Friday, March 22, 2013

G.I. Joe Kre-O Rundown Roundup Review!

Greetings, Joebros!

To kill some time before #200 drops (a third teaser trailer is currently being planned), why not build something cool with Lego -- or not-Lego?  Perhaps you've been tempted by Hasbro's Toys R Us exclusive G.I. Joe line of Kre-O building sets.

I was lucky enough to find some G.I. Joe Kre-O sets (hereafter referred to as "Kre-I Joe") at my local TRU, on sale no less, so let's take a look at the four sets I picked up.  I'll provide links to their pages on the TRU Canada site so you can see official pictures and the descriptive blurbs, and buy them if you're a hoser like me.

This post will look at the Kreon minifigures, Checkpoint Alpha, Ninja Temple Battle, Serpent Armour Strike, Battle Platform Attack, and a special appearance by a mysterious silent race car driver who dresses in white.  Click on the links in this paragraph to jump to their sections.

Let's start with the figures.  Kre-O figures are, for some reason, called "Kreons."  Just roll with it.  They are essentially Lego minifigures with balljoints, manly jawlines, and hardpoints on their bodies for attachments, in the case of the Transformers Kreons.  They maintain Lego minifigs' simply printed decorations rather than Mega Bloksian custom sculpting.

Here's a lineup of a Lego minifigure, a Haloblox Spartan, and a Kreon:

The usual suspects.
Lineup

Another point of interest are the Kreons' accessories.  Haloblox figures have oversized weapons.  Not comically oversized, just poorly-designed guns that try too hard to be realistic/screen-accurate and end up being jokes.  I'm talking about handguns the size of sub-machine guns.  I'm talking SMGs too large to be held properly.  I'm talking shotguns longer than the figures are tall.

"Mine's bigger!"
Mine's bigger!

Kreons, on the other hand, have more appropriately-sized weapons which are not super-realistic, but detailed enough to look good.  They still look like toys, which fits the fun non-realistically-detailed world of Kre-O.  The handguns are small, as they should be.  The MP5s are reasonably sized but still recognizable.  And, because of their aesthetics and perfect sizes, they are interchangeable with Lego minifigures and BrickArms accessories.  So if you bought a cache of guns off BrickArms, your Kreons are in luck.

That being said, there are some exceptions, once attachments come into play.  Take a look at the Cobras in the following image.

"No, MINE'S bigger!"
Wat

The bayonet is as long as his MP5!  And look at that suppressor.  And why is there a rocket sitting on top of that SMG?  What gives?

All things considered, I rather like the Kreons.  Shame my TRU didn't have the Kre-I Joe blindbags or I'd have a whole lot more.  I should also take a minute to point out that the sprues of weapons and tools that came with the Battle Platform Attack set were clearly designed for figures of another scale (possibly Stikfas or Xevoz figures) and probably shouldn't be used with Kreons.  Hell, many of the tools can't even fit in their hands.

With that out of the way, let's get to the sets.

Checkpoint Alpha

First up is the Checkpoint Alpha set, which features Firefly tossing a bomb at the watchtower manned (and dogged) by Law and Order.  It is a fairly accurate recreation and updating of the original Checkpoint Alpha set from '85.

The set comes with  Law and Order as well as Firefly and a bike for him to ride.

"Stop!  In the name of Love!"
Law and Order

The box shows Law holding an uzi, which would have been more accurate to his original figure.  Instead,  he comes with a riot shield (like that ROC version) and a handgun.  He looks pretty damn accurate, too. Order's head is a separate piece, which suggests to me that they're going to use the body as the standard four-legged animal body and change the head as required to make Junkyard, Timber, etc.

Next, we have Cobra saboteur and fan-favourite Firefly.

"Terrorists win!"
Terrorists Win!

He's exquisitely decorated, with his camo pattern and chest harnesses faithfully recreated.  He comes with three sticks of dynamite attached to a clock.  A bit old-fashioned, as far as bombs go, but it's results that matter.  (Speaking of Firefly, expect him to be important in #200.  You'll find out what I mean.)

As you can see, though, his gun is rather hilariously oversized, thanks in no small part to the suppressor which is larger than the gun itself... and made of small parts.  It's not green like his original gun, but I think it looks better this way.

"Hope there's enough room in there for my lunch..."
Packin'

His backpack can hold his bomb and the C-clip on the side holds his gun.  He can have both hands on his bike's handlebars, that way.  The bomb just sits in the bag; it doesn't snap into anything.  There's a hole at the bottom of the bag, so I guess he could store a longer-barrelled rifle in there, or something.

Checkpoint Alpha consists of a watchtower with a ladder to reach the equipment-filled top floor, and a red barrier.  Just like the '80s original, this Kre-I Joe version delivers.

"All along the watchtower--"
Alpha

The stop sign and speedbump are gone, the machine gun is replaced by a missile that actually fires (the projectile is held in place by a C-clip and pushed out of its clip when you press down on the fire button), and the clipboard has been upgraded to a computer.  But the light and antenna are still around.  The more things change--

"Red Alert"?  Someone's playing C and C on the job.
Alpha

Hope the Joneses brought their ticket.
Alpha

Firefly's bike is nothing special, but it's beefy, badass, and features some slick styling.  Sure, it's not a classic '80s Joe vehicle, but at least he's not trying to pass through the Checkpoint on foot, eh?

"You shall not pass!"
Alpha

All in all, I think this is a great set and a perfect introduction to the Kre-I Joe line.  I also have to complement the QUALITY of these sets.  Sure, they're not quite Lego, but goddamn, are they better than Mega Bloks.  Higher-grade plastic than that Mega Bloks swill, bricks that fit and stay together properly, leaving flat surfaces for the stickers to adhere to, and compatibility with Lego, including the minifigures' accessories.  PLUS, Kre-O stickers can be easily removed and reapplied in case you mess up.  Well done, Kre-O.

If you're looking to start your Kre-I Joe collection and/or want a small set for your desk or something, I strongly recommend this one.

"Faster, Junior!"
Alpha

Checkpoint Alpha Verdict: Clutch approves!

Clutch

Ninja Temple Battle

I get the feeling this set is going to be popular.  Let's look at the figures to find out why.  There's a nice pair... of Red Ninjas.

"Everybody was kung-fu fighting..."
Ninja Battle

Both ninjas come with the same gear: two shurikens, a claw, a bow, a pair of katanas, a red face wrap, and a black backpack capable of storing three swords.  Two of the swords are stored diagonally, one under the other, with the third slot being a vertical one in the middle.  I would have preferred if the third vertical slot was replaced with a C-clip; that way they could carry the bow on their back.  They can't hold the shurikens properly, so be sure to have a storage bag/case/whatever handy for their parts.

With three slots, he can carry more weapons
than that Haloblox space marine.
Ninja Battle

The Red Ninjas are just palette swaps of Storm Shadow.  Nothing special about them, really.  If you want a posse for Stormy to command, sure, but other than that, nothing to see here, move along.  But they DO have a lot of gear.

The (throwing) stars of the show are, obviously, Snake-Eyes (v2) and Storm Shadow (v1).  This set is currently the ONLY way to get a Snake-Eyes and/or Storm Shadow Kreon, which is probably why you want this set.  There's a v1 Snake-Eyes with Timber Kreon coming in a series two set, but that box features an even larger and more ostentatious ninja temple that you don't need (seriously, could they not build a Cobra base, or something?), so... yeah, if you're getting this set, it's for the two blokes seen below.

Friends will be friends... Right 'til the end.
Ninja Battle

Snake-Eyes comes with his uzi, a sword, and the same ninja backpack as the others.  Both he and Stormy are very nice recreations of their Joescale figures.  It's worth noting that Snake-Eyes' head has a printed detail: through the face-hole in his balaclava, you can see his eyes.  There's no scarring damage visible.  The visor is a separate piece that attaches to the head, so DON'T LOSE IT.  And don't remove it too much, because if it gets loose, you're smegged.

Gangsta wrap made me do it.
Ninja Battle

I'm not terribly fond of the ninja head wraps.  It makes the ninjas look like Lawrence of Arabia, or the Lego Indiana Jones Cairo Thugs.  But without the wraps, there's a spot of paint on my Storm Shadow's head that looks like a hole in his mask.  Ah well.  I guess the wraps stay on.

The Red Ninjas are very nice figures with a lot of gear, but being faceless, nameless dudes (and not even cool-ass Troopers or Vipers, at that), there's nothing really special about them.  Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow are terrific and the only reason to buy this set.  But I might as well talk about the rest of it.

The "ninja temple" consists of an archway with the Arashikage markings on the ground, a spinny thing with two katanas on it, a weapon rack, and a rock with a scroll on it.  The product's blurb at the TRU website says that the ninjas are going to fight for possession of the secret scroll.  Yeah, sure they will.  And a few haphazardly-assembled planks of wood are a "ninja temple."

By that definition, there's a
Rotting 2x4 Temple in my backyard.
Ninja Battle

Sure, there are a lot of weapons in this set, and the Red Ninjas are very well done, but this set really feels half-assed.  Just look at that photo above.  If it was just going to be a ninja troop builder, skip including the "temple" crap and toss in some more figures.

Ninja Temple Battle Verdict: If you're after the Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow Kreons, get this one on sale if you can.  Otherwise, skip this crap entirely.

Serpent Armour Strike

As the internet's resident Clutch and VAMP fanboy, I dreaded having to buy this set.  The Cobra mech thing looks ridiculous, the jeep isn't reminiscent of the VAMP, and the whole set looks like it is just the G.I. Joe brand stamped over something generic.  Other than the Clutch figure, there's nothing here that screams classic Joe to me.

But of course, I had to buy it, because Clutch.

"Eh, gurl, once you go Kreon--"
VAMP set

Let me just briefly describe the mech: it's shite.  It has ball-jointed shoulders, hinge elbows, ball-jointed hips that have a small range of motion, and hinged ankles that won't help it pose much.  I've heard that the mech is supposed to be from some Joe cartoon or comic I'm not familiar with, but I would have preferred a classic Joe vehicle instead.  Why not some SNAKE Armour suits (supposedly, the mech is a big-ass SNAKE -- maybe on paper), or some small fliers like those in the Battle Platform Attack or Dragonfly sets?

The mech was built then promptly disassembled.  Why?  Because the "VAMP's" rear gun consisted of a machine gun clipped onto the roll cage.  Gone were the twin machine guns that elevate and swivel.  So I used the parts from the mech (and Law's riot shield from the Checkpoint Alpha set above) to give the VAMP some more floodlights and to build a rear turret on a ball joint, with a harness to hold the gunner in place.  I revised it a few times, so it will look a bit different from photo to photo.

"COME GET SOME."
VAMP set

The truck is a bulky, six-stud wide 4x4 with opening doors and some big-ass bullbars.  But it is decidedly NOT the VAMP.  The original VAMP was styled after the Lamborghini Cheetah and features a distinctive front, roll cage, and twin machine guns.  This Kre-O truck has NONE of that.

Furthermore, the stickers have scratch marks on the truck.  Not bullet holes.  Scratch marks.  What, was this thing mauled by a goddamn velociraptor?   And the colour scheme is decidedly too busy.  Why does it need green AND black AND beige as its main colours?  Why not just a green and black exterior, like the original VAMP, and a beige interior, like the 25th Anniversary version?  And why the hell can a six-stud-wide truck only seat one figure??

"Next stop: Ass-Kicked Town.  Population: COBRA!"
VAMP set

There's a sticker at the back with the "VAMP 4x4" logo from the POC VAMP (the one I call the "HumVAMP"), but that's pretty much it (that at the "4647" sticker).  Shape, colours, design...  it's all wrong.  The Kre-O RAM looks like the RAM, the Kre-O Trouble Bubble looks like a Trouble Bubble, the Kre-O Checkpoint Alpha and Battle Platform look like their namesakes, so why does the VAMP get the short end of the stick?

Without the gun I built, there was just
a big-ass hole in the back of the truck.  Seriously.
VAMP set

Yeah, I know, I mad because I'm a Clutch and VAMP fanboy, but after seeing how much effort and love went into some of the other sets (like the Checkpoint and the Platform), it's very, very disappointing to see them miss the mark so hard on my favourite Joe vehicle.  At least they got Clutch down.

It's a great-looking jeep, sure.
But it's not the VAMP.  That's the problem.
VAMP set

Clutch comes with a handgun, there's some kind of Kalashnikov missing a mag attached to the side of the truck, and the mech pilot has a grenade launcher.  The pilot doesn't look bad: a blue-clad Cobra dude with printed-on armour and a very, very nice white helmet which I put to good use.  More on that later.

Serpent Strike Armour Verdict: Don't buy this.  Just... don't buy this.

Battle Platform Attack

Oh, baby.  This set.  This set.  Figures, mini-vehicles, and a kick-ass recreation of a classic Joe playset.  Basically, this is the set you want from series one.  The Big One.  Let's start with the figures.

If Cobra "blueshirts" are your bag, you might like these guys.  The Platform comes with a Cobra Air Trooper and a Cobra Trooper with a non-standard chest config.  Possibly a vehicle driver, or something?  I don't know, but they're pretty cool.

COBRAAAAAAAA!!!1111eleventeen
Board the Platforms

The Air Trooper has a red bandana and black glasses printed on his head.  The gasmask is a piece that his head fits into, so you have to jimmy it a bit for the glasses to show through the gasmask.  As I mentioned earlier, though, their guns are kind of silly.  The Air Trooper's MP5's suppressor is an entirely different colour, and he has a rocket on top, not a scope.  The Trooper's bayonet is as long as his SMG.  I just took the attachments off, altogether.

"Where did I leave my gloves?"
Board the Platforms

And who better to lead them than the Cobra Commander himself?  (Other than a better leader, of course.)  The Head Snake features vac-metallized paint on his head.  But just PAINT.  So be careful not to get the head scratched up!  He also features his distinctive pistol.  There's no storage in his back for it, though, and he doesn't have any gloves.  But his figure is looking good.

As far as Joes go, we have Roadblock, even though the set comes with Rock N Roll's bike.  Roadblock's machine gun has a gatling gun barrel, for some reason.

"Don't make me speak in rhymes."
Board the Platforms

His gun has some kind of handlebar piece on it, which can be used as a bipod of sorts, according to the box.  I find it looks better as a handle.  I have my Roadblock Kreon holding his gun like this:

"Who touched Sasha?!"
Board the Platforms

instead of the way the instructions say, which is like this:

"CRY SOME MORE!"
Board the Platforms

I guess it depends on the pose you're trying to go for.  The set also comes with some blonde-haired boy scout instead of Hawk, the G.I. Joe Commander.  Go ahead and toss that figure into the box with the parts of the mech and the ninja "temple."

We get some kickass vehicles, too!  (Unlike that Serpent Armour one.) We get a RAM, a Trouble Bubble, AND a FANG.  Not to mention the Platform itself.  That's nearly more Kre-I Joe goodness than your body as room for.  Trust me, I've been hospitalized over less.

The RAM, the Rapid Fire Motorcycle.  Wait, what?
Board the Platforms

The RAM is the same motorcycle that Firefly rode in the Checkpoint Alpha set, with extra parts built onto the body in order to give it the gatling-gun-equipped sidecar and the saddlepack.  There's a little kickstand piece that keeps the bike from tipping over on the sidecar part and a shotgun attached via C-clip.  Not sure why.  I'll have to attach Rock N Roll's machine gun there when I get him.

Break out your scissors if you want that Joe logo sticker on.
Board the Platforms

The other side has a saddlepack.  The Joescale RAM has two, but one's enough for this miniaturized version.  Just a note about the G.I. Joe logo sticker on the front of the RAM.  It's too wide (vertically) to fit as illustrated in the instructions.  I had to narrow it down by carefully cutting it with scissors for it to fit.  Might be a case of the "just mines" but I figured I'd mention it anyway.

Tiny Bubbles...
Board the Platforms

The Trouble Bubble is tiny as well, but damn if it doesn't capture the look of its Joescale version.  The use of telescopes as weapons is clever.  The two rear pods were on a sprue and needed to be removed, like the Ninja Temple's weapons and the "VAMP's" doors.  Also on the sprue was a big-ass weapon in white that wasn't used at all in the build.  Looked rather Transformersish.

The Bubble's chin gun and ailerons can move, and you can remove those missiles, too.  A figure fits snugly into the Bubble.  Kreons fit better into this Trouble Bubble than 25th Anniversary figures fit into theirs.

Who needs a rear rotor, anyway?
Board the Platforms

Like the RAM and the Trouble Bubble, the FANG was simplified and shrunken down to the Kre-I Joe scale.  Some details were lost in the process, such as the rear thruster (which seems to have been divided in two) and the rear rotor is now just a red stud.  But the essence of the FANG is here.  The shape, the colour scheme, the location of the weapons...  The sorts of things the Kre-I Joe VAMP got completely wrong.

I want to get away; I wanna fly away--
Board the Platforms

I don't have the space to display the full Platform, but the tiny Kre-I Joe vehicles and figures have taken up positions on my shelf and desk.  These little vehicles look great and are very faithful to the Joescale originals.  Which makes messing up the VAMP all the more ridiculous.

Before getting to the Platform proper, let's take a look at one of its components: the prison.  It's a small red building with a single cell, but two doors to it.  Wait, what?

Mega Bloks figures have wide stances.
Board the Platforms

Sure, the prison adds play value, but I'd much rather have had, say, another vehicle and/or a few figures, instead.  One of the sprues of weapons and tools has a pair of handcuffs which I've featured in the photo below.

Seriously, it takes them three studs
just to stand up straight.  The hell, man.
Board the Platforms

Still, I think they could have done more than toss in this tacky little prison.  Besides, why bother capturing Cobras and holding them without trial, anyway?  All I'm saying is, it's a lot more paperwork when you bring them in alive.

Are you ready for the Platform itself?  You've had this whole article to get ready!  Here goes!

BOARD THE PLATFORMS!
Board the Platforms

The Platform isn't just a Kre-Ofication of the original playset.   It's been redesigned, somewhat flattened, and, for some reason, relocated to a desert if the box is any indication.  Keep in mind this is supposed to be a Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, so I guess that it might be amphibious, as well.

Make my day.
Board the Platforms

The original Platform's twin machine guns and rocket launcher make a comeback.  The machine gun has a seat for a gunner, is mounted on a ball joint for a crazy range of motion, and even has a little targeting sight.  The rocket launcher is mounted on a rotating plate with a hinge in order to elevate.  The rockets all fire using the same pressure-on-C-clip system as the turret on the Checkpoint Alpha set... so they don't fire very far.

Oh god, he's right behind you!
Board the Platforms

The computer station is much more open than the original Platform.  The screens are transparent stickers stuck to window pieces.  Just be careful which face you stick them to.  I put the main screen on backwards, but it was easy to peel off and reapply correctly.

Under the platform, you'll find a small tool rack with a mini-fridge.  For boats to use, I guess.  Like I mentioned earlier, though, many of the tools from the sprues aren't exactly Kreon scale, so the C-clips that should hold them in place don'tMany of them fall right out of their clips, and even those that don't are far too big for Kreons to use.  Lego tools are, for the most part, nicely scaled.  These aren't.

Not for Kreon consumption.
Board the Platforms

Also, there's that mini-fridge with cans of Yo Joe cola.  The thing is, the fridge door doesn't stay shut.  There's no locking mechanism, and there are no studs for the cans to plug into inside.  (Get your mind out of the gutter.)  Hell if I'm going to put those easily-loseable pieces into a cabinet that can't even stay shut.  You're better off not putting any tools or drinks on this bottom part or you'll end up with lost pieces.  And to make matters worse, Kreons can't even hold the cans like Lego minifigs do.  Just leave the cans near the computer terminals or something.  I have one inside Checkpoint Alpha, myself.

My favourite part of the Platform set?  The scenario the included figures and vehicles sets up.

Oh, no.  The boyscout's in trouble.
Board the Platforms

Don't you just love a happy ending?
Board the Platforms

The Platform features at least one must-have figure, some great troop builders, excellent vehicles, some fun accessories (such as the cans of Yo Joe cola), and is a fantastic rendition of a classic Joe playset.  Seriously worth it.  If you get one Kre-I Joe set, it should be this one!

Party on, Wayne!
Board the Platforms

 Battle Platform Attack Verdict: Clutch approves HARD! 

Clutch

Now earlier, I mentioned putting some of the parts from the VAMP set to better use.  And I mentioned a race car driver, too.  Well, let me show you what I did.

Some say he eats Mega Bloks for breakfast and shits Lincoln Logs.  Some say his stud count is one: himself.  Some say his alternate model is so incredible, it's like Michelangelo's David making love to the Mona Lisa.  Some say he's the reason Trendmasters went out of business.  Some say he once built a life-size model of the Eiffel Tower using only the pieces he found in his trousers.  All we know is...

...HE'S CALLED THE STIG.
Lego Stig

Using the helmet of the Serpent Armour's pilot, the body of a Lego race car driver, the head of a Lego Stormtrooper, and the hands of a Lego astronaut, I've built a Stig that, in my opinion, looks even better than the official Lego Stig, which looks lazy and uninspired.
Where the track at?
Lego Stig

After building this Stig, I had him race around in a regular-ass car, but it wasn't enough for him.

He needed MORE.
Lego Stig

So, he spent some time with the Joe team.  Then this happened.

Yep, that's the Lego/Kre-I Joe Stig hybrid
leaning out of Clutch's jeep, shooting at Firefly
with a grenade launcher and a suppressed MP5.
Lego Stig

Usually, he just eats northerners, but I think this gave him a taste for Kre-O Cobra blood.  So, to calm him down, I sent him to visit the Haloblox space marines.

He fit right in.
Lego Stig

The problem was, he didn't want to give up the Warthog.  He wouldn't budge.

I have a feeling this won't end well.  FOR THEM.
Lego Stig

And when he DID budge...

...he slipped into the gunner's position
and turned them to plastic shavings.
Lego Stig

It was around this time that I sent him to cool down again by visiting the Ice Planet.

Stay frosty.
Lego Stig

That went well until I found out the Joes had already been there and brought "culture" with them.  Oh, hell.

One can of Yo Joe cola later...
Lego Stig

All it took was one can of Yo Joe cola, and his lust for Kre-O Cobra blood was renewed.

Without Rock N Roll around, the RAM was unguarded.
Lego Stig

I guess the Stig can handle bikes, too.  And firearms.
Lego Stig

I haven't been able to find my
Kre-O Firefly figure since then.
Lego Stig

Seeing as how things couldn't possibly get any worse, I finally caved and let the Stig hang out with Clutch.

They seemed to hit it off pretty well.
Lego Stig

And then they revealed what many of us suspected all along...

...Clutch IS the Stig?!  I KNEW IT!
Lego Stig

It all makes sense now!   But... how did he fit the beard into the helmet?

Well, that's about it for my opinions of those four Kre-I Joe sets.  Checkpoint Alpha and the Platform are seriously worth it, but the other two really, really are not, unless you absolutely must have those Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow Kreons and/or are a Clutch fanboy who wants to build a Stig.  Or something.  All things considered, I am very pleased that Hasbro was willing to make a line of obviously collector-oriented G.I. Joe toys (what kid knows who these characters are unless his neckbeard dad forced his own nostalgia-hardon onto his son?) AGAIN.  Hats off.

Hope this overly-long post was informative or at least entertaining.  Stay tuned for updates on #200 and other stuff soonish, maybe.  Be seeing you!

6 comments:

Dr Syn said...

Fuck yeah long post AND I read it all.

Got to love the cross brick compatibility, much to LEGO's chagrin no doubt.

And the best thing about sets like these, not happy with certain end results, modify it to your heart's content. Like when people go 'bloo-bloo, Kre-O Starscream is too wide and movie like don't like' sheeey; build it how you like it (sexually)

1337W422102 said...

In retrospect, I could've made four posts but SCREW IT, EFFICIENCY

Dr Syn said...

No, ONE MEGA POST > 4 smaller posts.

1337W422102 said...

Literally!

Richard Berry said...

This are so sweet. Kickass review.

1337W422102 said...

Thanks!

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