Alternate Mode: Jet Fighter
Height: 7cm Length: 21cm Width: 24cm
A grey and deep red fighter jet, that looks like it's inspired by real life jet features, but clearly isn't a real model. There are a lot of black highlights, and some yellow also, notably on his air intakes - which are on top of the plane rather than below like on G1 Starscream, who he is clearly designed to resemble.
He has purple Decepticon logos on his wings, but sadly, the entire logo is painted, not just the raised parts. On the underside, he has no front undercarriage as such, but below each wing is a block with wheels, these blocks have unpainted Decepticon logos on them. Despite having no nose wheel, he stands up okay, and rolls along about as well as you'd expect.
Swindle can attach underneath the cockpit, and pretty much looks like a car stowed underneath the cockpit, which is a little odd. Adding to the play value are twin missile launchers, that flip forward when you attach Swindle (or another Minicon) to a live hardpoint on top, near the tail. They're big and heavy with powerful springs so it's a fun gimmick.
There are four sound gimmicks on this toy. Pulling back on the hardpoint on top will produce a swooping sound, holding this trigger back will create a whirring sound that's meant to be some sort of flying sound - not that jets have propellers. Pressing down on the cockpit produces the sound of rapid gunfire, and if you do this with Swindle stowed underneath the cockpit, it'll make the sound of a bomb exploding.
Despite having four distinct sounds, I'm not impressed by the sound gimmick. The quality of the recordings is well below par, to the point that it's hard to tell what they're meant to be. The cockpit button is way too easy to activate, to the point where you'll activate it three or four times every time you transform him - the bad sound gets old fast. I've taken the batteries out of both Starscream and Thundercracker.
Despite the rather underdone sound gimmicks, this is still a fun toy. The missile launchers are very cool, and the missiles will shoot over a metre. Aside from the two spots already mentioned, you can attach Swindle to the two wheel blocks under the wings, giving him four attachments points, three of which can fit any Minicon.
A pretty good jet mode once you take the batteries out. Starscream has a detailed sculpt which is partially hidden by a fairly simple paint job. The missile launchers are a lot of fun, so overall this is a good jet mode, despite the failure of the sound gimmicks to really contribute.
TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE
The rear wheels fold out to become the robot legs, the wheel blocks underneath the wings fold out to become the arms. The head pops out when you clip the groin into place (and it's possible to leave it out in jet mode). The wings rotate to form robot mode wings, and the left wing can detach to form a sword, something I strongly recommend _not_ doing. The nose folds down to become the robot chest, and the missile launchers can deploy over his shoulders in robot mode.
The transformation is based around the electronics block, which means while the transformation is fairly involved, a lot of the steps are fiddling with the stuff around the block in the middle.
Height: 19cm Width: 21cm
Again, Starscream is grey and dark red with black highlights and yellow paint - noticeably on the air intakes - that are now on his shoulders which is a cool G1 reference. The wings now sit behind his shoulders, and the two purple Decepticon symbols are clearly visible - if only they weren't flooded with purple. All in all, this is a good colour scheme. It has clear references to G1 Starscream while still looking like its own character.
Continuing the G1 homage is the head, which is very similar to the G1 cartoon Starscream's in both mould and colour - black with a grey face and red eyes. The canopy is on his chest now, but is black rather than orange like in G1. Starscream has a more or less red torso, with a lot of black, and grey arms and legs with red thighs and upper arms, with black fists.
Starscream has two ways to arm himself in this mode. Firstly, you can attach Swindle to his backpack and deploy the missile launchers on either side of his head, which tend to overwhelm his head, although they wont reduce his field of vision anyway since the air intakes act as blinkers anyway. The missiles, as previously mentioned, will fire over a metre away, which is cool. The other way to arm him is to detach the right wing and unfold it into a sword.
You might remember I recommended against using this sword. There are three things I don't like about this sword. Firstly, it's a pretty strange looking sword, since it's little more than three strips of plastic. Secondly, it leaves Starscream with only one wing. Granted, the show kept this one-wing look when he was wielding his sword, but that doesn't change the fact it looks awful. Lastly, the more you use this weapon, the weaker the rivet style joint on the wingtip becomes, meaning the wing will fall apart in jet mode - and it's not worth it for such a stupid weapon.
Despite the poor sword, Starscream has pretty good play value. Swindle can attach to either forearm as a sort of shield, and three of the four sounds can be activated - Swindle wont fit under the cockpit now. Sure, the sounds aren't very good, but it's nice that they're accessible. The holes in Starscream's hands are too small to hold the Star Sabre, but he can hold his missiles as clubs, although they're a little loose. I wish the designer had thought to detach the launchers and plug them into the holes on his hands.
Starscream's shoulders rotate out to the sides and hinge allowing him to lift his arms forward, but he can't lift them above horizontal, since they attach underneath his wingstubs. His elbows are double hinged, so overall the arms are quite poseable. The hips swing, the knees both rotate and bend, so his leg poseability is pretty good. The electronics are stowed in his considerable backpack, so it's a good thing he has big feet and heelspurs, giving Screamer stability in a wide variety of poses - including standing normally.
It's not really part of the poseability, but I should mention that the tailfins stick out of his knees. The designer was smart enough to make these out of a soft plastic, avoiding both brittle knees and kids stabbing themselves with a hard edge. It also gave Hasbro more options when retooling Skywarp, since the tailfins are separate pieces of plastic.
A decent robot mode even if the poseability is a little patchy. There's a fair bit of play value, although I recommend against the sword. The sound gimmicks aren't as obtrusive now, although they're still not that great in themselves. His inability to hold the launchers in his hands is a clear missed opportunity. The G1 overtones help somewhat, and the colours work although the faction symbols look awful.
Alternate Mode: Racing Car
Height: 1.5cm Length: 7.5cm Width: 2.5cm
A small black and deep red formula 1 style racing car, it really reminds me of an arrowhead, with a pointy and sleek look about it. The wheels roll, although the rear wheels are actually really narrow with false wheels inside them (these are the robot shoulders). The colours work well - I'm glad they kept it simple and left out the grey.
TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE
Split the front section and fold the air dam back to form the feet. Slide the spoiler forward to become his chestplate and reveal the robot head. The side fenders lift out to become the arms.
Height: 5cm Width: 4cm
Still sporting the same basic shape as his car mode, Swindle has a red chest, red forearms and legs, black groin, shoulders and feet and a red face and grey forehead. The grey is painted on and helps his head stand out as his main feature. It's a little odd but works quite well. The shoulders are big and chunky, his arms powerful and long, meaning Swindle looks like a tiny evil henchman type - which is fitting, really.
His poseability is minimal - the shoulders and elbows hinge sideways as part of the transformation, but that's it. The feet have built in heelspurs, being the air dam, so he stands very well.
The Japanese version uses a mustard yellow instead of a solid yellow paint, and on that version the Decepticon logos are only painted on the raised sections, which looks a lot better.
Thundercracker and Zapmaster are repaints of Starscream and Swindle respectively. Skywarp is a retool of Starscream (but with a brand new Minicon).
A decent set and a fairly good one in the context of Armada, but then this series has some lowpoints. Starscream has nice colours and is a great homage with a lot of play value. The wing sword and sound gimmicks aren't so well thought out, however. The two modes generally look good, although that's with the proviso you leave the wing attached - and the sword is my main gripe, since it's hopeless and the wing tends to fall off or apart too easily. I'd much rather a wing that didn't have to detach to turn into a really bad weapon. I _really_ like Swindle - in fact he was the reason I bought the set (I kid you not), thanks to his badass look and good colours. My initial enthusiasm for this toy has waned somewhat as Energon and Cybertron lifted the standards set by Armada (even if Energon did contain some dreadful megas). While I don't hate Starscream, I'd really only recommend him due to his prominence in the Armada cartoon, he's one of the main characters. If you're really only after one version of the mould, I'd recommend Thundercracker or Skywarp instead - 6.5/10