Ocular Max - otherwise known as the Masterpiece-mimicking arm of Mastermind Creations (MMC) - opened their account with the very well-received PS-01 Sphinx late in 2015. Sphinx was their take on a Masterpiece Mirage using what they believed to be top quality materials like diecast metal, rubber tyres and so on. They also make no attempt to hide their influence from Studio Ox's well-established style for Transformers art, or homages to the original Generation 1 Transformers packaging features. Well, Sphinx was a sell-out and Ocular Max have re-issued it, after a fashion, as PS-01A Sphinx Alternative. It is a lighter blue version, more accurate to the actual #26 Equipe Gitanes Ligier JS11 Formula 1 car from 1979 driven by Jacques Laffitte on which G1 Mirage and its Diaclone predecessor were based.
PS-01A Sphinx Alternative, as mentioned above, is a lighter blue compared to the PS-01 Sphinx's cartoon-based dark blue. Alternative also does not come with the parachute, and only has one extra smiley face. The instructions, holographic (half) driver and collector's card are still there, but the packaging is also altered from the original Sphinx package which previously had Masterpiece Autobot car box proportions.
The Sphinx Alternative packaging seems to me an amalgamation of styles, taking proportions and overall design from the vintage Takara Diaclone Ligier car robot box (you can see the Finnish Diaclone example above), but still retaining the Transformers-like grid pattern background and "Perfection Series" logo, made to look like the vintage Takara Transformers "Fight! Super Robot Life Form Transform" logo. I love it, there's a lot of nodding going on there, much like with DX9 Invisible's packaging. It's interesting how both Masterpiece-style Mirage releases so far have made pre-Transformers Diaclone and Ceji Joustra Diaclone references. Any regular readers of my work will know how happy this has made me.
Also, your eyes have not deceived you, there is a tech spec on the back of the box (first release had this too), but for the Alternative 1A release Ocular Max have included a red tech spec decoder bar too. Wonderful!
I have fully reviewed the Ocular Max Sphinx mould here in my TFSource Blog review, so this will be more of a quick look at what the Alternative gives us compared to the original as opposed to a full on review. While the light blue is meant to evoke the original toy and F1 car, the above comparison with my discoloured Finnish Diaclone does not demonstrate this very well. It's still utterly gorgeous, but it's not just the shade of blue that differs from the first PS-01 Sphinx.
The Alternative no longer seems to have the sparkly metal-like silver on the robot face, front and rear wing or even the hand gun. It's been replaced by a more muted, light metallic grey, almost like the cartoon grey the Masterpiece toys and MakeToys Gundog 2N are going for. Weird that Ocular Max chose this for the real-life or toy accurate PS-01A Sphinx Alternative instead of the darker blue cartoon accurate PS-01 Sphinx.
Hopefully the above photos convey the differences in blue as well as the differences in grey/silver across the figures. I'm sorry to say the missile launcher (not altered in appearance) is still a total bugger to attach and angle up high as I like it, but it's possible. I'd like to say it's a bit tighter overall than the first Sphinx release with some better fit of parts - especially when clipping legs together in car mode - but that could just be my first impressions of handling a brand new figure compared to the first Sphinx that I have transformed many times. Whether or not I am mis-remembering the state of my first Sphinx on receipt, I can safely say that my Sphinx Alternative has tight shoulders, tight waist and no inherent looseness anywhere.
There's a damn good set of reasons why Sphinx was in my top 3 figures of 2015 (see review link above), and would probably have been number 1 in any other given year. The looks of the vehicle mode and the robot mode make my heart flutter, and the increased Diaclone and G1 homages in the packaging and peripherals (that decoder strip, bravo) as well as a properly 1979 F1 accurate colour scheme mean that PS-01A is every bit as treasured a purchase to me as the first Sphinx. The transformation remains lovely, very much in the same vein as the official Masterpiece Autobot cars, and he's enormously posable. The added tightness of joints will mean he can rock those poses even more successfully.
Three out of three for Ocular Max, and good on you guys for publicly crediting (almost all) community members on its delightful packaging who have had a hand in making the Sphinx project come to life. I await in hope the red Diaclone homage, the pink and green unreleased G2 homage and the inevitable crystal versions to reference Mirage's invisibility. I love Transformers, I love Mirage, I love Diaclone, I love F1, I love Sphinx. I just can't choose between the original and the Alternative though, so I'm happy to have both. I won't be the only one, either.
All the best