By 1987, Gobots was dying fast. The line had earned Tonka $132m in 1985, but in 1986 this dropped to just $25m. The biggest problem the franchise faced, however, was the shifting focus of Bandai's Machine Robo line, away from the realistic figures that had been the backbone of Gobots line, and towards more futuristic designs. In addition, Machine Robo was featuring fewer and fewer new moulds, despite the introduction of Anime backing for the first time.

The Japanese company did design a handful of figures for Tonka to use, however, and these came out across the final year of Gobots. The Dread Launchers were the final transforming Gobots to be released (the Power Marchers, non-transforming remote control models sourced from another Japanese company, came out around the same time). They followed the same concept as the Double Machine Robo (released in Europe as the Combinators) - two vehicles who combined to form a single robot. Quite why Tonka didn't just use the Japanese figures I don't know. The Dread Launchers were issued in Europe as the Ultrabots, under the Robo Machine banner. All three appeared in one of the final Challenge of the Gobots episodes, "Guardian Academy".


ALTERNATE MODES

Chaos' vehicle mode is a jet fighter with a launching truck. Of the three Dread Launchers it's the only one where the two halves actually gel. The jet is modelled on the Grumman X-29 concept aircraft, and while this probably wasn't launched off the back of a truck it works in the context of a toy line about transforming robots.

However, the scale of the two modules is miles off - a pilot for the jet would be larger than the cab of the truck (and the cab has small windows, indicating the truck is massive to boot). Wheels are another problem - the jet's undercarriage tyres are bigger than the wheels on the truck. The X-29 isn't a bad alt mode on its' own but the truck is a bit of a mess - very boxy and segmented, with a stupidly large wheelbase that would surely only be of any use of the truck had to turn in the legs of a giant robot.

Even then it could be better, with the legs going closer together somehow to eliminate the massive gap in the middle of the truck. Still, the nifty working ramp does a bit of good in distracting from this - if you can block out the scale discrepancy, they look alright displayed together. It's the best pair of alt modes from the Dread Launcher series, but still falls well short of the quality of the Combinator figures (and Bandai's similar experience with Dynaman).


ROBOT MODE

The robot mode is rather good fun to put together, with a few steps on each part - the jet half is relatively complicated. There's only a single point where they join, a thick connection at the waist. Chaos himself is massive - a good ~9' tall, and as such he towers over pretty much everyone else from the US line (some European and Japanese figures are larger, however) apart from the Power Suits. Sadly while Chaos' alt modes might come close to matching, his robot mode doesn't mesh quite as nicely. The truck forms some very chunky legs - I'm rather fond of these tree-trunks, great big boxy pins that should just have "1980s Toy" stamped on them in big red letters. The jet forms the top half of the body, and is considerably narrower than the legs. Worst of all, it's one of the thinnest sections that connects, so Chaos is left with an almost comical hourglass waist, looking like he's wearing a corset. Careful positioning of the arms can distract from this a little, but it's still there.

Chaos doesn't look too bad, but there's just so much lost potential - even moving the connector up half an inch, so all of the tapering jet tail swung onto his back and the fatter section clipped onto the boxy waist would help. The colours work well, though - the difficulty with split robots is getting good independent schemes for the modules that work well when combined, and Chaos manages this. His head cast looks pretty evil, too. There's articulation in his elbows and wrist, but with the shoulders being locked solid and the forearms being hollow there's not really a lot you can do with it.


SUMMARY

Despite his faults, Chaos is my favourite Dread Launcher. That's more a summation of the faults of Re-Volt (I don't have Traitor, but I don't really like insectoid robots so I doubt he'd be a winner) than a plaudit for Chaos, though. While the alt modes - scale problems aside - work well enough and the robot is passable, he really is just a bit too big, a bit too flawed and a bit too pricey to wholeheartedly recommend.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1987, Gobots Dread Launchers - Chaos
1987, Robo Machine Ultrabots - Chaos

PARTS:
1 x jet
1 x truck

WEAK POINTS:
Waist connection