Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Ocular Max PS-07 Artifex

Ocular Max are the Masterpiece-style arm of 3rd party Transformers manufacturers Mastermind Creations. Their Perfection Series was aimed at filling gaps in MP collections everywhere by tackling characters not yet released officially and with the use of die cast metal, rubber tyres and paint where possible to increase the premium look and feel of the product. Ocular Max started out strongly with the glorious Sphinx (Mirage) and Jaguar (Ravage), but my feeling was that subsequent releases were not up to the same standard. I started 2017 by reviewing their Terraegis (Trailbreaker) and was not impressed. Something about the remould, Artifex (Hoist), appealed to me. 

The packaging for Artifex is the standard Ocular Max gorgeous hybrid of Diaclone Car Robot and G1 Transformers packaging. There is the TF style grid, tech spec and decoder, as well as the Perfection Series logo shaped and coloured like the Takara Transformers logo. However, the whole shape of the box and associated box top graphics are very Diaclone. They actually make 3P boxes you want to keep.

In terms of accessories, you can see that in addition to the cartoon accurate Hoist head, Artifex comes with two toy-styled heads. He also has the hammer hand-attachment used by Hoist in Desertion of the Dinobots. Even though Hoist had a centrally mounted head array as a toy and in the show, Artifex still comes with the Trailbreaker-style offset array style pieces. You will also notice a toy-accurate Mirage head for PS-01A Sphinx Alternative. Collector's card and mostly-useful instructions as standard.

Apart from the non-flush sitting hood on Artifex, I found the vehicle mode immediately pleasing. Colours, finish and proportions are lovely indeed and he rolls with no issue. Should you press down on him too firmly, the right rear wheel will unpeg from the chassis. A little deterioration of the tolerance there compared to Terraegis. I love the look of his orange assembly and it has a decent range of movement too! I always felt the mirrors were destined to break on this mould, and you do get extras in case that happens, but I have not damaged Artifex's at all, just as I never damaged Terraegis's ones either. 

Sure, there is a little misalignment in the three pieces that make up the front grille, but that has not defeated my enthusiasm for this particular toy. Why it works so much better for me as Hoist compared to Trailbreaker, I'm not sure. The rubber tyres are suitably chunky and although the running boards can become angled, it's a simple matter to straighten them up again. Love the finish on those running boards. Painted indicator lights and door handles are all good, as are the translucent headlights and brake lights. Artifex looks perfectly at home next to official Masterpiece Transformers from season 2 of Transformers Generation 1 in vehicle mode.

There's no immediate visual jarring between Grapple and Artifex there, but it works much better when Grapple and Inferno have their toy-accurate chrome grilles on as opposed to the screen accurate plain grey. Artifex's assembly parts are very easy to move, and although one or two have reported damaging theirs when manipulating it, I have had no issues thus far. Seems solid to me. I also think it's all folded away very neatly when in vehicle mode.

Here you see Artifex in robot mode with a head that is the cartoon sculpt, but in toy colours. This is what he came with as stock. Transformation was far nicer than Terraegis, with far less frustration involved. I will admit that the steps were taken with great care thanks to prior knowledge of some aspects of the mould. There is enough clearance for everything to avoid paint rub and the like every time. What really made me happy was that sliding the shin panels and clipping together the knees worked as it should. No real gaps, no lack of tabbing and obvious tolerance issues. If Terraegis had been that nice in those areas, I would have warmed to him more. 

When the process of transformation is smooth with enjoyable sections (once you know you won't scratch the paint and stuff will clip, the feet and legs are kinda fun) and the end result is a very handsome robot, the entire transformation experience is enriched. It is so important for me to have a positive association with the conversion of a figure of this type. The only issue I came across was that the right foot was extremely floppy at the ankle tilt pin joint. It never is an issue for posing, so it's only when Artifex is held aloft that it flops, so I can live with that. Something more to mention about transformation, the panels that end up behind his arms start off life in vehicle mode as his front-end undercarriage, and they can be a bit tricky to split. Mind those tabs!

You can see him with the much more accurate, longer toy-style face in the pictures immediately above. I have also taken one shot of him with the Trailbreaker-style offset chrome head array. He can have both arms sporting the chrome missile, the hammer or regular fists. Fists that have decent articulation in each finger.

When changing arm attachments or the head on Artifex, you realise where they're still a little behind the game compared to MakeToys and TakaraTomy. Every head change requires screwing or unscrewing, above you can see him with the very very nice cartoon-style head. For the wrist attachments, there's a thin white slide-out piece that locks each attachment in place. The hammer and missile need a further white piece to sit in the wrist that they can peg onto. Thankfully the green hands just need the white slide-out piece. Considering the fact that the wrist collapses into the forearm for transformation, you have to make sure you are holding the pieces firmly to get it all slotted in.

You can see that posability is no issue for Artifex. For a constantly masked figure, he is expressive, dynamic and proportioned more heroically than the fat, dumpy Hoist from the cartoon. I really prefer this on Hoist and it's what made Artifex stand out to me above BadCube's Lorry and X-Transbots' Paean. There's great range of movement in the waist, shoulders, arms, hands, head and another improvement over Terraegis is that the knees bend in the correct place every time, you won't accidentally bend them at the lower pivot unless you intend to.

There's just something about the look of all the other 3PMP Hoists that is awkward to my eyes, but Artifex slots in more naturally with MP figures. His proportions are believable without being outrageous for he who is responsible for Autobot Maintenance. 

For the full toy-accurate look, you can of course slide out the sides of his hood/chest for a blockier appearance. Artifex comes with the small green clips to mount the missile ends on, they should go on his outer bicep, but you might notice that he has those big ole arm flaps in the way! That's fine, they are such an extra that nobody is going to miss that functionality. I do wish his arm flaps locked into place behind the shoulder, but they are no big deal to manage at all. In the picture above, you can see I have shoulder-mounted both of his missiles. Although that is more of a Trailbreaker look, it does fit the Hoist body too. Sadly, when trying to disconnect one missile end (so I could display Artifex with both hands as rockets), the end was too firmly attached to the rest of the rocket and kinda peeled the whole peg off. It's not usable now.

You would not believe how many times I have been asked in the last 2 weeks "Who is that Hoist by?" Becauae I think he's been massively under-documented, people are unaware that such a fitting MP-esque Hoist exists outside of Lorry and Paean. The hinted-at TakaraTomy Masterpiece Hoist will undoubtedly turn off most to the possibility of going 3P on this one, but having said that, at least 2 people have told me this week that they will get Artifex as a result of how well they thought he slotted into a Masterpiece display. 

Artifex can rock the toy look with MP Grapple, or they can both go full toon as well. It's lovely how well they compliment each other. If you are finding Artifex just stops short of being able to hold a convincing walk or kneel, extend his leg at the thigh and it should give you more stability and leg length to work with. This is needed as his lower legs are longer than the thighs by the degree necessary to achieve perfect kneels etc.

See? Lovely how he blends into an official Masterpiece group shot and quite believably holds the role of Masterpiece Hoist. They may be destined to be replaced, all these 3P MP car bots, but I say this occasionally about a toy - should Hoist never be done by TakaraTomy, I am happy with Artifex. I could not say that about Terraegis by any stretch, but I firmly believe it with Artifex. I understand that some people want a perfectly fat and stumpy cartoon Hoist, but I love what Ocular Max have done with this figure. I have never felt that Hoist's best and defining features were his awkward proportions. It was his distinctive colour combination, his wings and unique headsculpt, that head array and a very attractive vehicle mode that begged to be vroomed around, as well as his orange rear vehicle assembly.

Pick Artifex up in robot mode and you will notice how tidy he is (well, mine has that floppy ankle). The rear is not bland in robot mode, you can see vehicle mode parts tucked away securely, giving him just that perfect blend of toy, cartoon and realistic appearance. He has good weight and his paint seems more durable than Terraegis. There is no overuse of die cast and his range of accessories will keep you occupied for a while. I certainly had no problems coming up with poses and scenarios for him. I think Artifex is a return to form for Ocular Max and their best full size figure since Sphinx. Fun, very good-looking, functional, posable, solid - with the usual one or two things that almost every 3rd party figure requires you to be wary of to avoid damage - so not perfect, but very very good. This is my MP Hoist for now, and maybe always.

All the best

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