This review has been at least three years in the making. Maybe more. I’ve been working on it on and off since my Rita Torres review, but made only a little progress here and there until a couple weeks ago. Mostly, this toy is big and slightly hard to photograph. Or so I thought. I kind of psyched myself out– it’s actually not hard to photograph at all. I think I was just making excuses for myself.
Some of the photos in this review are old and probably not up to the “quality” of images I produce now, but I’m going to leave them in here to show how long I’ve been working on this thing.
I also want to dedicate this review to my friend Barry B., who’s been politely asking for it ever since that Rita Torres review. Thanks for your near-infinite patience, Barry!
Without further chatter, let’s take a look at the 1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame.
A Tale of Two Troop Transport Light Attack E-Frames
I’ve told this story before but, because it’s been years, I’ll give it another go. When I was 16 or 17, eBay wasn’t that much of a thing. My hometown had no real flea markets or other places to buy “older” toys. Despite this, I still thirsted for old Transformers, GI Joes, and Exosquad toys.
Enter my friend John. He was a little more than a year older than me, but we played Shadowrun, GURPs, and other tabletop RPGs together. We rented every sci-fi anime we could find on VHS from Hollywood video and Hastings, loaded up on bulk gummy candy at Winco, and stayed up all night at least a couple weekends a month. He was a good friend. He also worked at Jack in the Box, and would only get mildly annoyed when all of his friends ordered six tacos each.
John was very much more “grown up” than me, and I am pretty sure he is a very successful person now. So, when he was 17 or 18, he had no more need for his childhood toys. He let me dig through the boxes and buy what I wanted. I found a G1 Scorponok, G2 Snarl, a bunch of Micromasters, and several Exosquad toys in his collection. I purchased them immediately. For a good price, too, because he was a great guy.
When I was 16/17 and buying these toys from John, Exosquad stuff wasn’t really available anywhere. And I’d lost my childhood E-Frames in a house fire. So I was very grateful to have some of them again. The only Exosquad toys you could find in those days were the small Exosquad-branded Robotech Destroids, which were sold at the dollar store. Back then, I scoffed because those weren’t “real” Exosquad toys. Now I’d give anything to pay a dollar for those lovely little robots instead of the $25 each or whatever they go for on eBay. Yikes.
Anyway, the 1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame was one of the toys I bought from John. And I was really excited. I’d never owned an Exosquad toy that large before, and this was one I’d never seen before! Its camo color scheme drew me in instantly, and its MechWarrior Meets ED-209 design kept me hooked. It instantly became a favorite.
A year or so later when I left my mom’s house to move to the “big city,” I left most of my toys behind because I only had so much room in my 1980 Monte Carlo. My Exosquad toys were among the things I left.
A few years later, I came back and looked for them. They were gone. While my mom insisted she never threw anything out, my entire Exosquad collection (minus some loose figures and accessories I kept in another little tote) were gone. I’m sure she threw them away. Luckily, I found a lot of boxed Exosquad toys on Craigslist. The seller shipped them from California, and those still make up the bulk of my collection.
But the 1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame was not included in that lot. And I missed it so much.
Then, after years of looking at eBay at least weekly, I found a reasonably priced example in early 2018. It didn’t have the box and was missing a landmine, but that was okay– I generally don’t need boxes (even though Exosquad boxes are amazing), and I had some replacement parts left in that little tote.
So I’ve been working on this review ever since this toy arrived in the mail. I don’t have a “complete” Exosquad collection, as I’m missing the hard-to-find last wave and the Europe-only-somehow Cyberview toys. But that’s okay. I’m good for now. But if I didn’t have the Troop Transport Light Attack E-Frame, I would not be good. No Exosquad collection is complete without it.
1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame Review
The Troop Transport Light Attack E-Frame was released in 1994 by Playmates, who were at the absolute top of their game. It was the big bad guy mech for the year.
“Light Attack” was the name given to the larger toys in the Exosquad line– they had lights and sounds, loomed over the smaller General Purpose E-Frames, and could fit multiple figures. Why something this big, intimidating, and wild looking is a “Light” Attack E-Frame is kind of confusing. What would a “Heavy” Attack E-Frame even look like?
Well, it turns out there was one planned. But there was a problem– the Heavy Attack E-Frame was pretty much just a Mad Cat (or Timber Wolf) from the MechWarrior/BattleTech franchise with just a couple little embellishments. At that point, the lines between Exosquad, Robotech, and BattleTech were pretty blurred– the Robotech Destroids originated in BattleTech, and were released under the Robotech sub-line in the Exosquad toy line. So there was some cross pollination. But Playmates just making their own Mad Cat without licensing approval was probably a bridge too far, so the toy never came out. Exosquad was kind of on its last legs at that point anyway, though. I’m not sure on the whole story, but I’m guessing legal action would have been taken at some point, even if the toy line hadn’t died.
Image Courtesy of Exosquad Archive
Anyway, let’s look at the actual 1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame toy! And let’s all agree that there’s nothing “light” about it.
I don’t own the box for this toy, which you’d know if you read the previous section at all. Try to pay closer attention, okay?
But luckily, Exosquad Archive exists and they’ve given me permission to share their images of the box with you. It’s full of good info. Check it out!
Images Courtesy of Exosquad Archive
Looking at the box, you can see the difference in prototype colors versus the final release. Playmates did that a lot in the 90s. The toy was originally planned with a lot more purple in mind. Purple is one of my favorite colors, but I’m good either way on this one.
The Troop Transport E-Frame casts an intimidating figure. It is a bipedal mech, but not in the way the smaller Exosquad E-Frames are. It has an almost frog-like appearance, if someone strapped tank armor and several tons of weaponry to a hapless amphibian. It’s mostly cast in light brown plastic with green and beige camouflage paint applications. Many of its parts are cast in brownish-orange or black, with the orange parts denoting where there’s an action feature. The canopy glass is a beautiful transparent green, and stands out from the rest of the toy while still looking cohesive with its color scheme.
Stickers, included on a separate sheet, make up a lot of the toy’s details. Many people don’t use those stickers, but this E-Frame looks much better when they’re applied. The toy’s sculpt is still full of great panel lines, ridges, and tech details, but the stickers give it some extra life.
Before we get to all of the 1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame’s features, let’s look at its articulation and accessories. Because it has a lot of features, and those will take up the majority of the review.
The toy features the following articulation:
- Swivel hips
- Swivel shoulders
- Shoulders can swing on a pivot in sort of a see-saw motion
- Swivel point at the “elbow” on the left missile launcher arm
Clearly, the Troop Transport E-Frame is not a gymnast. This is not one of your Revoltech Deadpools or Figma Visual Novel Anime People. It’s a big, chunky mech that only moves at the points where a “real” mech like this would move. If this were a modern toy, it might have knees and ankles, but that’s about all they could add. I’m personally pretty happy with the articulation scheme, as it makes the toy nice and sturdy.
This is also a nicely balanced toy, and you can get a variety of looks with just the leg joints. I personally prefer to angle the main body down a bit, which gives it a sleeker, more aggressive look. You can also raise the body up a bit, but it makes the E-Frame look like sort of a snooty poindexter who’s actually afraid of frogs (and bugs and snakes and “ethnic restaurants”) and has no interest in being a frog with a small nation-state’s arsenal strapped to it. Your mileage may vary on that, though. It’s just a personal preference. I think the more raised-up, dorky look is the canonical way it’s supposed to go, but rules are for fools. My way is better.
Now, onto the parts!
The Livanus Troop Transport E-Frame comes with:
- One large brownish-orange missile
- Four smaller brownish-orange missiles
- One transparent green fusion pack
- Two brown landmines
The cyberjack and “communication antenna” (more on that later) can probably come off, too, but they are not projectiles or weapons, so it’s probably just best to leave them attached. This is me helping you. I don’t want you to lose these pieces, because they are basically impossible to replace at this point. I also don’t want you asking me for Exosquad parts in my Instagram comments and DMs. Stop it!
So, let’s move onto features and design. I hope you brought some field rations, because this might take a while. The 1994 Troop Transport E-Frame is absolutely packed with fun gimmicks.
When you look at this E-Frame from the front, you might release your bladder a little. Especially if you’re a member of the Earth Resistance.
The nose houses:
- A cannon assembly with four barrels, two on each side
These black cannons are fearsome, but they’re also the Troop Transport E-Frame’s one weakness. If you hit the button between the cannons, either with your finger or a projectile from another toy (a rubber band, spitball, or any number of other schoolyard taunts and pranks would also work), the cannon assembly falls down as if it’s been hit and damaged. It’s not super realistic or convincing, but it’s a great play feature. Unlike other gimmicks on this toy, it doesn’t suffer from a hair trigger– it’s easy to set, release, and reset. It’s great!
Moving onto the right side of the E-Frame, you get a better look at one of its main weapons, which is also its right arm. In true utilitarian Western-style mech fashion, this thing doesn’t have hands– its arms are weapons. I will never turn down a good Gundam or Robotech or Patlabor, but I always liked the “function over fashion” design school of Exosquad and BattleTech more.
The right arm contains:
- One laser cannon with an orange barrel, featuring a red light that activates (along with a laser sound) when a button on the top rear of the E-Frame is pressed. The box calls this a “Neocannon with Light Up Laser.”
- One orange rocket, non removable
- One purple laser cannon, which looks good despite being the only bit of purple on this toy
The lights and sounds still work quite well on my copy of this toy. The laser arm makes a pretty decent “pew pew” noise. It’s unobtrusive and was probably appreciated by many kids at play time. The wiring for the lights and sound does prevent this arm from having anything other than a swivel at the shoulder, though.
The left side of the E-Frame houses the rest of the 1994 Exosquad Troop Transport E-Frame’s forward-facing arsenal. In addition to the normal swivel and see-saw joint on this arm, it can rotate from side-to-side at the “elbow,” meaning it can aim in a much more complete arc than the right arm.
The left arm contains:
- One spring-loaded missile launcher, activated with the big orange button (which is actually a rubber piece covering the real trigger, so it blends in better with the toy’s sculpt). The box calls this a “NeoSpring-Powered Concussion Rocket Launcher.”
- A claw or half-pincer like protrusion atop the missile, probably good for breaching enemy armor in close quarters situations
- Another gun or cannon underneath the missile launcher. Is this one a flamethrower maybe? As it turns out, it’s totally up to you!
Time has played many cruel pranks on the Troop Transport E-Frame. The spring for the left arm’s launcher is now on a hair trigger. Sometimes just loading the projectile is enough for the mechanism to fire on its own. It’s hard to lock in place, too. Basically, it will shoot you in the eye if you use that eye to look at it wrong. Exosquad toys are no stranger to having weird spring issues, but the unintentional autofire on this toy is in a league of its own. I actually do display this toy, and generally leave all of the rockets half-loaded so they don’t spook me in the middle of the night with an unexpected launch. Plus, I’m not looking to sell my car in order to replace these pieces. I would look good with an eyepatch, though.
Let’s take a look at the E-Frame’s cockpit area next.
The canopy glass in all its beautiful clear green glory hinges at the front, and swings outward to allow access. The main pilot’s seat is roomy and Livanus (or anyone else) fits comfortably. The back seat is a little bit tougher. The front seat can kind of squeeze forward to allow you to fit another figure in the back, but it’s a really tight squeeze. Once I got a figure in there the first time (an extra Exowalking E-Frame Marsala, who is plentiful on the aftermarket), I only ever took him out for this review. Getting him back in was a bit of a nightmare.
The seats inside the control area are nicely detailed, and some cyberjacks and control panel stickers round out the appearance. It could have more bells and whistles, but it’s great as far as a child’s robot toy goes. I personally never connect the cyberjacks to the figures, as they’re a bit too fiddly for my tastes. But I like that they exist.
The clear plastic canopy allows you to see the figures inside quite well, too. It’s a great look.
Now we’re onto our second-to-last action feature housing, which is the launcher on the back of the E-Frame.
The back-facing rocket launcher assembly houses:
- Four spring-loaded rocket chambers, which fire the smaller orange rockets. These are fired with a “wheel” at the top of the launcher, and shoot out in rapid succession with only a slight turn of the mechanism. A missile firing sound also activates if you have batteries in the toy. The box calls these “Cluster Grenade Launcher with Rapid Missile Fire.”
- A little orange lever that lets you elevate the launcher so it can be used as anti-aircraft weaponry, or kept horizontal to destroy pursuing vehicles
- A black antenna assembly
- A recess for the E-Frame’s fusion pack
The launcher only raises and lowers slightly, but it’s a great little extra feature. A lot of care went into this toy. There’s some great detail on this piece, too. This launcher is also on a hair-trigger, and it’s even worse than the arm launcher. These four rockets will just straight up shoot you in the face at a moment’s notice, and you have to get the firing dial mechanism in just the right spot for them to click into place at all. I was shot several times while taking photos for this review, and I lost two missiles. Thankfully, I found them the next day. Time has not been kind to this action feature. You could probably repair it if you’re smarter than me, though.
The back of the E-Frame has some neat details (including stickers representing boosters or jump jets), but the missile launcher is the most interesting thing about it. That is until you open the compartment housed under the E-Frame, of course.
This is where the Troop Transport E-Frame gets its name. You can fit one whole troop in there! An entire guy! That’s why it’s not called “troops” transport. Still, this E-Frame holds three figures at once, all protected from enemy fire. That means it beats out everything but the Exowalking E-Frame, which made two figures stand on the back of the mech’s feet. Kind of a GI Joe move, there.
Anyway, the “troop transport” assembly swings out from the bottom of the toy, which reveals the troop compartment and the toy’s built-in speaker.
The troop transport compartment serves a few purposes. It holds a single troop, obviously. But once your troop has been transported, this little cubby-hole becomes a “Hidden Battlefield Command Post,” complete with some neat control panel and weapon rack stickers. I absolutely love this feature, and it gives the toy even more play value. This E-Frame can be either a walking engine of destruction or a field headquarters for the Neosapiens.
With the press of a button, another thin little compartment opens, and the troop chamber launches two landmines! It works pretty well. Launching landmines underneath your own mech might sound like a bad idea, but the Troop Transport E-Frame’s stance is wide enough that it actually wouldn’t step on its own mines, so it works for me. Just tell the one troop you’re transporting to be careful where he walks.
The back of the troop chamber houses one more secret– one that I never knew about, even having owned this toy in one form or another for 20 years, until I sat down to write this review. Looking at Exosquad Archive clued me in.
Basically, there’s another panel on the back of the transport chamber that opens, revealing even more computers, a communication antenna (removeable, but don’t you dare), and a map! It’s really, really cool. I wish I’d known about it earlier. This is the exact kind of feature I like on a toy– something that widens its utility in fantasy space war scenarios and doesn’t take away from its overall look or any other features. It’s just beautiful.
You can’t have a 1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame without Livanus, so let’s talk about him next. He is the E-Frame’s pilot, after all.
Image Courtesy of Exosquad Archive
Livanus was pretty much a non-entity in the cartoon– I think he appeared in only one episode, as one of Phaeton’s advisors. His file card makes him out to be extra psychic, I guess to make up for a lack of personality or cartoon appearances. He is the only Exosquad character to have the word “anus” in his name, though, so that earns him some extra points from me.
Livanus stands around 3” tall and has similar articulation to an ARAH-era GI Joe, minus any waist/torso movement. His head is also only on a swivel, so it cannot move up or down. Just in case you’ve never seen an Exosquad figure next to a GI Joe figure, here you go:
Livanus features a very nice sculpt and beautiful colors. Exosquad figures never held back when it came to color schemes, and they would make most 80s-only GI Joe fans red with righteous indignation. In this regard, Livanus does not disappoint. His mixture of deep red, dark orange, dark purple, and bright yellow somehow just works. He looks cool and cohesive. Despite being garish, he’s not an eyesore.
The head sculpt is also lovely, with its determined expression and unique forehead markings.
Livanus lacks a sculpted-on sidearm or any other weapon details, but there is some nice work around the cyberjack port on his back.
This is a cool figure.
It’s not perfect, though. In the brilliant Exosquad animated series, Neosapiens are depicted as way taller than humans. Livanus, like all of his Playmates bedfellows, stands the same size as all of the human figures in the line. Also, while Exosquad figures have great articulation, they are a bit more fragile than GI Joes or similar figures. They commonly come apart at the hips or elbows, so it’s best to exercise caution when you’re playing with them. But make sure you do play with them!
Livanus comes with a red pistol and a red rifle of Neosapien design. These are not great. The handles are too wide for him to hold properly, and they have strange holes in them. It makes you wonder if those holes were supposed to attach to pegs on either the figure or the troop transport compartment at some point in the prototype stage. As is, the holes are just distracting and don’t serve any real purpose. No other Exosquad weapons feature anything similar.
As is, I’d say Livanus comes with the worst hand weapons in the entire Exosquad toy line.
Now that we’ve gone through all the fun technical details of the toy, how it works, and what it does, I wanted to take a moment to talk about how I used it as a teenager and how I see it in the grand scheme of Exosquad toys.
As I said, I never had any Light Attack E-Frames until I bought this one from my friend when I was in high school. It just blew me away. I used Livanus and his Troop Transport E-Frame as the “big bad” of the Neosapien forces. Sure, in Danger 5 fashion Able Squad and friends wanted to Kill Hitler (Phaeton), but they would have to go through one or several Troop Transport E-Frames first. That meant they were outmatched and hugely outgunned every single time they faced one of these. I always like that about toy lines such as GI Joe and Exosquad– you could pit a small, plucky band of heroes against an overwhelming enemy menace, and sometimes they’d come out on top.
Since Livanus was a nobody in the cartoon, I just used this E-Frame as a generic enemy unit. An enemy unit that could splatter you and your whole squadron against the wall in the blink of an eye to be sure, but a generic enemy unit nonetheless.
That’s still how I see this E-Frame– it’s the big “heavy” of the Neo forces. It may not be as fast and cheap to produce as the High Speed Stealth E-Frame, and it maybe slightly less fearsome than the Amphibious Assault E-Frame, but its utilitarian design means it’s the best all-purpose heavy in the Neosapien armada. But they call it a “light attack” E-Frame anyway, because the space military industrial complex has a cruel sense of humor.
At the end of the day, getting an Exosquad toy is like getting a cool mech or suit of power armor that comes with a slightly smaller GI Joe figure, complete with its own personal accessories. They’re all full of cool action features, great sculpting, and tons of weapons. There’s not another toy line like Exosquad, and the 1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame toy is maybe the heaviest hitter Playmates ever made.
Verdict: This toy has some problems. As it ages, the springs for the missile launchers become unreliable and even somewhat dangerous. It has lots of pieces that are easy to lose. It’s tough to fit a figure in the co-pilot seat. Its pilot is a nobody with crappy weapons. The “troop transport” hatch only carries one figure. But this toy stands taller than those problems. It has a magnificent, menacing design, a great color scheme, fantastic details, and more features than some companies bake into an entire wave of toys. This is one of the most impressive pieces in the entire Exosquad line, which is one of the most impressive toy lines of all time. Despite price, rarity, or any faults, this toy is Highly Recommended.
Closing Thoughts on 1994 Exosquad Livanus with Troop Transport E-Frame
Whew, that was a big one. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you think I left anything out.
I’d love to do more Exosquad reviews. It’s one of my favorite toy lines and I own most of them. But those reviews will have to wait until my situation changes, or until someone sends me a couple of parts for the Typhonus Special Mission E-Frame. Just because I have easy access to that one.
I was only able to finish this review since I’d already taken so many photos for it, so me being lazy and working slowly on this for three years or so ended up helping me get this one done. I just had to snap the white background photos the last time I went home for the weekend.
Take it from me kids, it’s better to sometimes kind of work on something when you feel like it than to never work on anything at all. Maybe? I kind of confused myself there for a second.
Anyway, what do you think of this toy? Have you ever owned it? What’s your favorite “Light Attack” E-Frame? Is calling these E-Frames “Light Attack” an example of under promising and over delivering? Let me know in the comments!