The name of the game in 2013 seems to be partitioning– across the board we’re seeing many companies shift their various toy lines into two clearly distinct categories: toys for collectors, and toys for kids. Obviously, a property as big as Iron-Man 3 is going to feature toys to cover both ends of the spectrum, and Hasbro’s very nice Iron Man Legends fir the bill nicely for collectors. The main kids’ line is the Iron-Man Assemblers, which includes a neat concept by which figures’ arms, legs and accessories can be swapped to customize unique armor styles.
This simple swapping gimmick is a great idea– the arms and legs on these guys can come off and on with ease, making mix-and-matching between them easy. The modular nature of Iron-Man’s armor makes him the ideal candidate for this kind of parts-swapping gimmick, and his robotic appearance makes the concept less grisly than if it were with human toys. Each of the six launch wave figures– Mark 42, Iron Patriot, War Machine, Stealth Tech, Hypervelocity Armor and Starboost Armor– sports its own distinct armor style and colors, however there’s enough shared sculpting themes and paint apps that quite a few of the custom mash-ups look pretty cool. The alternate, heavily armored arms included with each figure help to universalize the look between characters as well.
As a long-time custom toy maker, I love seeing companies tip the hat to the hobby, and the Assemblers idea seems like a gateway drug to customizing… start ’em young, and get kids in the habit of changing up their favorite action figures into new looks and new characters! I can’t not like that.
While the limbs are easy enough to work with, it’s not quite an exact science yet– about half of my figures’ arms are on the loose side when plugged in, and a few of the legs are overly tight, so it takes some jimmying to get them on and off. It’s easy enough for a thirty-something like me, but I can see this being a case where a kid is gonna have to enlist Mom or Dad’s help to pop apart his favorite Iron Men.
Of course, this neat play concept comes at a cost– while the sculpts on these figures are remarkably good, their articulation has been drastically reduced. Each figure has a ball neck and shoulders, and t-crotch hips… that’s it. While you can swap and build your custom Iron-Man armor to your heart’s content, once he’s put together… there’s not much more any of these guys can do. The plug-on weapons range from missile launchers to detail accessories like rocket thrusters, and each is modular, allowing them to be fit at multiple points on any figure, from the back to the legs or arms. But even with the extra gear, the drastically limited moving pieces make these guys feel pretty static as action figures.
In the end, I’m very conflicted about the Assemblers figures. They all feature very nice sculpts and paint apps, and the customization feature is totally fun… as a kid I loved this kind of mix-and-match stuff, and even playing with these guys now, it’s a blast putting them together and taking them apart in different combinations. I just wish they had kept a bit more articulation (even just knees and elbows) so they could be better to play with or pose for display after they’re fully assembled– as it stands, the part-swapping is really the only fun you can have with these figures.