Review - Ocular Max PS-01a Sphinx Alternative

Mirage, The Autobot spy, has been a glaring hole in the official Masterpiece line up for a while now. DX9 attempted to bring him into the fold with their MP scaled, classics styled, Invisible. However this just didn’t satisfy the itch for many collectors as his design strayed far from the animation centric appeal of the Masterpiece line. Enter Ocular Max, an off shoot of Mastermind Creations, with their Perfection series. A masterpiece styled, studio OX inspired, high end figure line. Their first entry to the line was PS-01 Sphinx, a masterpiece style take on the aristocratic Autobot, Mirage. Not long after the original run started selling out they announced a variant, PS-01a Sphinx Alternative. This variant is a lighter blue shade, with a few other paint differences and lacks the parachute and prototype head that the original release shipped with. The box is also a tribute to the original Diaclone release, rather than trying to fit him into a Masterpiece car size box. I missed out on the original run so I’ve added the alternative deco to my collection. Let’s check it out!

The mythical Sphinx... I thought he was a mirage!

Vehicle Mode

Sphinx’s vehicle mode is highly referential to the real world F1 vehicle, the 1979 Ligier JS11 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligier_JS11) that would become the basis for the Diaclone F-1 Ligier JS11 Racer toy, which in turn would become G1 Mirage in the original 1984 Autobot car lineup from Hasbro. The car is covered in toy and real world accurate liveries ever so slightly altered from their original source to avoid any sort of copyright confusion.

Remember kids, Smoking is only for chumps and successful race teams. 

The vehicle looks incredibly aerodynamic and fast, with very little looking out of place. In fact, to your average onlooker I don’t think it’s obvious at all that this is much more than a highly detailed toy race car. There are a few seam lines that give away the fact that there is a robot hiding underneath the sleek exterior but they are placed well and feel very natural to look at. The die cast engine block and chrome rims add to the overall finish of the vehicle and help to distinguish the Ocular Max line as a Masterpiece competitor, rather than just another release in Mastermind Creations usual style.

Pole Position Baby!

The tires on Sphinx are made of a silicone rubber that feels soft and pliable to the touch. They grip smooth surfaces well allowing the vehicle to roll comfortable along any surface. They are a bit of a dust magnet and may require a good cleaning if you’ve been messing around with Sphinx on a dusty desk top. They may also slide around on the rims a bit and require slight adjustment before photographing. Due to transformation, the front wheels may sometimes sink down a bit if you apply too much pressure to the vehicle while rolling it around. The rubber material adds a premium feel to the final product and while I am not typically bothered by the plastic wheels of the Takara Masterpiece line of late, I will say I have been a bit spoiled now between BadCube Sunsurge and now Sphinx with rubber tires. Maybe some enterprising third party company could start putting out replacement wheels and tires for the existing MP cars.

Some big ol' badonka-donks!

There are 2 mounting pegs on the sides of the rear spoiler that you can attach Sphinx’s weapons to for a combat vehicle mode. They clip in well but look incredibly out of place on the vehicle. Still it’s nice that there is an option for storage. There is also a clear driver that can peg in to the cockpit and hold on to the steering wheel. If the driver isn’t present, there are molded plastic pieces that look like seatbelts to show the cockpit is empty. This is an awesome touch and great attention to detail.

Screw aerodynamics, Fury Road here we come!

It’s the little details that sell this vehicle mode to me. The numerous liveries are incredibly applied and very sharp looking. “Citanes” a play off of French cigarette company Gitanes adorns the sides, spoiler, and front of the cockpit of the vehicle, as well as the dancing gypsy logo, similar to Gitanes logo, to the rear of the cockpit. The tires, hood and front of the cockpit also sport a “Goooyear” branding accompanied by a winged shoe. This is a fairly clear reference to the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The front of the cockpit and spoiler have the word “Liger” printed on them, a reference to the original manufacturer of the JS-11 Formula 1 car, Ligier. Last but not least is the “Ell” branding, replacing Elf on the front of the hood, a reference to the French oil company, currently known as TotalFinaElf. While the liveries may be an eyesore to some I personally find them to look fantastic and they really go a long way in legitimizing the vehicle mode. The majority of the current MP cars are licensed replicas of their original vehicles and I feel that in order to fit in with the line, these liveries are a necessity. Ocular Max/MMC really outdid themselves on the fine details on this piece.

It's the little things.

I’m not a car enthusiast so I may be missing some of the finer details or inaccuracies, but I feel that the vehicle mode on Sphinx is near as flawless as can be achieved while still being a transforming toy.


Robot Mode

My word, what a glorious specimen. Sphinx looks brilliant in robot mode. The color scheme pops and the human like proportions match the on screen model to a T with the exception of his slightly narrow shoulders and slightly thicker biceps that seem to balance each other. There are some differences from the cartoon model of course, most notably the engine blocks on the front of his calves that more closely homage his original G1 toy design. The rear spoiler and tires becoming the feet are accurate to the model, however the actual spoiler pieces and tires are a tad larger than they appear in the cartoon. This is animation specific and really couldn’t be achieved without fake parts or parts forming. I love the way the rear portion of the cockpit folds up and covers the seat on his back. This bot mode is clean and incredibly well designed.

Look, but don't touch, peasants.

Just like the vehicle mode the paint work and color layout is sharp and well balanced. Nothing looks overbearing or draws the eye too far away from the rest of the figure. The only paint flaw on my copy is a small splotch of silver paint on his helmet that I’m sure I could clean off. I do prefer the silver paint used for the spoiler, face, and gun, on the original version as it more closely matched the official masterpiece silver paint. The silver paint on this alternative deco is a bit more muted, and matte. It looks more like silver plastic than silver paint. As a standalone package the silver paint looks good, it’s only when I really looked at his gun next to MP12 – Lambor’s rifle that I really started to notice and now I can’t un-see it.

 

If this doesn't look heroic, you need your optics checked!

 

Almost every part of the vehicle mode is compressed and tight with no real extraneous kibble. I love the way they tucked the front wheels in to fill out the body, rather than leaving them on his back like so many versions of Mirage have done. The panels on the shoulders are obtrusive and bulky but they are animation accurate so it’s hard to give them too much trouble aesthetically. Functionally however, they are supposed to slide up and clip in to stay out of the way of the elbow and bicep swivel however mine tend to come unclipped and slide back down constantly. This is the only functional aspect of the figure that doesn’t seem to work as designed, at least on my copy.

 

Walk the catwalk, work it baby!

 

The articulation on Sphinx is remarkable. From the top down, his head is on a ball joint with a decent range of motion, and the neck is on a pull out joint due to transformation that can allow you to position the head forward and backwards to your liking. When the neck is set in position the head has some limitations turning to the side due to the framework around the neck. The shoulders have a plethora of joints to allow for almost any pose imaginable. The main shoulder joint set in the body is a combination swivel and universal joint that allows for 360 degree movement of the shoulder front and back, outward swing, and also a butterfly joint. There is another swivel joint in the top of the arm that when used in conjunction with the shoulder can allow for the arms to swing a full 180 straight upwards. The elbows are double jointed with a pleasant natural curl to them. The shoulder kibble can sometimes cause annoyance when posing the arms, watch out for them and make sure they stay clipped in the upper position. They do rotate and you could twist them so the flat portions are facing up. This looks ok, and provides better clearance for the arms, however it is not accurate to the animation model so it’s a matter of preference how you like them to look. The wrists have swivels, and some tilt due to transformation. Be careful tilting them too far however as the forearm covers are attached to the wrists.

 

Not many can pull off the "Bored Sora from Kingdom Hearts" pose.

 

The hands have a couple points of articulation as well. The thumb is on a swivel that allows you to move it up to accommodate larger accessories. This is a feature that I’m sure will be rarely used but can come in handy occasionally. Unfortunately it’s not built in such a way to accommodate a good looking thumbs up gesture, instead making it look more like he has a broken thumb. The fingers are on a single pin joint at the base knuckle allowing for open or closed hands, and the index finger is a separate piece to allow for some trigger discipline while holding his rifle. The finger can also accommodate a “come here” gesture. The combination of joints in the arms can allow for some clever 2 handed poses as well.

 

Come get some you uncultured Decepti-creep!

 

Sphinx has a full waist swivel and a slight ab crunch that can be used to modify the lines of his standing silhouette for a more heroic posture. He has universal joints at the hip with moving hip skirts on the front and side. His backwards leg movement is a bit limited due to how his thighs and pelvis line up. The hip joint also facilitates a natural looking thigh swivel. His knees are double jointed as well and his feet are capable of incredible side to side pivot. The toe section can pivot on its own, or the entire foot assembly can pivot depending on your needs. The toe can bend down but not up very far beyond its natural position. The engine block pieces and the frames holding the rear tires are made of die cast and provide a great weighted base for more dynamic poses. The legs are sometimes a bit too heavy for the hips or knee joints in more extreme poses but I found this issue to be very minimal. 

 

Legs...So...Heavy...

 

I spent a good couple hours messing with Sphinx and posing him for this gallery and there really weren’t any poses I tried for that I couldn’t pull off. I think his legs would weigh down a high kick but with the right balance he might even be able to pull that off. No complaints from me in the articulation department.


Accessories

The second run version of Sphinx comes with a few less accessories than the original. There’s still a lot to enjoy in this package though.

1x Electro Disruptor Rifle / Rocket Dart Hunting Rifle

This rifle is a modified version of the original G1 Mirage rifle design included with the G1 figure. It has the signature lower clip, and top fin, with the addition of some small fins on the rear of the rifle. The gun looks good though I feel it’s ever so slightly too short. It’s not something you’re likely to stick on as the design is well executed and looks great in Sphinx’s hands. It has the familiar palm tab similar to most official Masterpiece accessories that tabs in to Sphinx’s hand and holds nice and tight. The butt of the blaster does cover part of the wrist making it hard to rotate the figures hand at the wrist when the gun is equipped.

 

Martha, gather up the hounds! We're going hunting wot wot!

 

1x Shoulder Mounted Rocket Launcher

Sphinx’s shoulder launcher looks great. The chromed removable missile has some nice details to it and the chrome application looks great with no signs of thin or wearing chrome. The missile holds in to the launcher tight but is able to be removed with little trouble. The main trouble with this accessory is how it mounts to Sphinx in robot mode. There is a small plastic C-clip that clips around the metal frame on Sphinx’s shoulder. Once clipped in the launcher stays in place without any risk of it coming loose. Unfortunately it sits very close to his head and severely restricts his head movement. It is also unable to tilt up and down very far. If this had been mounted on an L hinge or something to push it farther from the head, and had an additional hinge to allow it to point almost straight up I would call this a perfect accessory. As it is, it looks fantastic, but the implementation is flawed.

 

The tip is pointy for more Kaboom!

 

1x Blue Hologram Driver

This accessory is exactly what it sounds like, this is a crystal blue hologram driver that is made of a very flexible plastic. He is molded from the waist up with no legs, and a circular peg hole on the underside to allow it to plug in tightly to Sphinx’s cockpit. Due to transformation I do not believe he can be left in the cockpit but as I’m writing this review I am realizing that I did not in fact try to leave him in there.

When I grow up, I'm gonna be made of candy and drive a formula one race car!

1x Replacement Face and Rear Helmet

Sphinx includes an alternate smirking face and a replacement rear helmet portion without the liveries present on the original. I don’t mind the liveries but if they bother you then you’re all covered. Unfortunately the The smirking face looks strange to me, I can’t help but feel kind of weirded out by looking at it. Much like the standard face the details are just a little bit too soft and the addition of a creepy smile really throws off the look to me. It’s supposed to be a confident smirk but it ends up just looking goofy. Personally I would have preferred the inclusion of the alternate head that’s being used on the Red Sphinx Liger version, with yellow eyes it would be an excellent homage to the Marvel comics design of Mirage.

Yeaaaargh put it away!

Collector Bio card and Tech Spec Decoder

It’s a trading card sized collector card… I think we’re all on board with what’s going on here.

The Decoder is a pink strip of clear plastic that you can lay over the tech spec card on the packaging to reveal Sphinx's stats. Similar to the original G1 releases.

Retro goodness!

The final accessory package is simple but effective. I would have liked to see some sort of accessory referencing his cloaking/illusion abilities. Perhaps a yellow plastic screen or box to replicate the effect from the original cartoon. I think this is really the only piece that feels like its missing from the package. The parachute would have been nice to be included in all releases of this figure but I can’t see myself using it more than once or twice for photos.


Final Thoughts

Sphinx is a fantastic first entry to Mastermind Creations Ocular Max line up, though they have the advantage of being an already established company with a track record for high quality releases in the last few years. The use of mixed materials makes Sphinx feel premium in hand and there’s no doubt when messing with this figure that you’re getting your money’s worth out of him. Articulation is top notch with very little I could think to add to the final design. I really can’t see any way for Takara to top this release with the exception of the face sculpt and perhaps a different implementation of the shoulder armor pieces. Takara always seems to knock it out of the park with their head sculpts. I personally prefer the lighter color of the alternative version but there is an argument to be had that either one is cartoon accurate depending on which scene and which episode you are looking at. If you can get your hands on the original run you get the bonus parachute and prototype head but otherwise there is no substantial difference in my mind. I would have liked to see some sort of accessory referencing his cloaking/illusion abilities. Perhaps a yellow plastic screen or box to replicate the effect from the original cartoon.

Ironhide, you stubborn S.O.B! Just let it go already!

With releases like Ocular Max PS-01a Sphinx, and BadCube’s Sunsurge, it’s very interesting to see the direction that third party Masterpiece style releases are going in and I look forward to seeing more from MMC’s Ocular Max line up. They have a 1:1 scale die cast cassette tape version of Ravage currently available on the market and their take on G1 Inferno coming out soon. I’m very interested to see what other characters make it in to their lineup.


What do you think? Leave me a comment below! I would love to hear your thoughts on Ocular Max PS-01a Sphinx Alternative!


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