Finally, a little taste of wave4 hit Memphis over teh weekend. I saw Towline, Downshift, Demolishor, Snowcat, and Prowl all in the new superlink battles packaging, this wave in teh old packaging skipped over us entirely, it looks like. Anyways, on to the toy:
Towline's van form is obviously a communications/TV van. His wepon has a radar dish and some kind of transmitter, which is a dead giveaway. You can extend the square shaped dish upright using the hinged mast, for a broadcast mode which looks pretty cool. The look of this van is actually pretty cool...for a van. The cab section has a sleek yet brawny look and has a divided windshield, its a little like the cab of a cabover semi truck. Its not based on this van, but the whole thing reminds me a lot of the Dodge Sprinter van (actually a rebadged Mercedes) for some reason. The ladders molded into the sides make for a utilitarian look, adding to the communications truck look. His paint scheme in this mode wasnt real well thought out, but it works. From the side, he's most all blue, with wide red stripe running the length, and a thin silver stripe sandwiching it. This is a nod to G1 Skids apparently. The face of the van and a little of the roof are white, with most of the rest of the roof being a baby blue. Overall the shape is a homage to Ratchet/Ironhide, and it goes further with this in robot mode.
Towline's robot mode actually splits in two figures, a regular robot, and a tank drone just like the G1 vans. The difference is that they are reversed, the roof section forms the robot, and the chassis forms the tank.
Towlines robot mode is a little slighter build than most other E-deluxes, since he's only 1/2 of the vehicle mode. Most photos seen make it look like he has no waist, only legs sprouting out of his chest, but this isn't really so. In person, he's MUCH better proportioned than the pics show, but hes still long legged. When you transform him, his cab section is split just under the windshield, leaving the grille on the tank, but when you swing his waist section under his torso, the mold while a different color, mimicks the front of his truck mode, a nice touch. Towline has good articulation, but the way his doors 'gullwing' up to form his shoulders limits his arm movement a bit. His head mold is a direct homage to G1 Ratchet's cartoon version, much like the rest of him. His chest is white, legs are the lite blue and his arms and thighs are a brown and tan Ill elaborate on later. His helmet is more sculpted than G1 Ratchet, but his face and the way the helmet fits definitely make you think of him.
The tank drone is formed out of the lower half of the van, and looks much like the one used by the G1 vans, with the fold out sides and the tricycle style front track. Rather than a pair of rear tracks, the vans front wheels become the tanks rear wheels. There is some nice detailing on the top of the tank, and several holes where you can attach weapons. The instructions show the tank sitting with the wheels/treads in full upright position and the weapon in 'rifle' mode. But I found two distinct modes for this piece. When its in full upright mode, I lay the weapon back on its side, like on the van and extend the transmitter into tall mode, for a 'broadcast platform' mode. For the tank, I put the weapon back into rifle mode, and flatten down the wheels/treads for a lower profile tank look. Thats just the way I do it. And if you have Signal flare, try experimenting with his weapon in this mode. I came up with a few different ways to use that dish of his on the tank for an ultimate broadcast platform.
Towline can powerlinx in two ways, his robot mode can become a shirt, and a nice looking one at that. His tank becomes a centaur like lower body, that from the posts Ive read people have mixed feelings about. I like both of them; its nice to see some imagination and out of the box thinking with these toys.
The shirt mode is clean and works well with Rodimus as the pants. I like the way the legs come up behind him and with a pair of flip-out guns on his feet add a little firepower.
The 'pants' mode looks like crap with Rodimus as the shirt, although this is mostly due to Rodimus being a lousy shirt. Most photos show the front tracks in this mode pushed together, which looks wierd and unstable. They can split, giving it a four legged look which I like better. With towline as the shirt and his tank as the pants, it looks pretty good. Like a tank-bot. Ill have to experiment with some different shirts to find any others that look good, but towline himself seems to work best in this mode.
As to the colors, the pictures show a beige and grey in addition to the main blues/whites of the van. But while the beige is as it looks, it actually has a yucky greenish cast, and the grey is a brown with that same greenish tint. If the sensation of nausea had a color, it would be one of these two. These colors look absolutely horrible on their own, let alone against blue. If the repaint looks any better, I'll get it and ebay this version for sure.
Overall, Towline is one of the better toys in Energon, outside of the colors. He is one of the more imaginative, and has hands down the most play value for the price point. Love it or hate it, the 'centaur', 'griffin', whatever you call it is definitely unique. I think its a great idea and hope to see more such concepts in the future. I hope to see this repainted at some point as a maintenance van and named Ratchet. It would even work as Ironhide if they retool the ladders out of the mold, and give him a reworked weapon thats not biased towards communication.