Technology was the defining fetish of the mid-eighties toy culture. Transformers, Go-Bots, Robotech, M.A.S.K., and G.I Joe all explored seemingly endless iterations of the man/machine dynamic. The popularity and ubiquity of these lines inevitably edged out similar, respectable also-rans like Bravestarr, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, and Centurions.
There was nothing particularly unsound about the Centurions, just a vague air of mediocrity amidst a crowded field. The designs were heavily influenced by the modularity of Microman/Micronauts, but with a decidedly American flair. The narrative pitted a team of quasi-cyborg heroes against literal cyborg baddies Doc Terror and Hacker.
I barely remember the cartoon, but it looks pretty great, with slick anime-influenced animation.
The toys were solid, engaging playthings. The sturdy, vehicle-oriented sets played to Kenner’s strengths. They were maybe a touch too big and simple (a little larger than MOTU), but those are quibbles. Their relative failure was purely a function of a flooded market.
Doc Terror and Hacker were the villains of the series (the cartoon refers to Hacker as Doc Terror’s ‘companion’, LOL). The figures are very much of their time: sturdy, basic action figures.
These characters are among the boldest cyborg designs ever realized, literally bisecting man and machine.
Doc Terror’s design is blocky and formidable. The sculpt is more detailed than typical mass market fare of the era. There’s a nice balance of organic and mechanical.
Play features are engaging and fun. The robot arm is rotated by twisting the ‘head’ of the robot half of the body.
The robot arm features an articulated claw and projectile weapon.
The soft rubber helmet is removable.
Hacker is similar to Doc Terror, though distinguished enough to be fun. The robot arm is more simplified, without a firing feature.
The arm rotating mechanism doesn’t seem to work on this specimen. The arm is clicky but not moved by the robot head.
I like the goofy, Sloth-reminiscent face sculpt underneath the helmet.
The primary gimmick of these figures is the split modularity between the human and machine halves. This is a great feature. There are other toys which approach this concept, but none so well as these. Let’s pull them apart, shall we? I appreciate the decal details on the man halves.
In practice, the gimmick is underwhelming. The kid in me wants to make goofy variations, like the two robot halves or the two man halves combined, but both of these are problematic. Those giant robot feet interfere with each other and the plugs for the man parts only work when you flip them upside down.
So the intended variations are fine, but not terribly dramatic.
I really like these figures. There’s something really fresh about the underlying idea, even thirty years on. The Centurions are well worth the attention of the eighties toy collector.
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