An Alternators logo? But Arcee only appeared in Binaltech! LOLOCAUST!!!!

The Binaltech (Japanese, diecast parts)/Alternators (America/Europe, all-plastic, some other minor changes and renaming) range came out just as I was moving away from regularly buying Transformers. I bought Smokescreen as soon as he came out in the UK, got Bluestreak for the following Christmas, and that was pretty much it for me at the time. However, the Hound figure didn't seem to suffer from these defects, so about a year ago I picked up a loose Binaltech version, having always had a soft spot for the character.

Hound's alternate mode is a Jeep Wrangler, and a very good fit for the character. Like all Binaltech, it's licensed (actually asking to use manufacturers' designs is something of a new concept for Takara) and in 1:24 scale. The result is a detailed replica of the Wrangler. It's nicely made with an excellent amount of detail, including accurate badging, transparent lights, rubber tyres, working suspension, opening doors, wing mirrors, a detailed interior and an opening bonnet which reveals a passable stab at an engine.

The main downside is Takara's partial use of diecast - this chips fairly easily, though this just about works on this particular model, as only the mentally deficient keep a Jeep in showroom condition. The other problem this creates is patching the paint to the plastic - Takara haven't done a bad job, but it's not perfect, and in a way I wish I'd gone for the all-plastic Alternators variant to eliminate these problems. Robot parts are largely well-hidden, though, and it does the job rather well.

Like most Binaltech figures, the transformation is tricky and a little counterintuitive the first couple of times, but after that it's possible to enjoy a pretty neat sequence that largely avoids over-complication and has a few neat touches. Unlike a lot of transformations from the range, there's nothing that really frustrates, and no danger of any limbs popping off every time. The resulting robot is around seven and a half inches tall, and really does look simply like an upgraded version of the original - however, the Binaltech doesn't suffer the same proportion problems as the original toy, with decent sized limbs being the clearest change.

Having the doors on his shoulders works nicely, too, while the chest design, arms and head are all faithfully carried over, via the cartoon character model. The articulation is pretty good, with movement at the shoulders, wrists, fingers (with separate trigger fingers on each hand, too), the neck, the hips, the knees and the ankles. And just in case he wasn't cool enough, the spare tyre container on his left leg splits open to reveal a fair replica of the character's hologram gun. On the downside, the ratcheted ankle joints limit the poseability of the legs, and the diecast chest makes the figure ludicrously top-heavy, so he's not quite as dynamic as he could have been (and once again I do wish I'd bought the Alternators version). The only other problem is that Hound really doesn't have much of a neck, with the head just sort of floating above the cavernous torso, something that hurts his display from certain angles.

Despite these minor niggles, the Binaltech is a superb update on an underrated character, looking very good in both modes, and displaying beautifully. The mould only has a couple of minor drawbacks, though I'd say it's possibly better to go for the Alternators version to eliminate a couple of points that Takara clearly didn't think through when designing the thing to be part-diecast - I'd imagine these are eliminated on the all-plastic version. Highly recommended, though he does seem to be among the slightly rarer Alternators/Binaltech figures. The mould was given two rather feckless reworkings as Swindle and Rollbar and has been booted in a variety of colours, but I'd advise going for Hound for maximum satisfaction.