking out in the robot mode. Blackarachnia has almost none of that. She's a fairly simple toy overall, but an impressive design when you consider it.

1. Ultra Jetstorm
I'll say it right now - I love this toy, not so much for what he can do, or how well he matches TV Jetstorm (which he doesn't) but he just looks incredibly cool to me. There are a lot of people who prefer the smaller, deluxe size Jetstorm toy over this one, and I can understand why. The smaller toy is a 'cleaner', more stable design. Its robot legs tuck into the underside of the jet mode much better for example. In this case, good looks won out over toy design for me. Ultra Jetstorm looks great as a robot (especially with the legs as legs, instead of pinched together in 'hover mode'), and the jet mode looks like a jet, as opposed to a box with winglets and a cockpit. Add on the fact that his eyes light up, and I'm sold.

Top Five WORST Beast Machines toys

5. Thrust
Most of the poor toys in this line are Maximals unfortunately, but I had to put one Vehicon here to prove I'm not playing favorites. I'll ignore that he looks nothing like TV Thrust for now (a problem which was fixed up by the Cycle Drone toy anyway.). He's just an ugly, awkwardly designed toy that can barely stand up even when his front wheel is split into feet.

4. 'Supreme' Cheetor
The first Beast Machines Cheetor toy was a disappointment, having poor similarity to TV Cheetor and difficulty standing properly. The gigantic 'Supreme' version improved only slightly on those problems, but backed it up with a gigantic $40 price tag. It had several gimmicks. electronic and otherwise, but most were not too impressive, and came at the cost of prpoer movement in an arm. Also of note that this larger toy featured a much simpler transformation than its smaller counterpart. The fact that this toy has been discounted greatly and still doesn't sell is a fine clue to its worth. The almost-as-large Air Attack Optimus Primal is not only a better toy, its a better deal too.

3. Nightscream
A toy perhaps too large for its character. The bat mode is rather impressive I'll admit, but the toy itself just reeks of screwed up design. Things don't lock together properly, and it looks like the designers kept changing their mind in the middle of making this toy. The lights and shooting gimmick are poorly implemented, and the transformation is a mess.

2. Skydive
My single least favorite Maximal toy. Combine a spindly, floppy beast mode that keeps falling apart with a spindly, floppy robot mode that keeps falling apart and gimmicks that either dont work or break, and you get a grade-F crappy toy.

1. Geckobot
The only reason I list Geckobot here is the simple reason that it was the only Beast Machines robot toy that I had no desire whatsoever to buy. It may have qualities that I'm unaware of, but it just looks ugly, malformed and awkward to me, either as a robot or flying lizard. Sure, there are plenty other toys that fit these qualities too, possibly worse, but I actually BOUGHT them. This is the one I could resist, and I'm usually pretty weak-willed in these matters.

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