Unique Toys have been steadily gaining a reputation for producing solid third party Transforming figures. After an iffy start with Warlord, their much maligned take on Predaking, they have gone from strength to strength improving quality and engineering, most recently giving us the well received Ordin combiner (Abominus to us regular joes).
|Unique Toys Y01 Provider|
Now they have decided to take a crack at a triple changer, in this case Provider who is not to be officially confused with Hasbro's Generation One Transformer Octane. Alright then.
So today we will take a look at a test shot of Unique Toys Y01 Provider.
Provider's first alt mode, and the most apt for Octane is an evil tanker truck. I say evil, because it uses Decepticon Purple which we all know denotes evil in Transformers.
When I first saw this mode I felt it looked awkward with the cab sitting higher than the actual storage tank, but thanks to the power of Google it turns out some trucks do in fact look like that. Nobody ever said Transformers couldn't be educational.
There are some luxuries as we get chrome on the wheel trims, the roof of the cab and the front grill and the much loved rubber tyres. So yes, he does roll along a flat surface smoothly. Unique Toys have used many of Provider's pieces cleverly like that. The back bumper for example forms from the wing tips, and the translucent purple lights (Shockwave!), later double up as wing lights.
It is a smart use of parts that have to work across 3 different modes.
G1 Octane's fuel tank was shiny chrome Silver, and whilst we get chrome on Unique Toys Provider it is not on the tank itself. Nor do we get the distinctive multicoloured LSD trip style stripes.
It is understandable because paint apps need to be at premium, owing to the need to get the back of the truck into a plane later on, but where paint is applied it is pretty effective.
The Red warning stripes on the back for example are great way to use what is a flipped up wing flap. It is a toy that likes to highlight little details and rather than draw attention to itself, which is perhaps the best way to hide that is a triple changing robot.
As a tanker truck Provider is quite successful. It is extremely clean and other than the cockpit windows, there is nothing here that yells "hey you guys, I'm also a plane!". Generation One gave us an Octane who's truck mode was very much compromised because of having to triple change, but Unique Toys have managed to avoid that pit fall and do a really good job.
Something that strikes you is how strong and thick the plastic feels in your hands, there is none of the fragility of certain parts like say X-Transbots Apolloyon. Nothing on Unique Toys' Provider ever feels flimsy or like it may break, there is nothing that needs to be handled with care which is refreshing to say about a third party toy.
Provider's second alt mode is a refuelling plane which could also pass as a passenger jet, where I guess he "provides" transport for holiday makers. I love the idea that instead of just being another military aircraft, Octane turns into a passenger air liner who simply wants to whisk people away to their holiday destinations. Or perhaps as a Decepticon, he likes to overcharge for everything, and trick his passengers into paying fees they did not know they had to, in order to profit. Ryanair meets Transformers.
Getting him here from truck mode is a surprisingly neat process, which requires swivelling and folding pieces that don't feel like they want to swivel or fold at first but ends up being relatively simple owing to the back of the tanker also doubling up as most of the planes body.
Everything snaps into place too, with panels pulling double duty as locking points as opposed to just trying to make it look passable. This is something you become more aware of, the more you mess with Provider, it's designers have found a great balance between complexity and ensuring everything holds together tightly. Unique Toys should be applauded for resisting the temptation to make it complex with tons of moving parts
Forming the jet engines from the truck wheels is another inspired bit of design as instead of trying to conceal them in the body, in some space consuming fashion, they are right there in plain view but fulfilling a completely different role.
Provider does look a little bland in this form, but that is a product of the main body of the jet also being the truck's fuel tank. Putting paint apps on there for either mode would really stand out on the other so Unique Toys chose to just leave it blank allowing it to pass in both modes and be whatever you want it to be.
There are folding landing gear present, and the ones under the wings can be unplugged if you don't want to see them at all. If you wish to have Providers gun attached, it can slot into the peg hole on the top just as it does in truck mode, or you can flip the handle up which gives it a standard peg and allows it to peg into any traditional peg hole.
Choice is always a good thing.
Provider's jet mode was always going to be my personal favourite, because I love airplanes, and this does a very good job of passing for a regular airliner. The no frills approach to detailing and paint help it in that regard, as it does just look like a bog standard jet, making Provider a true "Robot in Disguise"...if not an official one.
I am sincerely grateful that they resisted the urge to turn him into a cargo plane as seems to be the current trend with Octane. Pretending he serves small packets of Decepticon branded peanuts is far more fun.
Manipulating Provider into robot mode for the very first time is an ordeal.
There are moments when you may want to give up, when you have a mass of pieces all split apart and you aren't sure why they need to go because there are no instructions (this is a test shot, obviously won't be a problem with the final release), and you think "I should just give up, I'm not ready for this man!"
Perseverance will be your saviour because not only do you get a rather fetching robot out of it, but there is one heck of a sense of achievement when you are done. Taking into account that you are dealing with a triple changer, one intended to be Masterpiece scaled, makes it a smidgen easier to appreciate and fortunately many of the parts go into the same places for truck and plane mode (again, the tank part of the truck is just the body of the jet) so there is a feeling of logic to it. The second time transforming him through all modes was way easier, because you get used to how things move and understand the logic of the transformations - it is just a very daunting proposition first time through.
A small QC issue raises its head rotating the panels out that form Providers abdomen, as they rotate on a flat headed screw. On the test shot one it caused the screw to unscrew and fall out. You can put it back in, but because the head is flat you can't get enough grip to tighten it fully back into place.
I mention it purely as something to keep an eye out for, as such a tiny screw can easily fall and be lost in the carpet forests without you ever noticing. There is a chance this may just be something that only afflicts the test shot and may just be a one off.
But don't say I didn't warn you if you find yourself missing a screw.
Once you have successfully passed the trials of Shazam and are clutching Provider in robot form, you are left with a chunky looking bot mode.
Unique Toys have taken inspiration from the G1 cartoon's animation model and the original toy but if anything he bares far more of a resemblance to the Universe toy with the colours and general look of the robot mode. The colours especially appear to be lifted from the Universe toy, with their wing placement and quite subdued, almost dull shades of Purple and Blue, with the bulk of the toy being an off White that is pushing it's way towards light Grey. Kinda reminds me of the colour of my fridge.
On the original toy the colours were far more vibrant and in the cartoon he just had flat Grey wings with nothing on them. Boring sod.
Provider comes packed with an huge wingspan so door frames would be his arch nemesis. The wing tips are the back of the truck, and also the trucks grill (I kid you not, if you wanted another example of how smart the engineering is, there you go) so if those pieces could have instead folded back behind the wings it would have slimmed the figure down, giving him a bit of finesse.
Providers head is also quite lovely, with a nice rounded look and sour expression. All of the hallmarks of Octane are present, without it trying to replicate a specific image- a pitfall many third parties routinely fall into. Matching Provider's body's more curved proportions, his face does look like he is sucking in his cheeks - perhaps he wants a kiss?
Looking for heft? This toy has it matching his equally buff look, which you'd expect from a large figure like this. If you are beholden to the holy scale chart of infallibility then this toy is for you, with MP11 Starscream standing a teensy bit taller than Provider it is in keeping with how they were depicted in that one spooky episode of the cartoon show.
Speaking of the show, Octane looked a lot leaner than Provider's beefyproportions, but then the animators were not forced to deal with the real world physics of having to get a robot into both a truck and passenger jet. A glaring divergence from the original prototype of this toy is the chest panel which is redesigned completely from looking like his animation model to looking like something totally not that.
My brain is struggling to comprehend how despite forming two quite convincing alt modes Provider still manages to pull off such a clean looking robot mode-at least from the front.
Owing to the need to shift around quite a few different parts for all three modes, Provider does have a gigantic backpack going on. It is very easy to overlook it because not only is it a side effect of having to fit a truck and a plane into the same package, but it is fairly in keeping with Octane.
Where this test shot struggled slightly is the weight of his enormous backpack makes him very back heavy and prone to wanting to take a tumble backwards. Large heel spurs are deployed to counter this and make an admirable attempt but his lower legs do require twisting to find that sweet spot that keeps him perfectly balanced. The heel spurs are not subtle, they are the two halves of the tail fin, but Unique Toys again made sure they snapped into a peg to keep them secure.
His feet form from the truck cab and can pivot for more dynamic posing but they are at the mercy of all that junk in Provider's trunk.
For a bloke with so much weight hanging off his back, and so many pieces that have 3 different purposes it is surprising that he still possesses a reasonable range of articulation. Unique Toys did a great job on the joints with them being reasonably tight but smooth to move. There is no force required to move any part of him and on the other end of the spectrum nothing flops about with the knees even having clickey ratchets in a valiant attempt to hold all that weight in extreme poses.
Hey, he even has waist swivel for those super dramatic shooty, running poses we all love to photograph.
Provider does come with a small Blue pistol which his hands open to grip. There is no peg/slot combo to make sure he holds it tight but his hands are stiff enough to keep it held firm. With all that real estate going spare on his back you'd think there be somewhere for the gun to store, but alas no he either holds it or you put it off to the side in accessory sub space.
"Masterpiece" is a term that is all too easily thrown about just because a figure matches a certain size scale, when often they have nothing in common with the aesthetic that runs through Takara's own line. Unique Toys have not matched that aesthetic, but it's not a negative - variety is a good thing.
If third party companies keep slavishly trying to recreate designs that aren't their own then it stifles creativity and eventually the hobby will become a severely dull one.
Thankfully Unique Toys' Provider's character is built on merging several different takes on Octane and then updating it into a very cleverly designed toy that is incredibly sturdy. Whilst clearly intended to fill the gap as a Masterpiece Octane, Provider has enough of his own character and charm to stand on on his own merits without having to be slavishly accurate to a 30 year old cartoon. Which is hard for me to say as a self professed G1 fanboy.
My interest in Unique Toys has now gone from zilch, to slightly intrigued raised eyebrow face.
Keep in mind that this is a test shot, so the issues raised here may not be present in the final production run, and other things may be changed.
You can order Unique Toys Provider from Masterforce by clicking here
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