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Allegiance: Guardians
Series: Gobots
Category: Play Set
Year: 1984

Prelude: It’s a common misconception that Tonka’s Gobots were rip-offs of Hasbro’s Transformers. As a matter of fact the Gobots (both toys and TV series) actually came out earlier than anything with the name “Transformers” on it. Not that it did them any good in the long run, but at the time the Gobots went head to head with our favorite transforming robots and managed to hold their own for quite a while. And while Transformers fans had to wait 28 years to finally get their hands on the Autobots’ signature space ship “the Ark”, the Gobot fans got the Guardians’ favorite mode of transportation just one year into the toyline’s existence. So here it is, the Command Center, headquarters and space ship of the “Friendly Gobots”. By the way, even the most die-hard Gobot fan must admit that, in battle against evil robots from outer space, be they Renegades or Decepticons, I’d much rather have “Heroic” Autobots on my side than “Friendly” Gobots.

Spaceship Mode: Two important things to remember here: one, space ships don’t need to be aerodynamic, seeing as there is no air in space. And two, the Gobots were, for the most part, even more blocky than the early Transformers. What does that add up to: the space ship of the Gobots looks like a bread box with a cockpit. Said cockpit can be opened, but the space underneath isn’t really big enough to place a Gobot inside (a short one lying down might work), especially when the battery is in. The space ship also has a landing gear, of sorts. What looks like tank threads (with wheels in them, so the space ship can roll over the floor) are actually legs, which can unfold to turn the space ship into a “space-age land walker”.

Now it’s probably just a coincidence that the Gobots’ walking space ship looks very much like a certain four-legged attack vehicle that debuted a mere four years earlier in a little science fiction movie you might have heard of called “The Empire Strikes Back”. Suffice to say that it looks pretty cool and is a very close likeness to what we saw on the TV screen. Most of the detailing on the ship/walker is done via stickers adorning the mostly grey hull, which I’m completely fine with by the way. I’d rather have lots of stickers than nicely sculpted but unpainted grey toys (I’m looking at you, Dark of the Moon series).

One little flaw here: the ship has a rear loading ramp, which can open to allow entrance into the ship’s belly. The downside? The ramp can only be opened by splitting open the entire ship, basically transforming it halfway into base mode (see below), as the ramp is too wide to fit through the opening otherwise. This could have been better designed, I think. Otherwise, though, a nice looking space ship / walker, a close match to the TV series, and just plain fun.

Base Mode: Transforming the Command Center into its base mode isn’t hard. You simply stand it on end (with the legs tucked in) and open it up. That’s it. Inside you have three levels on each side, plus a V.T.M. (more on that later) in the middle. Just like outside, the detailing is done almost completely via stickers. Again, nothing that I have any problems with. I love stickers.

Looking inside, though, one can’t help but notice that the headquarters of the „Friendly” Gobots contains quite a number of scary places. Starting at the left-hand top, you notice the “Alien Detention Center”. You know who are aliens to the Gobots? Us! Humans! So despite the sticker showing a vaguely Gobot-like form sitting in a chair, this is clearly a place where the Gobots stick unwanted alien teenagers that annoy them to no end. Directly below is the “Gobot Dematerializer”. Apart from a Gobot being blasted into nothingness, it also shows a small pic of a Gobot behind bars. Nowhere, however, does it say anything about rematerializing anybody. So it’s probably bye-bye for good.

One level below all this horror is the Interrogation Center, but at least here you can be reasonably certain they’re going to interrogate other Gobots, seeing as there is a Wanted poster on the wall, where Cy-Kill and other Renegades glare at the occasional passer-by. There is also the “Enemy Detector”. Now the Transformers used that technologically solely for looking at their tech specs, but in the Gobot universe you could put “Friend” or “Enemy” stickers on your Gobots and once you looked at them through the “Enemy Detector”, you could then see either an “F” or an “E” on said sticker. I believe it’s reasonable to say that those with an “E” sticker were quickly interrogated and then dematerialized.

Still one level lower is the trauma center, probably the least dangerous place in this base. You only get worked over with laser beams there, though whether that’s for healing or causing trauma is up for debate.

Moving on to the right-hand side, we have the “Enemy Re-Programming Center”. Now keep in mind that the Gobots aren’t robots, they’re cyborgs, meaning they have human (or human-like alien) brains. So re-programming the enemies probably entails lots of psychological torture, maybe some needles and plenty of invasive laser beams. I’d stay clear of that level. Directly below is the cafeteria, which... is just plain wrong. Even without looking at the menu. Moving on then.

On the lowest level is the refueling station, complete with two rubber fuel lines for refueling those fuel-guzzling Gobots. The Gobots do apparently need to pay for their fuel and power, though, but I can’t tell you the current Dollar / Xylum exchange rate, sorry. It does say something about Warp Speed, though.

Coolest thing of all, though? The V.T.M.! You want to know what the V.T.M. is? I bet you won’t find that acronym in any dictionary or acronym-website. Ready? Here goes: it’s the “Vertical Transportation Module”! Now all those boring people out there would simply call it an elevator, but in the far-flung future of the Gobot universe, it’s the Vertical Transportation Module, designed to handle all your vertical transportation needs. If you want to transport stuff horizontally, though, you’re on your own.

At the very top, finally, is the “Strategy Chamber”, which rotates when you turn the cockpit around. Turning the cockpit around also unveils the rather disturbing robotic face on the underside of the cockpit. Not sure if that is to signify that the ship itself might be alive (or self-aware at least), but it does contain electronics for making the eyes glow. Haven’t tried it yet, still need to find a fitting battery.

Apart from the very scary things to be found on its various levels, this is one sweet playset. It perfectly fits with Gobots, G1 Minibots, and probably Legends-class / Cyberverse figures, too (haven’t tried that last one yet). It’s not terribly intricate and doesn’t contain masses of gimmicks, but that’s just fine with me. I’ll leave the giant face facing backwards, but that’s just a personal preference (It’s watching me! I just know it does!). So bottom line: a great base mode with lots of unintentional (?) hilarity.

Remarks: Say what you want about the Gobots, but at least the Guardians managed to fly around space pretty regularly without crashing their signature space ship. Sure, a number of Command Centers were scrapped during the run of the series as well, but compared to the track record of pretty much every ship called “the Ark” or “Axalon”, I’d much rather fly with the Guardians than the Autobots. Though I’d make sure to stay far away from the Alien Detention Center, just to be on the safe side.

Now I’m a big fan of play sets, so I was ecstatic to find this Command Center on eBay. Remembering the fact that it came out at roughly the same time as play sets such as Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain from Masters of the Universe, when electronic gimmicks were still far from widely spread, it’s surprisingly sophisticated. Yeah, basically it’s nothing but a big plastic shell on legs that you can open up to put your figures inside, but it doesn’t really need to be more than that and as strange as some of the stickers are, they show that a lot of love went into the design.

So even if you’re not a fan of the Gobots, if you’re in any way a fan of play sets and the Ark from DOTM wasn’t enough for you, take a look at this baby here. It’s pure 80s fun and well worth getting.

Rating: B+


Update 2011-12-03: I finally found a fitting battery (or rather my loving wife did), so I can finally show you the amazing light & sound effects of the Gobot Command Center.

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