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Scarab K.L.A.W. Interceptor

Snap Ships
by yo go re

One of my favorite genres of internet writing is the whole "humans are Space Orcs"/"Earth is Space Australia" thing, all about our weird customs and abilities, which seem normal to us but are quite extraordinary when considered independently. Like, we heal fast, we shake off physical trauma, we're functionally immune to temperature changes, we never get tired... these are all real biological facts about the human species that we don't ever think about for the same reason that fish don't ever think about the existence of water. The stories people write are awesome, and one of the recurring themes is "vicious alien race attacks humanity, but underestimates their resilience and pays the price." The point is, get ready to feel bad for The Komplex.

Welcome to the future... where humanity is under constant attack from a brutal alien threat. The Komplex spreads through the galaxy and growing [sic] stronger with each species they defeat and assimilate. To fight them, humanity relies on an elite team, the Forge, who pilots their own armada of spacecraft known as Snap Ships.

Snap Ships are a new line from PlayMonster, a company that's been around for years, though never on our radar. Have you seen that Yeti In My Spaghetti game? That's them. They've now made their way into the action figure aisles with this line of buildable spacecraft. So far they only seem to be at Target, and since they hang next to the spot where GI Joe Classified would go if there were any, they've been kind of hard to ignore.

The Scarab K.L.A.W. Interceptor, piloted by The Truth - the leader of the Komplex - is the main fighting ship for the Komplex, equipped with wings designed to cut through armor. Add the mysterious UJU tech piece, and the damage only intensifies!

The Snap Ships are sold in standardized cardboard packages with plastic caps on the top and bottom. Inside is a plastic tray with a few pieces displayed in shaped slots, and the rest bagged at the bottom. There's a thick instruction booklet and a checklist folded up behind the tray. All the toy come in the same style of box, just larger or smaller depending on the pricepoint.

The basic pieces each ship is built from are fairly large cubes, ¾" on each side, but the ships are large enough that they don't look overly blocky; the inclusion of more specialized bits (engines, wings, etc.) helps in that regard. The instructions are sometimes unclear at first, but hey, that just gives you the opportunity to try out the included "separation tool" - a thing specifically designed to pry them apart again if need be. The connections aren't as tight as Lego bricks, for instance, leading to the final product being a little more "wobbly" than you might expect, but they do hold together well enough. Also, the sockets where they join are designed so that the majority of the blocks will only plug together completely parallel, or askew at a 45ª angle (though there are also some designed to allow for completely free swiveling).

This set is technically the "Scarab," with three different builds shown in the instruction book: the Scarab K.L.A.W. Interceptor, the Scarab K.L.A.W. Light Fighter, and the Scarab K.L.A.W. Attack Striker. "K.L.A.W." is presumably an acronym standing for "Komplex (something something something)," because all the baddies' ships use it, but there's nothing in the instructions or on the website to explain what those somethings are. Something about their government or society, maybe? The Komplex's Legion of Allied Worlds? Now that we have said it, it must be canon!

The Scarab Interceptor is the set's "main" build, in that it's the one shown on the front of the box. It has forward-sweeping wings, like a Battlestar Galactica Cylon Raider, and four flares around the rear engine like Guardians of the Galaxy's Nova Corps ships. Its weapons include Gatling guns that flank the cockpit, and twin pulse-lasers beneath those. Because this is a spacecraft and not somthing intended for use on the ground, a pair of fins poke down beneath the body. The wings have silver paint along the edges to make them look sharp, and they're hinged so they can swing back for extra cutting power.

The Scarab Light Fighter looks like a robotic pterodactyl, with wide, pointed wings right in the middle of a squarish body and an angled "head" sticking off the front. There are vertical fins on both the top and bottom, and adjustable dorsal flaps. The Gatling guns here are mounted directly next to the cockpit, which would be really loud if sound could travel through space, and instead of two double-cannons, there's only one under the nose.

The Scarab Attack Striker really plays around with the Snap Ships format, twisting the majority of the ship 45ª off-axis. This is a mean-looking little craft, with the blade wings pointing forward again, but this time raised upward (thanks to the tilt) so it looks like they're ready to, well, "strike." The fins further the X-shaped profile, and the guns are all mounted beneath the ship. The engine pieces are all in one big straight line right at the back of the ship, suggesting intense power, like a rocket.

So that's three very different ships with three very different looks, all made from one set. And that's just following the build instructions, not even trying to play around and design something yourself! Plus, there are pieces we haven't even discussed yet. You can replace some of the engine intake blocks with working friction-based missile launchers (though the projectiles are so small I'm frankly surprised they meet safety standards) or the specialized "UJU tech" piece.

UJU tech (which is pronounced as one word: "OO-joo") looks like an acronym - presumably "Universal Joint (something)" - but again, there's no explanation for what it means. The backstory says this stuff is a remnant of the ancient lost UJU KON civilization, but in practice it's just a spring-loaded launcher. The one in this set is the "UX-Link Bolo-Launcher," which fires two translucent yellow missiles.

We also get a small pilot figure who can sit in the ship's opening cockpit. According to all the info, this is a guy called "The Truth," the ultimate leader of the Komplex (unless he's just the Vader, and there's a Palpatine somewhere who we don't know about yet). The figure is only 1" tall, and is articulated solely at the hips (a balljoint, so it can sit and turn around a little), but despite his small size, he still gets paint apps to keep this from just being a boring little piece of overlooked plastic.

The instruction booklet carefully warns us not to throw the packaging way: since the ships are designed to be not-on-the-ground, the lid of the box combines with the included post to become a display stand for the ship you've built. That's a mind-blowingly clever idea, and is absolutely going to earn this line a "Best Packaging" nomination in a couple months. The lid is wide wnough to provide a stable base (though it'll definitely eat up some real estate on your shelf), and all the ship designs leave at least one connector port under the ship open so the stand can plug in.

I wasn't expecting a lot from Snap Ships - they were just the "hey, those aren't GI Joes" in the Target aisle. But putting the K.L.A.W. Scarab together was fun, and all three of its modes are distinctive. There are some flaws, sure, but this is a neat concept and hopefully PlayMonster is able to take full advantage of it. And maybe eventually one of these sets will include a tiny tiny representation of Fleet Major Admiral Stabby, recipient of the Sapphire Nebula Ribbon of Valor, molded next to the pilot figurine's feet.

-- 09/06/20

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