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Terror Drome

GI Joe Kre-O
by yo go re

When a fan-built Kre-O Terror Drome was displayed at JoeCon 2013, it seemed like that would be the only kind we'd ever see - it was huge and impressive, but there was no way it could be made as a retail set. Then, at Toy Fair 2014, Hasbro surprised us all with the reveal of an official version.

Granted, it wasn't as big as the custom, but that was just a single wall, while this, this is the full base. One of our readers requested we review the Terror Drome, so let's dive right in!

Built from 855 pieces, the Terror Drome is the crown jewel of the GI Joe Kre-O line - you not only get the full, multi-level Drome, but two ancillary vehicles, as well. The instructions are divided into three booklets, with the bricks split between corresponding numbered bags. So we'll go in order.

But first, one of the Kreon figures in this set is Serpentor, the genetic dream-team Dr. Mindbender cobbled together to lead Cobra. He's tampographed with his scaly armor and his ornate boots. His green cape is a softgood piece, just like Lego minifigures would wear, but the real surprise is that the cobra hood behind his head is the same way: you'd think it would be plastic. Part of his snake-mouth helmet is painted on, but he wears a 3D version, as well. He's armed with a large grey sword, but doesn't come with his pet snake.

The reason we told you about Serpentor first is that the instruction booklet begins by having you build Serpentor's Air Chariot. It's not a complicated build - just about 20 pieces, and only takes around 10 minutes to put together - but it really does an impressive job of duplicating the old toy: it's golden, with the long black guns mounted over the wide wings, and an angled front end that's designed like the head and hood of a cobra. Decals create the turbine in the back, the crowned Cobra logos on the wings, and even the snake face. This would have made for a really fun $7 set, if it had been sold by itself.

Up next we have a GI Joe team vehicle, the Sky Hawk - hey, if Serpentor is going to be flying, you're going to need someone to counter his air superiority! The Sky Hawk is one of the most recognizable vehicles in the brand, so it's surprising it's taken them this long to make one.

Once it's built (~20 minutes), the Kre-O Sky Hawk is 5⅜ long, 2¼" tall, and almost 2½" wide. The cockpit opens, just like on the real toy, and the twin VTOL engines in the back actually rotate to point whichever direction you prefer. Two shotguns mounted sideways under the nose serve as the main gun, and there are two silver missles mounted under the landing gear. Stickers on the rear stabilizers have the GI Joe logo, while ones on the sides of the canopy stand in for panels and small machine guns. The aircraft is mostly olive drab, with a little bit of grey and silver to spice things up.

You've got a nice bit of variety when it comes to who you want flying the Sky Hawk - the set includes three Joes, starting with the man himself, Hawk. This is his more familiar look, the brown bomber jacket and green camouflage pants. Those details are all painted on, but they're all painted on - these are tiny little figures, but Hasbro really didn't scrimp on the paint apps. Hawk (or Tomahawk or General Hawk or Clayton Hawk Abernathy or whatever they're calling him this week) is armed with a black pistol, and has a green helmet with goggles pushed up onto the forehead.

Next we have Blaine "Mainframe" Parker, better known as Mainframe. He's wearing his gray uniform, with tampos to create his boots, the straps around his thigh, and the many, many details on his shirt - even the red triangle on the sleeve! His helmet comes from the Transformers side of things - it was at one point Ironhide's head - and has a drop of silver on the forehead crest. He's armed with a large black rifle, which seems like overkill for a computer tech, and he gets a cute little radio backpack.

And finally, we get everybody's favorite Marine, Gung-Ho. He's wearing his bright teal vest and camo pants, and has his usual green cap on top of his head. He does have the one feature everybody wants: a giant blue Marine "globe" logo tattoo on his chest. His mustache should probably be bigger and bushier, but at least it's the right color. He's carrying a bundle of dynamite with a timer on one side, and is armed with a grenade launcher - his usual weapon, even if it's not his usual style.

Now at last we come to the meat of this set, the Terror Drome itself. It's such a complicated build that its instructions are split between two books: one for the ground level, and the other for the roof. All together, it will take in the neighborhood of two and a half hours to build the entire thing (a 60/40 split in favor of the base), but once you're done you'll have an impressive specimen.

You may expect this set would be "hollow," or just for show, but that's not the case - all eight wall panels fold down, revealing different play features inside. The easiest to spot are the two gunner's stations, because the barrels of the guns poke out through conveniently placed windows. The cannons are built using hinge bricks, so they can be aimed and adjusted, and there are seats behind them where a Kreon can sit.

Between those is a one-man jail cell, a feature also found on the original 1986 toy. Okay, it was called a "prisoner containment chamber with energy field containment door," which sounds pretty cool but at the end of the day still means "jail cell." The doors are all bright red, and set with black frames - a very "Cobra" kind of colorscheme! The door has a keyhole, and the set includes a large golden key that not only fits in, but can be turned to act like a handle, as well. Very cool!

Continuing around the side from there, we find what appears to be a large golden throne. It's shaped like a Cobra's hood, and has the same sort of head on it as the Air Chariot. It's not something from the classic Terror Drome, but it's absolutely the sort of thing you'd expect to see in a Cobra base, no matter whether it's Cobra Commander, Serpentor, or even Golobulus sitting there.

Next to that you've got two random missiles just sitting around. Weird, but whatever. Around the corner from there you've got a simple red chair in front of a glass screen displaying an image of Cobra Commander commanding Cobra to "go get the Joes!" The sticker is designed to look pixelated and static-y, so that we can tell it's just an image, not the real man. And he has Kre-O hands, so you know what line he belongs to.

The final panel reveals a feature carried over from the original Terror Drome: a vehicle maintenance bay. It even has a fancy little hose built in, so you can gas up the Ferret ATV (sold separately). The original had three such bays, not just one, but this gives us more variety. There was also a red jack on the floor of each that this one doesn't duplicate.

The center shaft of the Drome is a functioning elevator - if the typical Kre-O block is a knockoff of Lego, then these are Technic sets. It's a scissor lift controlled by a lever that sticks out the back at ground level. The instruction booklets suggest it's meant for Serpentor's Air Chariot, but if you got the "Firebat Attack" set (also sold separately), the Firebat fits in there the way it should.

The only drawback of this feature is that the little rings the rubberbands that support the lift are wrapped around don't grip the posts very tightly - they could very easily slide off, and you'd have to dismantle a lot of the thing to get in there and fix them.

The upper level features a pair of big double-barrelled guns - "White Heat" laser cannons that elevate and pivot - mounted on "radome/reinforced cannon towers." According to the old packaging, the towers contain perimeter defense sensors, just in case any Joes were somehow able to sneak into the gunners' blind spot. Around the ring are several dark blue panels with silver Cobra sigils, and there's an eight-part blue dome over the launch silo. Inside the walls are six view screens, each with a different image and a chair for a Cobra agent to man.

The pieces that make up the upper ring don't fit together as well as real Legos would, so it's tough to keep things tight - the layers want to come apart. That would be fine, except that when you hinge the pieces of the dome, they can pop off easily; and then, since things aren't as sturdy as they should be, it's hard to get them reattached. The upper layer doesn't actually connect to the base - it just sits on top.

Of course, Serpentor can't man the base all by his lonesome, so the set also includes two more Cobra troopers for him to order around. The first is Xamot, who is (as you'd expect) a mirror image of his brother Tomax. I guess that's smart, because if I had been able to get Xamot in one of the blind-bagged series, I wouldn't own this Terror Drome now. His gun is a different style than his bro's, larger and more complex, but the design of his costume is just as nice. And yes, he's got his scar, so no, that wasn't accidentally Xamot's head in the Series 3 bag.

The final figure looks like a plain Cobra Officer, with the V on his helmet and the extra detailing on his chest, but there's more going on here than there seems. Look at his face, and behind the red bandana, you'll see two straight red lines poking up past the eyebrows. Know what that means? This is Scar-Face, one of the first individualized Cobra agents. The helmet sits low enough that you could ignore his scars if you feel like, but it's cool that Hasbro found a way to get a guy like this int the line. He's armed with a small gray knife and a long black rifle.

When it was released in 1986, the Terror Drome retailed for $45, which is more than $95 in today's money - appropriately enough, the same general price you'll pay for this set. I never had a Terror Drome as a kid, and this one can't quite be a stand-in for the real figures, but it has more play features and comes with a lot of cool extras. The GI Joe Kre-O line seems to be on its way out, but this is a good way to go.

-- 01/02/15

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