* Before I begin this review in earnest, I must note that contrary to what online sellers will claim, the parts in this set are not compatible with Lego or other leading brands. While the pieces appear to share the same dimensions as Lego, the studs are slightly wider than those found on Lego parts. The spacing under the Qiaoletong parts is also different to accomodate the wider studs. You can stack a Qiaoletong brick on a Lego brick, but they will not clutch (or the clutch will be extremely loose). The opposite is also equally impossible: you cannot stack a Lego brick on a Qiaoletong brick. Caveat emptor!
One could argue that there are no more recognized fictional robots these days than the Transformers, and perhaps no Transformer is more well-known than Optimus Prime. Whether you know him as the paternal leader of the Autobots from the multiple animated series and comic books or as the homicidal warlord from the live-action films, Optimus Prime has earned a spot in popular culture and the public consciousness. He was a favorite of mine when I was growing up, but even legendary characters like Optimus Prime run the risk of growing stale. My curiousity was piqued to say the least when I stumbled across this set while browsing the web. The head clearly belonged to Prime, but the rest was unfamiliar. It was a significant departure from the red-and-blue mechanical giant. It sparked my imagination in ways that the official Transformers merchandise hasn’t in years, so I decided to take the plunge.
The first mode shown in the instructions is the vehicle mode. As we can see here, the vehicle mode is some sort of Army utility truck. It’s a decent build, even though it only seats one minifigure and lacks a rear hatch to load cargo. I should also point out that the packaging and instructions both show the 1×1 headlight bricks that are located at the rear of the truck turned inwards. However, that stud on the side of the headlight brick protrudes further than the dimensions of a standard 1×1 brick, meaning that it won’t sit flush if faced inward. It’s a small error that doesn’t really affect the truck either structurally or aesthetically. Just don’t expect to build the vehicle mode exactly as shown on the packaging or in the directions.
Robot mode is something of a mixed bag. The proportions are a little off. The upper limbs in particular look a bit thin in relation to the robot’s barrel-like torso. The robot also lacks any sort of hands, which hurts its appearance a little. The legs lack joints at the knee, but we’ll talk about why that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a moment.
There’s actually a hatch on the back of robot mode, which reveals a cockpit for a minifigure when opened. I guess that means this robot is a piloted mech and not sentient? If you plan on putting the minifigure included with set in the cockpit, you’ll need to remove the top of the cockpit and everything built on top of it. Otherwise, you can let the pilot rattle around inside if you like.
As can clearly be seen from these photographs, the robot head is cast from the one found in the Kre-O Transformers Optimus Prime basic construction set. It’s not a bad cast, either. The biggest thing holding the Qialetong head from being really good is the slapdash paint application.
Putting the incompatibility with other brands aside, parts quality is actually pretty decent with good clutch. One of the round transparent red 1×1 plates is a little loose, but everything else mostly holds together. The ball joints used in the set will hold a pose as shown in the photograph, but they already show signs of loosening. It’s highly doubtful that they will hold up to repeated posing or rigorous play. It’s clear at this point that the omission of jointed knees was a conscious design choice. Knee joints would only have weakened the build’s already diminished stability.
I’ve done a lot of nitpicking in this review, but I think I still enjoy this set in spite of all its shortcomings. Perhaps it’s my affinity for Optimus Prime and the novelty of having such an unusual variant of the character that’s influencing my judgment. I’m sure the incompatibility with other brands is going to be a dealbreaker for many builders. If you are still interested in purchasing one, I would recommend that you get one as cheaply as possible. There are three other sets in the 30100 series available from Qiaoletong, but this will be the last one I pick up.