When it comes to creating a Lost Light crew in plastic form, there’s only one third-party company out there delivering the goods with consistency. We’re heading back to Mastermind Creations to take a look at R-32 “Stray”, MMC’s take on Decepticon-turned-Autobot warrior, Drift.
Given the name of the site many have asked if Drift is a favourite of mine. The answer is yes… but not to the level of Grimlock, Starscream or Hot Rod. Those characters are the core of my love for G1 Transformers, but as a late addition Drift fits in well.
Drift, at least as portrayed in the former IDW Comics continuity, is a perfect character for the comic-reading demographic. A Decepticon commander turned Autobot samurai, he’s a natural loner who helps the helpless whilst wielding swords with deadly accuracy. There is nothing about that description that 11-year old Robotic Drift wouldn’t have lost his shit over.
Yet he’s not just the Cybertronian Wolverine. Drift may be a great fighter but he’s better known for his spirituality and his piousness. James Roberts did a great job of treating Drift with dignity whilst still lampooning his spiritualist attitude; a tightrope the writer managed to walk with skill. This fallibility added an extra dimension to a character that could have otherwise become pure cliche.
Anyway. Regardless of your opinion of Drift as a character, we’re here to look at Stray as a toy. Let’s see if Mastermind Creations delivered…
R-32 Stray comes boxed in alt-mode so that’s where we’ll start. Straight away you can see that this is a chunky futuristic racer with enough smooth surfaces and aerodynamic fins to look sleek. Flip around to the profile view and the heft of his alt-mode is clear. Even so, the smooth form of the canopy and taper of the nose maintain that fast appearance.
Stray is predominantly white with additional chunks of blue, dark grey and light grey plastic. Even then there’s a good amount of paint. In alt-mode the most noticeable paint apps are the red go-faster stripes which lead all the way to the four turquoise circles that mark Stray’s chest. There are a few grey panels and blue vents along with dark gold headlights and red brake lights.
Somewhat off-script are the cream panels that accentuate parts of the mould – but they must serve a purpose, right?
As a car the alt-mode has good clearance and all four wheels roll. The smoked glass cockpit opens to reveal the manufacturer stamp and MMC’s skiing penguin logo. The rear end, where so many Transformer alt-modes fall apart, is surprisingly good.
All-in-all, R-32 Stray scores some serious points for his alt-mode.
Parts unfold, spin around and tab into place with no trouble whatsoever. Transforming Stray is an enjoyable experience that almost makes you forget you’re playing with a third-party Transformer. While there are no significant design-based pain points, when transforming Stray back to alt-mode it can take a little bit of futzing around to get everything tabbed into place. Luckily the plastic is more than tough enough to take it.
The other thing you might find is that Stray’s arms pop off from the ball joint during transformation. The shoulder has a rubberised ball joint that’s so stiff that you need to massage it into position by see-sawing the arm outwards. This amputation hasn’t been a problem so far as the arms pop back on with no difficulty, but whether the joint loosens over time or not we’ll have to wait and see.
I like the alt-mode. It’s a Cybertronian muscle car pretending to be aerodynamic and suits Drift’s character perfectly. Even so, it’s R-32 Stray’s robot mode that we’re all here to see.
Stray stands about 7″ tall and follows the form of his alt-mode. This is a blocky, chunky robot, but one with enough curves and spikes to achieve an anime aesthetic.
The first feature to note is Stray’s beautiful head sculpt. Much like their R-28 Tyrantron Mastermind Creations have once again taken cues from Alex Milne’s phenomenal art and the end result is a treat. The colour choices only improve the look, with the head itself featuring five separate paint apps over the white plastic.
As this version of Drift is mostly white it would be easy for the toy to look bland, but that’s not the case. Stray features liberal paint applications that bring the design to life. Those off-white panels noted on the alt-mode? They break up the white and give the robot mode visual texture and depth.
Stray has pretty great articulation. We’re talking ball-joints at the neck and shoulders, swivel biceps, double jointed elbows, swivel wrists and articulated fingers (including separate index fingers). Below the swivel waist there are swivel and hinge thighs, an upper thigh cut, double jointed knees and a pair of ball jointed ankles that allow for some excellent footwork.
This articulation should make Stray as posable as it gets – but then there’s some significant kibble to deal with. Every now and again you can be close to a great pose only to find that the bonnet sections, sword hilts or giant shoulders get in the way.
It’s not just the blocking that’s a problem. Having so much mass sitting on Stray’s back (seriously, those shoulders are huge) makes him tricky to balance. It’s not impossible by any stretch – as you can see in the photos a one leg running pose is achievable. But when posed in any kind of dynamic stance Stray is only a table shake away from a tumble. Such is the price of source material accuracy.
Anyway. Y’know what makes a good samurai? Swords. Lots of swords.
R-32 Stray comes with two short swords and a master blade (much like the one that comes with MMC’s Turben). There’s good storage, with scabbards in his bonnet kibble and an unfolding clip between his shoulders for the larger blade. The smaller swords are identical, with a black hilt emblazoned with a red circle. Meanwhile the master sword hilt is cast in navy blue plastic. The blades of all three are a reflective and effective chrome.
Stray has a firm grip on each sword and can even pull off a two-handed weapon grip with the master sword. It’s not the most graceful of looks (and beware the arms popping off again), but otherwise this is a robot that wields his weapons like nobody’s business.
So, that’s Mastermind Creations R-32 Stray. Beautiful to look at, a great likeness to the source character, almost a lot of fun to pose but ultimately let down by the character’s own design.
This is still the best transforming Drift figure money can buy – but maybe not for long. This November Mastermind Creations are releasing R32-R Stray Re-Edited, an updated version of this same figure with updated paint apps and a new chest piece. It does look neat (and you can order it here from Kapow Toys) but I think I’ll probably pass.
Maybe Drift’s zen attitude is rubbing off on me, but R-32 Stray works just fine the way it is.