Recent Generation One reissues of the Insecticons and Perceptor have brought these characters back to the forefront of consciousness for the Christmas season. My brother heard that I was considering getting the reissues and, in an act of mercy, offered to send me the one he had in storage back at our family home in Kentucky, which he says was mine, anyway. That saved me $35 plus tax, so I was more than happy to pay the shipping on a package I was sending on his request at about that same time.
As I mentioned back when reviewing Spy Shot 6, non-vehicular Transformers have become something of a rarity in recent years (although the recent movie toylines have indeed done a fair bit to bring the concept back, including a new microscope-mode Transformer in 2009), but back in the first couple of years of the Transformers franchise, they were actually fairly common. The mold for Perceptor, like that of so many Transformers released in 1984-1985, was actually created for a previously-unrelated toy line in Japan (in this case, Micro Change), and repurposed as a Transformer a year or so later. Perceptor actually boasts a real magnifying lens in the eyepiece, capable of viewing objects at 14 times their normal size. Not enough to win any science fair awards, perhaps, but a nice level of attention to detail that the toy designers might not have bothered with if they didn't want to. When I recently re-claimed this specimen a few months ago, I had a look. Yes, the lens still works. The image is even fairly clear, if the object is held at just the right place away from the lens (the tray isn't quite that "right" location, I'm sad to say, although it's pretty close). I haven't actually heard a confirmed report as to whether or not the Perceptor reissue currently at Toys R Us retains this feature, although it's certainly possible (quite bluntly, I don't trust the copy-writers who wrote "Not a working microscope" on the reissue's packaging to necessarily know what they're talking about. That could easily just be a knee-jerk kind of thing to write down).
The robot mode is one of those "amazingly well-articulated for 1985" toys, although that should perhaps be said with the usual disclaimer that such an achievement is entirely due to the fact that all those joints have to move in just that way to transform the toy into a microscope in the first place (well, I guess the elbows didn't have to be there to turn the toy into a microscope...). Perceptor comes with both a rifle and a missile launcher (with the standard compliment of more missiles than can possibly be stored in the launcher at a single time. Perceptor comes with three, and the launcher holds but one). I'm told that the missile launcher does represent a change between this vintage Perceptor and the reissue. Although all American Perceptors (including this one) had the launching feature neutered to comply with American safety standards, the current reissue seems to have achieved this in a way that makes the launcher unable to properly hold onto the missile at all! If you want to display a reissue Perceptor with a loaded missile launcher in one hand, you'll have to have it done in a firing pose, lest gravity ruin the effect.
Perceptor, while not technically a triple-changer, does have a third mode, where basically the designers discovered that if you simply rearranged the limbs just a bit off of the microscope configuration, you get something that looks kinda-sorta like a tank, and so they added "treads" onto the sides of the legs and extra extensions to pull out of the feet to justify this "third mode's" existence. The official instructions tell you to remove the knobs from the microscope to achieve this (as is seen in this picture), but I honestly almost never do so. There's really very little incentive to take the knobs off, since they don't get in the way of the transformation at all, they don't really do anything that detracts from the "tank" effect any more than the rest of the microscope parts do, and I really just don't care to take off potentially easy-to-lose parts when I don't have to. (For the especially eagle-eyed among you: yes, that Autobot symbol on the lens barrel is a sign that I took this picture later than the others, after I decided that I had a Reprolabel handy that fit just fine)