Every team has their weakest link, so they say. And no, I’m not referring to Anne Robinson here.
Even the best Masterpiece or third-party rosters in recent years often have one toy that sits slightly below the others in terms of fan estimation. It may not even be because the figure in question is outright bad or anything; more just an indication of just how darn good the others in the set are that it comes off as less favourable by comparison.
For me, that was true of Ocular Max’s Volatus when initially taking a gander at their Assaultus crew a few years back. As a completed line-up, it was all so very impressive that really, whatever specific grumbles you may have sort of melted away into relative insignificance. Yet that didn’t stop the unofficial stab at the Combaticon known as Blast Off from feeling just a little shy of achieving the same level of magnificence as the rest when assessed individually.
Well, three years later (HOW?!), we’re back again to look at the updated and overhauled ‘Regenesis’ versions of these toys, which is a fancy way of saying it’s Volatus repainted into a snazzy new Generation 2-style colour scheme. And boy, it might be the most outright 1990s vibe of all!
It’s also the toy in this set which arguably sports the most significant change in look versus its G1-style original (or at least on a par with Incursus, which we’ll get to next time), as it goes from a mostly dark brown and vibrant purple affair to a striking off-white with purple camo style. It’s still entirely in line with the other G2 Combaticons, but given the other three limb lads all feature base colours not a million miles off their initial efforts, this stands in stark contrast.
Which, I have to say, has given Volatus a real leg up in terms of a re-assessment, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll admit I went into this one feeling a trifle underwhelmed after the giddying highs of Probus last time, yet within a fairly short span of time, I found myself having quite a good time of it all. It’s true he may not have wowed on quite the same scale as his comrades on the first outing, but it turns out that there’s still a lot to appreciate here.
Kicking off with that unmistakable shuttle form, it’s just about as clean and concise a thing as you could wish for when it comes to semi-realistic space-faring alternate modes. There are a few noticeable panel lines and whatnot, yes, but by and large, this is a remarkably tidy affair, with precious little to distract you from just how good-looking Volatus is in this configuration on the whole.
The proportions are rather pleasing, too, with an impressive yet slender length (I know how it sounds) to the shuttle form that makes it a joy to handle (stop). Size issues versus the rest of the squad aside (with the Combaticons being one of the more major scale headaches of early G1), Volatus feels like he has decent dimensions all told.
The finish on offer also looks great, despite at least some minor variations in the painted and non-painted sections of the main body. The camo comes into its own here, standing out against the white and never failing to catch the eye. I’m also a big fan of the vibrant orange windows and touches such as the white stripes on the wings.
There is landing gear here, but whether you prefer Volatus standing for display or swooshing around like he’s in space, he looks equally impressive. There’s also a neat weapons storage gimmick on offer, meaning there are some interactive elements to the alternate form to keep you occupied.
Naturally, though, the majority of the fun here is found through transformation, which in this case is one of the more involved examples from the Assaultus set. It’s a few steps up from Probus at least, although not quite as twisty-turny as Fraudo, but equally manages to avoid having the odd confusing moment a la Impetus. In some ways, it’s smack in the middle when it comes to complexity and arguably feels ‘just right’ because of it.
For starters, it’s not quite as straightforward as standing up a shuttle and calling it a day, but still, everything manages to glide into place with relative ease despite some puzzle pieces needing to be rearranged along the way. That’s true in both the arms and legs, which each carry their own unique way of configuring into place, perhaps especially in the latter given their need to stow away a combined mode hand, too.
Still, it all unfolds quickly enough, leaving you with plenty to do but no real feeling of frustration along the way – a balance that I find Ocular Max frequently finds with many of their designs. There are even a few steps that exist purely to facilitate ease of transformation, such as the lower legs snapping in two to make way for the landing gear to be folded away, only to be immediately secured back together again afterwards.
The result is a very handsome robot form, though perhaps not one without its noticeable quirks. For me, this is where the assessment of Volatus mk1 fell down just a smidge, so I was curious to see if the Regeneis revision could turn the tide of my opinion a little. It certainly hasn’t hurt, let’s say that.
First, it’s worth noting that if the colours are already admirable in the shuttle form, they kick into overdrive here. Yes, the white and black ensemble has a slight ‘cowhide’ feel to it, but that aside, it’s all pretty easy on the eye. The predominantly purple chest is just gorgeous to look at and distinctly dials up the damson versus the more muted tones seen on the vintage G2 Blast Off toy. For my money, it’s better for it.
Then there’s the captivating speckled orange finish of the eyes, which catches the light beautifully and makes that already far-too-perfect face come to life with aplomb. If I were to cite one major strength of every offering in Ocular Max’s not-Combaticon crew, it would be the head designs. They are each and every one a masterpiece, to the point where I cannot see them being bettered any time soon.
Where the original Volatus had two options for the head (one with the eyes coloured in purple for a more traditional flare and one with a cartoon-accurate look and a purple forehead, as shown here), the Regenesis offering eschews all that in favour of the former. After all, this is, first and foremost, a toy homage, referencing the look of the 1994 release, so this feels more appropriate (even if the orange is another slight departure from that vintage figure).
The other thing that works well here is the articulation on offer. Some of it is a relatively happy accident, such as the additional notches on the knees or the twist found in the forearms, all thanks to transformation, but no matter. The result is a ‘bot mode that can twist and turn more fluidly than most, even if there’s some consideration needed to make more extreme poses look natural.
This leaves the rather bizarre absence of any ankle tilt as a bit of an outlier, then. Not that you really need it, given the oddly-styled feet sort of look ok even in an angled position, but still, it’s a strange solution. That said, there really is nothing ordinary about Blast Off’s clompers on any design of the character, and to their credit, Ocular Max has made them work pretty well here.
Besides, there are other oddities to this design to talk about, not least of which are the hip skirts. Hip flaps have never been my favourite design solution, but the ones found on Volatus are particularly egregious, sticking out at odd angles and struggling to look subtle whenever you’re posing him.
For me, the worst aspect of this is that you need to tab the side flaps in at the front for them to sit flush against Volatus’ hips, but you sacrifice the ability to fan them out for articulation to do so. If you want to keep the side flaps capable of moving, they’re permanently jutting out slightly because of the way the small peg bumps into the front hip skirt, which feels a little undercooked for my liking.
Overall, it’s just a bit of a messy affair, not helped by the fact that it gives Volatus a somewhat strange-looking bum, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. There’s a similar situation found elsewhere on the rear, with the panels at the top of his back feeling a little unsecured, although it’s not nearly as obvious a nitpick.
None of this is major stuff, you understand, but it does take the sheen ever-so-slightly off what is otherwise a very slick design overall. At least in this case, the combined mode hands on the insides of the legs are naturally a little better-hidden thanks to their darker colouring compared with the original version’s more obvious grey.
Truth be told, though, I have enjoyed my reappraisal of this design considerably more than I was expecting to, and it’s only fair to mention that there have been more than a couple of neat design touches that I’ve noticed or more greatly appreciated because of such renewed interest. Where I felt like this was unequivocally the weakest link in the team before, now he seems at least more on par with the general effort (despite the strongest link still being the incredible Probus).
If anything, it makes him one of the biggest surprises to come out of this Regenesis revisit to the team, as where the others have all just about lined up with my original estimations, Volatus has proven himself at least a little redeemed. It leaves me thankful for this set for something beyond just the eye-searingly garish colour schemes.
With four down and one to go, the Assaultus crew are on fine form yet again as we prepare to end our journey towards the Big Man himself.
WHAT’S HOT? The spaceship mode is fab and the transformation is a lot of fun too. The new colour scheme looks swish!
WHAT’S NOT? There are still some quirks to the robot mode, mostly in how the hip flaps are designed. Some of the white panels don’t quite match, too.