Sand Serpent with Star-Viper | Produced by Hasbro | Released January 2010
The Sand Serpent is an experimental aircraft designed by M.A.R.S. Industries employing stealth technology to maintain Radar invisibility. This striker jet bombards aerial and ground forces with prototype anti-armor maximum-range 4X missiles. It can cruise at a hypersonic speed of MACH 6 using the highly advanced HSE-3 Supercruise engine. The Sand Serpent jet provides Cobra with air support during the desert battle against the GI Joe team.
Star-Viper pilots command the skies in advanced fighter jets designed by M.A.R.S. Industries. These test pilots are precision-oriented experts in aeronautical engineering; they are also calculating, coldblooded warriors of the air.
An unusual release from Hasbro, the Sand Serpent is certainly an impressive toy. And not just for what it does...
The Sand Serpent's box is huge. I've mentioned before in my Reviews that when you've collected singled-carded figures for a long time, you forget just how big toy vehicle boxes can be. This one is around two feet by fourteen inches and about five inches deep.
Like many of the GI Joe vehicle boxes, the packaging doesn't display the toy within - in this case it's presumably because the Sand Serpent comes in two main pieces that must be assembled. The pack is covered with shots of the vehicle though and you can see the Star-Viper pilot in the cut-away front. Don't let his fairly generic pilot look put you off though...
Opening the box is a cinch - the packaging opens at either end and then it's a case of simply pulling-out the cardboard retaining tray. The toy is held in-place with a few twisties, which are easy-enough to remove - once you've ripped-away all the tape holding them in-place. Given the special qualities of the toy - more on that below - it's nice to see that it's held securely within the box.
Let's now take a look at the pilot, the Star-Viper.
Like most of the bundled-pilots, Star-Viper isn't really much to get excited about. The figure's body is probably a re-use from another toy (it's pretty generic) but he has a new head-sculpt, which is actually quite nice. The visor has a cool ''ruby-glass'' effect to it and he reminds me of a TIE Fighter pilot. The chest unit - to which his helmet is attached - doesn't quite connect to his torso, so there's a gap behind it but that aside, it's a nicely-produced piece.
The paint - which is used sparingly - is effective, with his suit's bronzed-pieces standing out nicely against the black of his jumpsuit. It's all applied neatly and without any splodges.
Articulation-wise, there are no real problems with the figure itself, although he does have some issues sitting in the cockpit. Getting him in there in the first place is difficult but it's not helped by the fact that both his legs and arms seem to widen their angle as they're elevated, which further complicates matters.
The Star-Viper isn't really going to win any awards but let's face it, he's not the reason you'd buy this toy anyway.
A repaint of the previously-released Nightbird, the Sand Serpent is a great-looking toy that's also packed with some very cool features.
Out of the box, the Sand Storm is in two main pieces - the forward/nose cone and the rear/engine section. The two slot together easily and then it's simply a matter of clipping-in the wings - two at the front, two at the rear - and the twin tail fins. The toy includes a number of decals but I've yet to apply them. However, if they're like the other GI Joe vehicle decals, I may simply leave it unadorned, as applying the transfers is a pain.
The only other bit of work you need to do is to unscrew the battery panel on the underside and insert three AA batteries. Why? Read on and find out.
Looks-wise, the Sand Serpent is another GI Joe toy that extrapolates something from the real-world and makes it into a sci-fi tinged super-vehicle, with a nice mix of the possible and the impossible. I like the way Hasbro's designers do that with a lot of these vehicles and the Sand Serpent is a great example of this.
What's really nice, though, is how much thought has gone into the design here. It really feels like a ''deluxe'' toy.
For starters, the Sand Serpent has retractable undercarriage - a single wheel at the mid-section and two at the rear. OK, so the wheels don't turn and they're simply solid pieces but it's not like this is a ground-based vehicle so I think we can excuse that.
A fold-up panel half-way along the nose section allows access to the cockpit. Pull the panel up and the pilot's seat - and the underside of the nose - lower. It's another nice little feature that works smoothly and is well thought-out. It's just too bad the cockpit is so cramped and that the struts supporting it make getting into the cramped space even harder. That said though, it's a nice touch and much more ''deluxe'' than a hinged canopy or door.
The Sand Serpent includes two side-mounted missile pods, each holding six launching missiles. Firing them is a very cool process. A pull-down handle on the underside of the aircraft (which can be used to hold it ''in flight'') includes a trigger and by ''pumping'' the nose-cone - like a shotgun - the missiles are primed for launch. Pulling the trigger then fires two missiles - one from each pod. Repeat the pump-action and the missile chambers rotate and the next missiles are ready for action. Nice.
And if that wasn't cool enough, when the electronic mode is switched on, the launch is accompanied by sound and light effects. You see - those batteries do serve a purpose!
What's particularly cool about the electronic mechanism is that missile launches feature a missile sound effect. But if you don't prime the missiles for launch (using the pump-action) pulling the trigger activates a cannon sound-effect instead. Very cool.
There are also three grey buttons on the top of the engine section that can be pressed to activate sound effects. The first is a radar/lock-on ping (that speeds up to indicate a target-lock) which, if pressed again, flashes the side cannons and produces a firing sound. The second is a series of garbled communications from the pilot and the third - which also activates a light-up feature - will kick the jet engines into overdrive with a roar.
The Sand Serpent reminds me of some of the old Star Wars electronic vehicles, or the MB Electronic Starbird toys, the latter especially due to the presence of the fold-down ''gun grip.'' I'm not sure how long the battery life is on the toy, but the electronic features can be switched-off by simply clicking the on/off switch into position. Even without the electronics, the toy is still impressive and a lot of fun.
Another thing I like about this toy is the paint-work. Unlike the previous GI Joe vehicles I've Reviewed - the Dragonhawk XH1, Mantis Attack Craft and Sky Sweeper - this toy has pre-applied, detailed paint-work. Although the underside is still a single, plain colour the top of the aircraft features desert camouflage. Again, it's the deluxe treatment.
But all of these awesome features are nothing compared to the biggest - and best - surprise this toy holds...
The Sand Serpent is a little bit of an oddity. The story is that Target were going to carry this toy as a store-exclusive, much as they have with a number of other GI Joe toys. But then it seems somebody in the chain's upper management lost faith in the GI Joe line (either through poor sales or they didn't want to carry oversized toys for the line) and so the deal was called-off. Thankfully, the Sand Serpents (and a few other GI Joe toys) were sold-on to Ross Dress for Less, a store that specialises in unwanted, unsold or overstocked items from other retailers.
Now keep in mind that the Sand Serpent, a large, deluxe toy, was originally intended to retail at $40.
Ross are selling them for...
Ross are selling them for...
That's right. For not much more than the price of two GI Joe single-carded figures you can pick-up this superb vehicle. If that's not sold you on picking it up, then I don't know what will.
The Sand Serpent includes a (large) transfer sheet and twelve missiles. It's not that generous when it comes to extras, but given how awesome the jet itself is, that's not an issue.
Just buy it, OK?