G.I. Joe Kre-O - Cobra Snake Armor vs. VAMP
The term I used throughout my Checkpoint Alpha review was "Gateway drug"... and perhaps that's not an appropriate term, I don't know, but it seemed logical to me. And if the Checkpoint Alpha was indeed my Gateway drug, then the Serpent Armor vs. VAMP set was the one that pushed me right over the edge into addiction.
Ironically, this was the first set I really saw, and I immediately recognized the Serpent Armor as something from one of the Transformers Kre-O sets and was pretty disgruntled that it appeared G.I. Joe Kre-O's were just going to be reformatted versions of sets that already existed. Then my gaze shifted to the VAMP and considering it really looked almost nothing like the classic VAMP, again, I kind of cast it off.
But I already went through my transition from mild interest to unabashed fanboy in the Checkpoint Alpha review... and thankfully for the Toys "R" Us Buy 1 get 1 50% sale, I was able to splurge on some larger sets as well. I spent an hour or two with my 7 year old daughter putting this one together, and perhaps that's why I find myself so partial to these. While my daughter has always shown a very passing interest in G.I. Joe (since my office is chock full of them) she's never really been fully invested until Kre-O came into my house. Now she wants to build with me, she wants to collect the mini figures with me...she's really into it.
So we worked on this one together, and like the Checkpoint Alpha, the instructions were extremely easy to follow and flowed very nicely from one step to the next. Pieces were labeled clearly and even as a building block newcomer, everything came together pretty well, yet still took a little while, only serving to extend the fun. I build the Serpent Armor first, and really loved seeing it all take shape. The armor was far smaller than I originally thought it might be, something that remains true on all of these Kre-O sets. Part of me forgets how small the mini figures are, and I can't properly rationalize the size of the vehicles until it's all together and I'm looking at it. The Serpent Armor was the same way, as it came out at just taller than a regular 4" figure. One thing I really like about it, is that they go out of their way to make some comparisons to the old school SNAKE armor, using the white bricks, and also some distinctive labels.
The mini figure fits in the cockpit quite well, and the best part of the whole armored suit is the articulation. The elbows are fully poseable and actually bend quite a bit, and the ankles allow for pretty great range of motion as well. The claw on the right hand has a rubber coating around a firm interior, which allows it to close, grip, and re-open, all without a seam being visible. It's pretty clever. An aspect that I really enjoy. I found the Serpent Armor to be an extremely fun build and a terrific little toy.
I must begrudgingly admit the same thing about the VAMP. I mentioned I was a bit annoyed at the fact that the VAMP really didn't look like "THE VAMP" but as a small, fun-to-build army jeep, it works. The green and tan color mix together well, and I love the little touch of the shotgun mount on the passenger door. A rollbar mounted cannon is absolutely no substitute for the terrific twin-barrel machine guns that the original came with, but considering this is a building block set that is very easily resolved. I bought a Battleship Land Defense set from Amazon, and the twin-guns from that set compliment the VAMP perfectly, in my opinion.
What I find I really enjoy about the Kre-O sets, too, are their small size. I mentioned up above somewhere that I had a hard time really figuring out what the sizes of these things were ahead of time, but I find the smaller size actually to provide more play value. The VAMP fits easily in one hand and can be rolled around freely without swapping hand-to-hand or having to fidget with it. The bricks hold together exceptionally well amd even though it's not a direct translation of the classic version, it's a very fun little vehicle and I love combating the Serpent Armor with it.
The Mini Figures
You can't have a VAMP without a Clutch, and this mini figure version of Clutch is fantastic. With a plain bearded face, and his trademark patterned vest w/ shoulder holster, Lance Steinberg in mini figure form just oozes macho. He even has a little freaking "H" belt buckle. Get outta here.
Like I've said with other mini figures, it's amazing that with the application of simple lines and deco, Hasbro designers are able to convey a really great appearance on these small figures, staying within the confines of mini figure design, yet still capturing the look and character of their larger counterparts. Clutch is very, very cool. He does come with a pistol and the aforementioned shotgun for the side-mount, but I have no image of them at the moment. There are so many cool pictures to take of these guys, that I've been forgetting a few key shots. I'll try to get better going forward.
Along with the throwbacks to vintage characters and designs, Hasbro is branching out into some new areas with their included mini figures as well. Yet another benefit of this generic mini figure template is we can get some very cool specialists within the Cobra ranks. Certainly we have Frag-Vipers, Alley-Vipers, Night-Vipers, HEAT Vipers, and many other kinds of Vipers, but I think that Joe fans have been at least a little interested in seeing what would happen if a squad of blue shirts were equipped with different gear and different armor and formed their own little squad, where everyone looked similar, but had their own unique specialties.
The Kre-Ons are at least attempting to do that with Cobra Troopers, Cobra Officers, Heavy Cobra Trooper, and this guy, the Mech Pilot. They all run the same shade of blue with just some different heads (in some cases) or different helmets and different deco on the torso. The result is a group of blue shirt figures that all works well together, yet all can be pretty distinct. I love this guys helmet and visor, and his unique armor deco is pretty neat, too. He's also got a red mask, so the head could conceivably be swapped for some others to vary the looks even more.
Along with the helmet, he comes with a great grenade launcher, too.
From the unique mini figures to these great vehicles and the fun involved in the build itself, I can't find enough good things to say about the G.I. Joe Kre-O line. I've been extremely impressed every step of the way, and the Snake Armor vs. VAMP set is an excellent installment with some real play value, fun customizability, and plenty of enjoyment for Lego fans, or for G.I. Joe fans.