Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Open And Play Big Spring

In August 2016, another Masterpiece style 3rd party Springer was teased by scene newcomers Open And Play. The toy that would eventually come to be known as Big Spring looked promising, the modes seemingly based directly off the Transformers: The Movie representations of the Autobot Triplechanger. The figure was released approximately a year later in what can only be described as shoe box-style packaging, with zero paperwork. Talk about minimalist, there were not even instructions! I guess the idea was that owners would bust out the toy, play around with it and figure it out, hence the name of the company. I am certainly on board with that kind of design concept and philosophy for modern transforming toys!

Big Spring is scaled to fit in with official Masterpiece Transformers, and I am thrilled to report that he scales more with MP-9 Rodimus Convoy than the MP-28 Hot Rodimus end of the MP spectrum. This is absolutely my preferred scale for the post-Movie Transformers. It works with MP-22 Ultra Magnus and all of MakeToys' Headmasters and Targetmasters. Big Spring comes with the "I've got better things to do tonight than die" rocket from the Movie, as well as his sword/rotor and a clip-on connector for it as well as his handgun. While his face slides off really easily, there are no replacement faces included with him.

Big Spring doesn't have die cast sections, he's mostly plastic and does have painted yellow sections. His sword - not unlike Generations Springer - opens up to become the helicopter rotor blades. The green peg clips into his back and lets you store the sword there. It can also be used to attach the sword when in vehicle mode. Big Spring is very posable and dynamic, with a quality waist swivel, a slightly loose abdominal crunch, ankle tilts with a wide range of movement (but not in all directions) and double-jointed elbows. He also has an individually articulated index finger whereas the others are pinned together. Weapon grip is very weak as the sword handle and gun handle just slide into the hand without any rails or pegging, and therefore wobble about when held. A definite weakness there.

The knees are not double-jointed. Any movement beyond 90 degrees is halted by the folded up blocks behind his calves. There is a fair amount of movement in the neck, but he can't look up very far unless the head is turned to face either side. Good range of movement in the shoulders allows Big Spring a fair degree of expression in his posing, and although most upper body movement results in the chest unclipping (virtually no friction in that clip), you can get some excellent poses out of him. You can also see how well he fits in aesthetically with the official 1986 Masterpiece guys.

Any figure that can do The Run without an outward ankle tilt has got to be inherently well-balanced, but it was no doddle getting Big Spring into this pose as there is some slip in his legs when posing, and sometimes the shin section comes unclipped from the calf section, a function of the transformation. Ratchets in the legs and shoulders are good, proportions of the robot mode imply strength and athleticism and they look great. There's no getting around what a good job Open And Play have done with Big Spring in robot mode, it's just so hard to get past that awful face sculpt. The details are puffy and he seems to be wearing a perma-squint. It's about the only thing holding the robot mode back from being an absolute giant killer.

Despite that face, he's got so much going for him in a Masterpiece style display. The fact that the face comes off tells me there was a plan to do alternatives, and certainly the prototype looked quite different from production in that respect. You can see in the second picture above that Spring can have the yellow shoulder pads rotated behind, but unless you angle the elbows quite far back, the yellow shoulder pads are never able to point straight ahead, instead in an idle stance they are pointing upwards from his back. So an excellent robot mode but lacking some obvious polish.

The alternate modes for Big Spring are good, I especially love the chopper. While the rear of the car mode seems a little too disconnected from the front end - and decidedly more weedy - they did get a whole lot right. The transformation had me scratching my head for some time, but once I realised the extremely clever steps involved, it became a pretty fun figure to convert. There's more than just a touch of Unique Toys/DX9 about the way Big Spring feels and transforms. I wouldn't say the plastic feels as sturdy as the MakeToys and FansToys of this world, but maybe just a single tier below. I certainly didn't feel as though I was going to break anything, the clear vehicle canopy transformation being the only step where I had to exercise a bit of caution.

The tricky bits in the conversion involve getting the rear of the chopper to clip together, and you accomplish this by making sure small tabs in the folding blocks behind the green section peg into small (almost invisible) holes, while making sure they have been slid in towards the centre line of the alt mode for secure fitting. There are also two tiny - and very easy to miss - green tabs under the chopper tail that must be pushed up into the tail to allow clipping of the halves together at that point also. The fold-down green panels that cover the rear of the main cockpit section clip in at the top, but the tolerance is not quite right for them to clip at the bottom so they just sort of hover a few millimetres out from a flush position. It's annoying, but credit to the chopper mode as a whole, because they don't detract from it to the point where you stop enjoying it. There's enough play in the rotor connection to allow you to spin the blades freely and take pics like the above!

There's no need for small fold-down wheels either as the main vehicle wheels are partially exposed in chopper mode, so Big Spring uses those to connect and roll on a surface. Being a 3rd party figure, there are some sharp and pointy bits that will cut you if you're not careful. The slide out mini wings on the tail of the chopper and the folding/rotating green panels on the side of the vehicle nose are fine examples. 

There's a hexagonal hole on the side of the chopper cockpit where you can attach the handgun in vehicle mode, and also the green clip in car mode should you want to slide the sword through there. Honestly, I think he looks fantastic in chopper mode, and again, it is scaled to the robots of the Masterpiece Transformers line. I think UT Allen is amazing in chopper mode too, but just too damn huge.

Like I said, car mode suffers a bit from the rear end just sort of being there, not quite feeling as seamless and coherent a part of the whole thing compared to how well the chopper mode ties together. That said, this is always Springer's weakest mode in any given iteration. At least it is distinct enough to pass as a mode on Big Spring, it does hold together as well as the chopper and the transformation is repeatable. This mode has some nice flip-up headlights too, making use of translucent blue plastic to accentuate the feature. It's a bit of a shame that the roof-mounted gun does not have enough friction in the connection to stay pointing firmly forwards; it has a tendency to spin.

The clever bits I spoke about earlier include how his legs split mid-thigh and allow you to fold the waist right into the underside of the cockpit, as well as how the tail of the chopper folds into his legs. Just the way the shins unclip, fold up and then rotate to once again fold down and cover the innards impressed me greatly. A fair amount of thought has gone into where everything should tab in every mode. This may have a low price for a MP-scaled 3P figure, but it's got a lot going on conceptually without ever verging on the complex.

Ultimately, what holds Big Spring back from being a classic is the lack of polish I mentioned. That terrible face sculpt, the total lack of secure chest lock into the waist, the way the head is just sitting out of sight under the nose of the chopper/hood of the car, the lack of flush tabbing of a couple of sections, the way the handgun does not have quite enough friction when pegged into the roof so as not to spin freely, poor weapon grip...all of this I would be happy to see remedied and I would pay more for the privilege because of how strong the foundation of the figure is here. 

And then you have the strengths. Great fun to play with and pose, a transformation that is clever and not an obstacle to mode cycling, excellent display with Masterpiece figures and a good selection of relevant parts. While I don't know how many 3P long-timers are involved in the Open And Play project, if taken at face value as a debut figure, it's an impressive effort. I've enjoyed the figure a lot and would recommend it as a purchase. A fine example of how big strengths can outweigh numerous issues to result in a great transforming toy experience of a well-known character.

All the best


  1. As a first effort at this price it's quite impressive, but with Allen in the collection toon already and FTs in the horizon it's would need to be exceptional to get in. It's not for me but I'm sure he'll make more than a few people happy. Thanks Maz.

    1. Thanks man! I think he is one face sculpt and a bit of polish away from being my MP Springer indefinitely. I expect Takara to do this eventually, so I'm not going to get too invested in what FT offer. It's the same reason I have not gone in for Koot yet, either.

      All the best