by Ben Nuñez
I'd seen Tomy's "Galactic Patrol Lensman Cycroader II" a number of times in the past, at various comic book stores and conventions, but never really gave much thought to picking one up. I liked the 1984 animated movie the toy originated from, a film that was relatively Star Wars-ish, with computer-y bits reminiscent of Tron thrown in for good measure. The Cycroader, a sort of space glider, made its appearance in the early moments of the film, flown by young hero Kim Kinnison as he made his grand entrance. While the ship didn't get much in the way of screen time within the movie overall, its sleek design made it a good choice for toy treatment. And indeed, it certainly made for a cool-looking toy, but I never really felt compelled back then to buy one.
Jump forward a few years... I'd been idly bouncing around the web one day, looking for old toys from my youth, background information to fuel possible eBay searches. I'd happened upon a webpage that talked about toys from the 80's, and there was an article that covered the Cycroader and its gimmicks. I saw that the toy bore a resemblance to the movie version in shape, but differed a bit cosmetically, in coloration and markings. But that wasn't the only difference between the film and toy versions. I was surprised to find out that the toy designers had added some features to the ship that weren't displayed in the movie, like making the cockpit able to separate from the main body of the ship, as well as adding some offensive capabilities which included a number of missile launchers...
And projectile cannons that fired ball bearings.
That changed everything for me. I suddenly felt the compulsion, the need to own this toy. I hunted for it on eBay, and was thwarted a number of times. (Actually, a couple of the auctions I lost were won by the same guy-- I had to wonder if this fellow was assembling a veritable arsenal of Cycroaders, with some nefarious plot in mind... But I digress.) Eventually I managed to win one for myself, and when it arrived I was eager to try out the gun. I inserted batteries into a housing in the cockpit section, loaded the ball bearing ammunition, and flicked the activation switch. The Cycroader whirred into action, transforming into battle mode, forward fuselage splitting apart to reveal dual cannons, and then...
It didn't do anything, not even a sputter. I shook the toy up a bit, thinking maybe the gun had jammed, but to no avail. Did I receive a broken product, or was the manufacturing of the toy flawed from the get-go? Frustrated, I popped the Cycroader open and, after some fiddling around, managed to figure out what the problem was... A gear was loose, and there wasn't enough torque to trigger the firing sequence. After a little dab of superglue to fix the gear in place, I closed the toy up and tried it again. The Cycroader's nose opened up, the cannons popped out, and then they roared into life. Boy howdy, did they ever roar into life. Like a lion with a megaphone.
KLACK-KLACK-KLACK-KLACK-KLACK-KLACK!!! Shaking with vigor, the ship fired an endless stream of ball bearings every which way, and made such an amazing mess. It was fantastic.
I must say, the projectile cannon may not be a precision weapon, but it makes up for its lack of accuracy in the speed and sheer volume of its fire. It is also INCREDIBLY NOISY, so much so that I would advise against firing it in the presence of particularly skittish pets or meek woodland creatures. (Unless, of course, you enjoy that sort of thing.) Check out the video clip I included with this review and you'll see what I mean.
Here's a brief rundown of the toy overall... Along with them crazy projectile cannons, the Cycroader comes with mini-missiles that are set in launchers hidden in the fuselage, revealed when the ship transforms into battle mode. There's also a larger additional missile that can fire from the tip of the ship's nose. There are two switches on the top of the Cycroader, one to engage the lock for the cockpit to hold it in place, and one to alternate the ship between cruiser and battle modes. When in cruiser mode and turned on, the Cycroader runs along on wheels set in the undercarriage of the cockpit; when in battle mode, well, you know... KLACK-KLACK-KLACK!!! The toy also comes with small figurines of the alien menace from the movie, I imagine to be used for target practice. There's also a figure of the pilot, which fits nicely under the canopy of the cockpit.
The Cycroader pops up on eBay from time to time, with the price ranging anywhere from around $40 to $90, depending on your luck. I want to say "They don't make toys like this anymore..." but to be honest, I wasn't even aware they made toys like this, ever. Cool design, nifty gimmicks, and the joyous chaos that ensues when the cannons of the Cycroader fire, make this toy a true gem.