Produced by Imaginext | Released Fall 2013
Cosmic Chaos is a line of space-themed action figures and vehicles. Like the other Imaginext toys, this line is designed for the younger collector but that doesn't mean us oldies can't enjoy them, too. Because whoever is responsible for the design work here certainly did their Old School homework...
The Alpha Blade
The Alpha Blade is one of the line's four ''entry level'' sets. Priced at just $7 (and cheaper if you shop around - I scored mine at Target on special offer for just $5.99!) the set includes an articulated action figure with two accessories and a vehicle, complete with a very cool play feature - which we'll come back to in a moment...
Each of the Cosmic Chaos sets comes mounted on a card, with the vehicle simply attached with a couple of twist-ties and the figure/accessory pieces safely held in a blister pack. Unfortunately I was so eager to unpack the Alpha Blade that I neglected to take any pictures before opening, but you can see the packaging - which is used across the Imaginext line - here.
Let's begin with a look at the vehicle's (unnamed) pilot.
Sculpt & Design
The Pilot is a pretty cool piece of design, overall, with the sculpt sporting some really neat close-up detail (such as ribbing on his suit, knee and elbow pads and a really cool belt buckle) that really helps to engage the eye. It's surprisingly detailed for a figure of this scale, especially considering it's a toy for the younger audience.
There's a neat, almost believable feel to the design, with the suit looking like something you'd expect to see on a NASA mission, particularly with the cap. I like that the designers didn't go too overboard with the futuristic aspects of the sculpt and it helps make him feel more ''astronaut'' than ''science fiction guy'' - if that makes sense.
And as you can see, the design continues to the rear, with some nice elements to his sculpt such as the tube-clad legs and forearms, elbow pads and back detail.
If I had one criticism of the sculpt it's that the face is fairly simplistic. Whilst the cap detail is neat (with some cool padding grooves to it) the face is fairly bland, with his features - nose bump aside - coming solely from the tampo transfer (more on that later.)
If you've seen any of the Imaginext figures (or you read our Reviews of the Robot and the Mummy Collectible Figures), then you'll know what to expect here. But if you haven't, then I'll quickly recap. The Imaginext figures include a twist joint neck/head, ball-jointed shoulders, twist joint wrists a twist joint at the hips, where both legs are connected and move as one.
Considering he comes with a vehicle, I'm sure the Pilot will spend most of his time sitting at the controls - something he can manage without any real trouble. But for the times when he does step out of the Alpha Blade, there's just about enough articulation to allow him to explore new worlds, fight off aliens and generally do space explorer stuff.
The joints themselves move freely enough (a little too freely at the wrist if truth be told) so you'll be able to get him into some neat poses with relative ease. I will reiterate though that I would have loved to have seen individually rigged legs but the ball joint shoulders are a nice addition and they just about make up for that.
The paint app is clean and neat, overall. I like that the color palette is fairly muted (especially compared to other toys in the line) and the grey/blue coloring with black accents works well. He also sports a tampo transfer inverted V sign on his chest (or is it a stylized ''A'' for Alpha?) and a tampo transfer face.
The Alpha Blade
Whilst the Pilot is a neat figure, the real star of the set is his vehicle, the Alpha Blade.
Sculpt & Design
Whilst the Alpha Blade is - in essence - simply a classic ''flying saucer'' in shape, there are a lot of details here that fans of classic lines will immediately spot. Whether this is simply transference or intentional I don't know but I'm immediately reminded of the Cybo-Invader (minus the dome) from the Denys-Fisher (no relation) Cyborg and Muton line. There are also echoes of the Metal-Man Space Saucer and although stylistically very different, it brings to mind the Microman Micro Saucer UFO and even some of the goofier GI Joe vehicles like the Buzz Boar.
But most strikingly, the Alpha Blade is almost identical to the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Roton vehicle, right down to replicating the ''push forward to spin the blades'' play feature (more on that below). It even has a cannon mounting port for the pilot's blaster in the exact same spot as the Roton. Given that the Masters of the Universe line and Imaginext are both from Mattel, this comes as no surprise.
Up-close there are some really neat little touches to the sculpt, with an assortment of panels, ports and other ''spaceship things'' helping to break-up what could have otherwise been a number of flat planes. Within the cockpit there's a padded seat and a couple of display panels/controls to further enhance the spaceship feel. And speaking of the cockpit, I like that the pilot fits neatly into place, with the control grips being aligned perfectly to fit into his hands and keep him positioned securely during operation.
The Alpha Blade's most interesting feature is the spinning blade ''skirt.'' The mechanism used to operate this is simple, being a lateral cog connected to the wheels on the underside. As they spin so their motion is translated to the outer blade ring, causing it to spin around the pilot's seat/cockpit. It's a very simply idea but the construction is tight, the engineering is solid and it works really well.
The wheel motion is also smooth, with the Alpha Blade gliding over most surfaces well and the slightly softer/rubber-ish tires give enough traction to operate the spinning blade feature.
Extras & Accessories
The pilot comes equipped with a cannon/rifle and a helmet.
The rifle is insanely long when held by the figure but fits neatly into the Alpha Blade itself and makes for a cool play feature there. I also like that the weapon's scope can be aligned neatly with the pilot's eye, allowing him to take super-accurate shots and, when it's in his hand, it's a nice, solid fit. And even when it's in the ''stored'' position in the Alpha Blade it can still be used to blast enemies, with the scope again aligning neatly with the Pilot when he's seated.
As for the helmet, it's cast from a semi-transparent plastic and features two shoulder pads, a chest/back panel and a shoulder-mounted light/scanner/weapon. And, let's face it, it's lifted almost directly from the M.A.S.K. toy line. Again, somebody at Mattel is adding all these little details to catch the attention of the older fans. Or maybe they're simply paying homage to the toys of their youth. Either way is fine by me...
The Imaginext toys are clearly pitched at younger fans. From the solid colors and chunky figures to the robust builds and interactive play features, it's clear they're designed to appeal to the young collector. And yet, for all that, there's something that's just so fun about these toys that older collectors can't help but take notice of them. If you haven't already checked out the toys, you should do so. Yes, they're cute and yes they're a little childish but they're also well-made, they're packed with superb details and they have a super-fun retro vibe to them. If you can go into your local toy store and buy Marvel Mashers, you can pluck up the courage to buy the Imaginext toys, too.
As for the Alpha Blade itself, it's a great indication of just how much fun and how well produced these toys are. It feels solid, it has a great, chunky feel to it, the individual elements all fit together well, there's a bunch of cool detail and it's got a seriously awesome retro vibe to it. I honestly can't recall the last time I bought something that was just so joyously fun to push around, pose and play with.
When you consider that this vehicle and figure come in at just $7, it makes you wonder how Imaginext/Mattel are selling these toys without making a loss on them. None of the set feels like it's made from a lower grade plastic, the production is tight on both vehicle and figure, everything's neatly tooled, the paint apps are cleanly applied and the whole pack feels closer to a $15-20 toy than something you can pick up for under $10. I just can't get my head around how they do it...
But high quality production isn't the only thing to like here. The vehicle design is fun, echoing a lot of classic designs that older collectors will immediately get (and we all know how powerful that nostalgia kick can be), the play mechanics work well, the figure looks neat and the combination of vehicle and pilot make for a set kids will simply love playing with and older collectors will enjoy displaying.
Funko may be winning fans with their Re-Action line but for me, Imaginext is right up there in the retro fun stakes.
Want to see more? Check out Dan's Video Review at The Toy Museum.