With Gobots dying a death and Machine Robo already shifting its' focus in other directions, the larger toys from the final year of the line weren't distributed in particularly large numbers. Seven Super Gobot figures were manufactured by Bandai for Tonka, and released in America and Europe in 1986. Spy-Eye is a little-known figure, not helped by the character never showing up in the cartoon or anything else except the final Australian Machine Men pack-in comic.

An early prototype was grey in colour, the scheme used for the RAF's Tornado F3 fighter variant (though the aircraft nerd in me feels compelled to point out the toy is too rotund to actively double as the ADV version; the realist in me also notes that they might have just not bothered with the paint apps at that point). The American version came without the camouflage stickers for the main and rear wings and was missing several paint apps, probably in some arcane moneysaving gesture. The box art shows the figure in either French or Italian Air Force markings (difficult to tell on the tiny pictures I've seen of the artwork but most likely to be Italian as they at least used the plane) but the released version only came out with RAF markings on both sides of the Atlantic.


ALTERNATE MODE

The vehicle mode for Spy-Eye is a Panavia Tornado GR1, in a fetching RAF scheme. This looks pretty good and the Tornado is chunky enough to make this a nice, sturdy aircraft. All things being told it looks very good, and also retains the swing-wing of the actual aircraft. The stickers are sensibly designed, and it has the usual cute Bandai landing gear. The green paint apps on grey plastic doesn't look bad at all either, though I'm not sure the orange translucent plastic for the canopy is the best choice - it ruins the illusion of what's otherwise a nice ~1/80 scale Tornado model.

The biggest problem is that Spy-Eye tends to work loose after a while, and this affects the jet mode more than the robot mode - the underside of the nose is formed of two parts that tend to sag, and the whole nose assembly can also droop. However, most of these can be remedied by buying a tighter version of the figure - considering he can be expensive, it's worth waiting for a good condition example to come along.


ROBOT MODE

The transformation is really good - complicated but fun. Looking at the pictures might make it seem like it's the same old Valkyrie transformation, but it's enhanced by a couple of neat twists, notably the splitting nose underside and the use of the wings to support the torso.

The result looks unique and very good and I do like the way the camouflage is peripheral in this mode. The cyclops head works surprisingly well - though it's a shame that a square red sticker was used for the optic, as opposed to a paint application. Articulation is limited to the arms, but Spy-Eye displays really nicely with his chromed feet and hands. Looseness doesn't affect the robot mode at all - by now, Bandai have got the hang of making the shoulder articulation that doesn't wear the parts down whenever it's used while the unusual leg configuration makes Spy-Eye very solid.


SUMMARY

Spy-Eye is one of the very best Gobots. He looks good in both modes,and the only real failings are brought on by age. It's a shame then that he's quite rare. The superior European version (with full camouflage - the American version just looks unfinished) seems to be easier to come by, and should be the one you go for. Well worth tracking down, an excellent figure.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1986, Gobots Super Gobots Series 3 - 036: Spy-Eye
1986, Robo Machine - Super Gobots: Spy-Eye

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None