Saturday, May 23, 2015

Autolauncher (1998)

At the end of the Generation Two line, Hasbro released a couple of toys that incorporated an auto-transform feature (one of which, Roadblock, has been featured already), yet left several toys designed with the same feature unreleased. A couple of these planned toys would simply have been recolors of the toys we actually got, but a couple of unused molds, utilizing an apparently somewhat advanced version of the same auto-transform technology, were later released in Japan as part of the Beast Wars II line. Autolauncher was one of these toys that never made it to the US market.

As with Roadblock, Autolauncher has a switch in back that, when moved to the proper position, allows the toy to transform from vehicle mode (in this case, an armored personnel carrier) to robot mode. But whereas Roadblock could only go from vehicle-to-robot while rolling forward (and vice-versa when rolling backward), Autolauncher can go from one mode to the other while rolling in either direction, so long as the switch is moved to the correct place.

Autolauncher improves on Roadblock's design in a couple of other ways, as well. The first of these is a compartment in the back of the vehicle mode that allows for storage of Autolauncher's missile launcher rifle, and spaces on the vehicle mode to store missiles that are not in use. Finally, Autolauncher has another switch, this one up front, that toggles a disc-firing mechanism when the vehicle is rolled forward. Discs are stored in a compartment at the front of the vehicle.

None of this praise should blind one to the fact that the inclusion of these features causes Autolauncher's robot mode to suffer for it. The arms can't raise fully without running into Autolauncher's front wheels (but at least, unlike Roadblock, he has actual fists!), and there is no leg articulation at all. The result is a short, if sturdy, little statue of a robot that can't do very much. However, it seems that that writers of the Japanese Beast Wars II cartoon accounted for this fact, as they wrote Autolauncher to be a bodyguard (admittedly, for a character so powerful he probably didn't need one), which is the kind of guy who perhaps doesn't need to move very much, so long as he can stand his ground and take a beating, and I've little doubt that Autolauncher could do just that.

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