Is there a character in all of Transformers lore with more untapped potential than Octane?
He had a starring-but-nonsensical role in some memorable Season 3 episodes, in which this Decepticon we've never seen before is on the run from Galvatron and paling around with Autobots. (In hindsight, it seems clear those episodes were originally intended for Blitzwing, who turned on the Decepticons in the season opening 5-parter, but got changed at the last minute to sell a newer toy. As a kid I didn't realize this though; I just assumed there was some episode I had missed where this Octane guy, whoever he was, pissed off Galvatron.)
But since then, nada. We're talking about a bot who turns into an oil tanker and has a history of disloyalty to the Decepticon cause. How has no enterprising comic book writer turned him into a sleezy energy merchant who can't be trusted by either side? Doesn't that Spotlight issue write itself? IDW, if you're reading this, I'm available.
It probably didn't help that his original toy was by all accounts sort of a nightmare. But now, 30 years later, Hasbro has gone Triple Changer crazy, meaning even old Octane gets another chance. Can the adjacently named "Octone" put this character back on the map? Or will present-day cost cutting lead to a disappointingly lame figure? Let's get ranking!
In the package, Octone's robot mode looked good enough to get me to take him home, even though I'd been avoiding the Titans Returns voyagers. The second I got him out of the package, one of his wings flopped over, basically ruining the look of the mode. It was just incredibly loose.
This QC issue may not affect everyone's Octone straight out of the box, but given that there's very little holding the wings up in this mode, odds are gravity will step in at some point. There's an indentation at the back of the wings that seems designed to clip in to a peg on the back of the shoulders, but it doesn't actually click or lock in any way. The peg is just kinda suggesting that maybe the wing should hang out a bit.
That glaring design flaw aside, this mode does a pretty good job representing Octane. The head sculpt is solid and on model, and features the best use of paint on the figure (more on that in a bit). The purple and chrome both really pop. Like all the Titans Returns voyagers, Octone has a gimmick intended to bulk out his head mass and bring it into better proportion with his body, a clumsy move theoretically necessitated by the desire to make all the headmasters -- sorry, I mean titan masters -- the same size, even across toys with differently-sized bodies. I say "theoretically" because on Octone it's mercifully not necessary in the least. The two little antennas on the side of his head don't look terrible, but they were clearly designed with mold-mate Optimus Prime in mind. (There is probably a rule in the Hasbro designer handbook stating that all truck transformers need to be repainted as Optimus Prime. I imagine the bullet point for this rule is a tiny clipart dollar bill.) Thankfully, you can press them down into Octone's chest and leave them there forever.
The shoulder towers aren't actually accurate to either Octane's animation model or his G1 toy -- they're another feature included for the Optimus Prime mold usage, intended to evoke G2 Laser Prime's shoulder stacks. They look way too small to do that properly for Prime, but on Octone they actually look pretty good. They do fold down for the transformation though, so if you're a stickler for accuracy, you can leave them there in robot mode. The only problem is that this obstructs the already ineffectual wing ports, which means that on my floppy copy, it's even harder to keep the wings up this way.
Those little yellow details on his abdomen are a half-hearted reference to Octane's G1 toy, but they work and add a little color. They also are the only use of tampographing on the whole toy. Everything else -- the Decepticon insignia, the wing detailing, and eventually the truck detailing -- is done with stickers. Funnily enough the G1 toy ALSO relied on stickers for all of its detailing. Funnily enough, relying on stickers for your detailing STILL sucks 30 years later!
There is a bunch of paint visible in this mode, but you'd be forgiven for missing it. Most of it just serves to make parts the same color as other nearby parts. It doesn't pick out any details, and doesn't really make the figure look any more premium -- with the notable exception of the aforementioned paint applied to the head.
The other thing that has to be said here is that, in keeping with recent Hasbro design trends, the arms and legs are unabashedly hollow and exposed here. The legs seem especially egregious, as in them you can clearly see the also-hollow insides of the jet nosecone.
Posability is relatively limited. You obviously can't expect much on a mainline retail release, but Octone doesn't even have a waist swivel, never mind fancy stuff like ab crunch, wrist swivel, ankle tilt, etc.
I guess I'm probably also supposed to talk about the Titan Master in these things, but does anyone honestly care? Yes, the head unfolds into an unpainted robot thing with a face on its back. If you've seen one of these things, you've seen most of them. I do at least find the name "Murk" pretty amusing for this guy.
It probably sounds like I'm complaining a lot, but this is by some distance Octone's best mode, and the reason to get the figure. The overall effect is pretty reasonable.
As a triple-changer, Octone obviously has multiple transformations, but they're all similar enough in spirit that I'll just cover them both here. That spirit being: Reveal the appropriate front-part, and unfold panels over the rest.
The way the truck arms form the front of the truck is actually pretty clever, but it's marred somewhat by how precisely you have to fit the tail fins between the two truck halves, and how much those halves will fight you to stay together. Maneuvering the wings into their hiding places in the tanker body is also more fiddly than fun.
Moving to plane mode is less frustrating, but also lacks anything you'd call inspiring -- and the way the truck parts are disposed of in this conversion is decidedly lazy.
Oil Truck Mode
Octone's truck mode looks plausible enough, in a half-assed toy kinda way. The cab being flush with the tanker looks bazoingus to me, though a quick google image search reveals that there are tanker trucks that look kinda like this.
I couldn't find any pictures, however, of trucks with the tips of plane wings sticking out the back, which Octone does. It's not a huge deal, but also seems totally unnecessary. They got to decide how long the wings were and how far back the legs extended, after all. Why not expend the tiny bit of effort necessary to make sure they didn't stick out? That said, this mode does a much better job of hiding Octone's plane bits than his plane mode does of hiding his truck bits.
There's precious little clearance below Octone's wheels, but he can still roll well enough. The undercarriage is pretty messy if you look at it, but who does that?
The main detailing here are some sticker stripes running the length of the cab. These are already peeling on the edges of mine, mere days after purchase. Have I mentioned that stickers suck? There's also a bunch of sculpted detailing, none of which got any paint love, but which looks decent regardless.
The weirdest and most frustrating part of this mode might be the weird translucent purple piece that opens to reveal a compartment for the titan master. The question is: Why is this piece translucent purple? Believe it or not, Google image search did not reveal any tanker trucks -- or airliners -- with weird alien purple pieces on them, and the piece doesn't show up in robot mode unless you're looking at the back of the figure. What's more, there's realistic sculpted truck detailing on the piece. Why put realistic truck detailing on it, then make it this very unrealistic color? Did they just have some extra purple plastic lying around that they had to get rid of or something?
Anyway, all in all it's not a great truck mode, but it is the better of Octone's alt modes. Which means it's time for...
So. This is a ... plane, I guess. It's almost like they asked themselves, "What are the minimum elements necessary to sell something as a plane? Pointy nose, wings, tailfin? Cool. Just put those on it, basically anywhere, and at basically any size, and that dog will probably hunt."
So yeah. We get a nosecone that is blatantly skinnier than the fuselage behind it. We get wings that could not, in any universe, cause this thing to fly -- they're too small, too far back on the body, and weirdly positioned at the top of the fuselage, rather than coming out the side of it. We get a tail fin that's just hanging out over an otherwise flat backside, looking about as aerodynamic as a cinderblock wearing a pilot's cap.
The other major eyesore is the front of the truck, which is just hanging out there under the wings. I can't even say what it's pretending to be -- it's just blatant, unapologetic kibble.
Is there landing gear? Are you kidding? Of course there's no goddamn landing gear. Look there are already wheels under there from truck mode, what do you want from us, kid? Do I dare even ask if there are the kinds of turbines you would normally find under a jetliner's wings? I best not. Pointy nose. Wings. Tailfin. It's a jet, okay?
So yeah. It's a great mode, is what I'm saying.
Build, Quality, and Intangibles
You know, at one point, I told myself I didn't need this section for official releases. I figured everyone basically knew the quality of plastic and construction of an official release, and it was only third party companies where those things were in question.
And then I bought Octone.
And more than anything, Octone feels cheap. From the floppy wing, to the hollow parts, to the peeling stickers, to the half-hearted alt-mode designs, to the concessions to the Optimus Prime pre-paint, Octone just wears his budget on his weirdly shaped fuselage.
Is it unrealistic to expect a $25 toy to measure up to the standards set by $100 third party toys? Sure. I remember the days when official toys were expected to be higher quality than third party ones, but those days are over. The problem is that Octone feels cheap even relative to voyagers from five years ago. Hell, he feels cheap compared to deluxes in the same line.
This is the second crack at Octane in the CHUG era -- the previous being a decidedly mediocre deluxe bafflingly dubbed "Tankor." Octone is certainly far more successful at representing the intended character, so I'd give him the crown for best official release.
There are two third-party Masterpiece-alike contenders, which I know only by reputation. There's the new KFC Stratotanker, which Sixo gave a not-exactly-glowing review of here. And there's Unique Toys Provider (Maz's review here), which is less accurate to the character model, and has some glaring design issues -- like sticking tires on the backs of the jet engines -- but likely hits a higher baseline level of quality than Octone.
Given the massive price difference, and apparent flaws in the big-ticket alternatives, I'm fine with Octone being my Octane of choice for the time being, but there's enough wrong with him that I don't feel comfortable awarding him best available honors. So let's just call him a worthy tribute.
Triple changers never really work, do they? From G1 to the present day, it seems like it's just really hard to design a transformer with three quality modes. Certainly, Octone suffers from some budget considerations, but I think this toy started behind the 8-ball just because it needed to do so much.
If you're inclined to feel charitable and overlook its flaws, there's an enjoyable figure in here. The robot mode in particular is really quite good-looking representation of a character who has his charms.
Buuuut, as I mentioned, the damn wing on mine is so floppy it can only sometimes remain upright in that bot mode, so charitable is not how I am feeling.
Pros: Good headscupt, aesthetically strong robot mode