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G.I.JOE: A Real American Hero
Valor VS Venom

Hi-Tech & Doctor Mindbender

Toy Review

By Mark Patraw

Manufacturer Information:
Pawtucket, Rhode Island


The Package:
These G.I.JOE two-packs come on a blister card, with one figure situated on either side, and their accessories arranged around and between them. The card measures roughly seven inches wide by eight inches tall by two inches deep (this particular set had a deeper bubble than the others, due to the size of the missile launcher). The back of the package has a paragraph summarizing the Valor VS Venom storyline, a large comic book style illustration of Hi-Tech, and portraits of other figures available in this assortment, as well as two upcoming figures (Destro & Beachhead). The UPC, on the bottom of the package, is worth 4 Battle Points, which makes sense as the single, carded figures are worth 2 Battle Points. The interior insert has Hi-Tech and Doctor Mindbender's file cards printed on the back, so don't throw that out by accident if you want to save them. A small, black and white instruction sheet, detailing how to assemble the launcher, outfit the arm communicator gauntlet, and place the test tubes in the laptop computer, can also be found inside said insert. Unfortunately, the "Comic #7 Inside", advertised on the front of the package, isn't present--I'll have to assume that I just got unlucky and one didn't get packed into my set at the factory (if anything was going to be missing, I'm glad it was this, but still, I'm not happy about it). The bubble is both taped and glued to the cardback--I slit the sides and bottom with scissors to open mine up. Most of the accessories are taped down to the interior tray, to keep them from coming loose, and there weren't any twisty ties--hooray! Hi-Tech and the missile launcher body were a little tricky to get out of the package, due to parts of their sculpts snagging on the cutout areas of the plastic tray (I ended up slitting the plastic with scissors so I wouldn't scratch them up in my attempts to free them), but everything else came out pretty easily.

As he's the only JOE with the scientific know-how to undo Dr. Mindbender's Venom serum effects, Hi-Tech is pretty important to the Valor VS Venom storyline--consequently, packing him in with Mindbender was an excellent and logical choice on Hasbro's part. This is Hi-Tech's first, and, thus far, only, appearance in 3-3/4" G.I.JOE form (a 12" version and a couple of 8" Sigma 6 figures of Hi-Tech also exist). From a visual standpoint, Hi-Tech really doesn't do anything for me--I find him to be a mediocre JOE at best. Proportionately, he just doesn't look right. Hi-Tech's head is too small and the dimensions of his body and limbs, in relation to each other, seem off as well--Doctor Mindbender looks considerably better in comparison. It terms of color choice/design, the illustration of Hi-Tech, on the back of the package, looks better than the actual product, in my opinion (the brown parts of his outfit, as seen in the artwork, look more natural/pleasing than the red on the actual toy, and the toy's head sculpt would have looked better had it incorporated the headband and hairstyle depicted in the illustration). The paint work is pretty good, although there are a few areas that exhibit small imperfections. In the articulation department, Hi-Tech has: A rotating neck; rotating/swiveling ball-jointed shoulders; cut rotating biceps; pivoting peg-joint elbows; rotating/swiveling O-ring waist; rotating/swivel ball-jointed hips; and pivoting peg-joint knees. All of the joints are tight and work well. I can't say that I care for the design of his pre-posed hands though, it's difficult to get the guns into them, as they don't have a very large gap for accommodating accessories--they do have some give to them, allowing you to stretch them out a bit to squeeze the gun handles in, but, you can snap the thumbs off of G.I.JOEs that way if you're overzealous (I did it several times on the ones I had when I was a kid), so proceed with care.

Doctor Mindbender:
This is Dr. Mindbender's fifth incarnation in the G.I.JOE 3-3/4" format. I must say that I prefer the original Dr. Mindbender's outfit over any of the later interpretations, including this one. One could argue that the vintage figure's design was fairly goofy and outlandish looking (nothing says evil Cobra genius like a monocle, black cape, purple pants, and silver suspenders over a bare upper body), but it had a kind of super villain charm to it that I dig. That said, I do feel this more subdued and realistic design works because the look pays homage to Mindbender's original occupation, that of a dentist (I could see an orthodontist wearing this get-up, sans the Cobra insignia of course). The head sculpt is quite good as well, he's still got his characteristic mustache and shiny bald head, but loses the monocle in favor of tiny glasses sitting on the bridge of his nose. The one nit I have with the sculpt is that the buttoned flap, on the front of his coat, doesn't match up properly going down from his body to the waist (it's positioned too far to the right below the belt, in relation to how it is on the upper body). The paint work on Mindbender is pretty minimal and basic--he's mostly gray and black. Like Hi-Tech, there's also some very minor errors in the application. Unfortunately, some parts of his body are painted while others are just left the color of the plastic they were molded in, which results in things not quite matching up right (for example, the light gray on his arms/lower coat isn't exactly the same hue as that on the body, and, likewise, the darker gray used for his pants is lighter on the upper legs than on the lower legs). I won't list the articulation points again, as they're identical, but I will note that the bottom of the coat restricts the range of movement of the hip joints a bit (although not too badly, as the coat bottom is rubbery and has some give to it). Mindbender's shoulder and hip joints were somewhat loose, in comparison to Hi-Tech's, as well. His pre-posed hands also share Hi-Tech's shortcomings in that the grip isn't really wide enough to easily fit the gun handles.

I have to admit to some confusion regarding which accessories are supposed to go with which character. The instructions, which are only labeled "Hi-Tech", seem to imply that he pretty much gets everything, except for the black gun, which does not sit well with me, as that's hardly fair. Consulting, I found that they're of the opinion that the laptop, test tubes, and duel pistols belong to Mindbender, which is also how I felt the accessories should be divided up between the two characters. Some of you reading this review are doubtlessly shaking your head at this point--it's not like the Accessory Allocation Police are going to break down my door if they catch me letting Mindbender use Hi-Tech's stuff, right?

- Launcher Platform. This was the deciding factor that "sealed the deal" when I was trying to choose which of the available two-packs I was going to purchase. In my mind, this is almost like getting three figures for the price of two as the spring-loaded missile launcher is roughly the same size as Hi-Tech/Dr. Mindbender. This item consists of four parts: (1) The base, which is molded in silver plastic with the top surface painted black (why didn't they just mold it in one color or the other?). There are two pegs, the smaller one attaches to one of the holes in the bottom of either figure's feet and the larger, rounded one plugs into the bottom of the launcher stem (which allows for rotation). (2) The launcher body. This consists of the weapon system permanently mounted on a cylindrical stand, which attaches to the aforementioned base. A six-barreled Gatling gun sits next to the missile launcher, and even has a few rounds, molded in black plastic, hanging down underneath. There are two large handles, molded in green plastic, sticking out from the sides at the back of the launcher--it isn't the easiest thing to get a figure's hands around them, due to their pre-posed nature, but it's do-able (I just "faked" it in the photos by positioning their hands near the handles). (3) A radar fin. This is molded in green plastic and attaches to the side of the launcher via a peg. Once attached, it can be rotated. (4) The missile. It's molded in black plastic and is almost three inches in length. The projectile, after being loaded, is fired by pushing down on the gray button located on top of the launcher. While it only travels around 2-4 feet when fired, on a level surface, the missile has enough punch to knock down another figure--it's not one of the pitiful and anemic projectile firing action features that have become fairly common in the toy industry in the interest of safety.

- Black Gun. I'm not entirely sure what this is intended to be, which is why I gave it the generic name, but I'm guessing it's probably a pistol-type grenade launcher, but it looks an awful lot like a flare gun to me too. At any rate, it's a breech loading affair that takes a fairly large round. The level of detail in the sculpt is decent, including a nice stock, but it's pretty large, scale-wise, for figures this size. The grip, being too wide, is difficult to get into a figure's hand.

- Knife. This is molded in black plastic and fairly light on detail, but then, combat knifes aren't usually ornamental in design anyway. There are a few serrations at the base of the blade, and a couple of grooves on the handle, but that's pretty much it. Silver plastic, like that used for the duel pistols, would have been a better color choice for this item.

- Arm Communicator Gauntlet. This clips onto a figure's forearm and can be used to store various small accessories (the knife and a pistol are suggested in the instructions). It's molded in black plastic, although it's more rubbery in nature compared to the rigid variety seen with the other accessories--that was a good choice as it has some give which allows it to accommodate different sized arms and weapons. There's a larger, square-shaped hole in the center of the gauntlet and two "C" shaped clips on either side, any of which can be used to secure an accessory (provided it'll fit that is). I can't say that I like this item much, by itself, it looks okay on a figure's arm, but it generally looks awkward with several weapons sticking out of it. Some of the accessories work better than others--the knife and test tubes, being smaller, and a matching color, look fairly unobtrusive on the sides, but the three guns, being larger, and a different color in the case of the duel pistols, don't fit as well or look as good.

- Laptop Computer. This is molded from black plastic and opens and closes via a pivot hinge (thank goodness it doesn't have the bendy kind that wears out--I hate those things). The sculpt is pretty minimal, although they did go to the trouble of making a fairly detailed keyboard. A metallic blue decal serves as the computer's screen; while this neutral blank image is fine, it would have been cool to see something more creative like a picture of Cobra Commander, some schematics, a bunch of desktop icons, etc., on it too. There are two, "C" shaped holders, one on either side of the computer screen, that you can use to store the included test tubes--the fit is quite loose though. Unfortunately, the laptop is too thick for either figure to hold it, but I did manage to get a pose with the machine resting on one of Mindbender's arms.

- Test Tubes. You get two of these and they're molded in black plastic. Hasbro really dropped the ball here, as they could have, and should have, been molded from transparent plastic, with a small dab of paint on the stoppers, as that would have looked much more realistic. Heck, I wasn't even sure what these were at first, due to the color (I was thinking they were silencers, flashlights, or some kind of handles for the missile launcher when I was looking at the unopened package in the store). I'm assuming these are supposed to contain the Venom Dr. Mindbender invented to alter the genetics of Cobra soldiers (or, alternatively, Hi-Tech's antidote), and as such, these are a pretty central accessory to the Valor VS Venom storyline (all the more reason Hasbro should have done a better job with the color). As mentioned above, you can store them on the sides of the laptop computer. They're pretty tiny, so be careful not to lose them.

- Duel Pistols. These two guns are identical and molded in silver plastic--a smart choice, as it makes them look fairly realistic, despite the lack of any paint operations. The level of detail on the sculpt is quite nice as well. The grips are kind of wide, which makes getting them situated properly in the pre-posed hands on both figures a bit of a chore, but it's do-able.

These two packs of Valor VS Venom figures go for $6 (plus tax) at my local Big Lots! store. That's a mighty good deal for two figures and a slew of accessories (it's only about a dollar more than a single G.I.JOE 25th Anniversary Collection figure). I consider this particular set an even better value than the others, due to the inclusion of the large missile launcher accessory.

Final Analysis:

- Excellent price. There aren't many toy lines where you can find two figure of this size, with quite a few accessories, in this price bracket (Lanard and M&C Toy make cheaper 3-3/4" G.I.JOE type figures, but the quality isn't as good as Hasbro's).
- Nice selection, and quantity, of accessories. The large missile launcher platform really helps sell this set and the projectile firing action on it works well.
- Fairly well articulated figures.
- Good, if not stellar, paint applications.
- Both characters are quite important to the Valor VS Venom storyline, with Dr. Mindbender being essential. Packing these two together makes a lot of sense. While more costly for the consumer than single figures, the simple concept of including both a villain and a hero in one package is a great idea.

- The comic book, that was advertised on the front of the package, was not present. I'll assume I just got unlucky and the comic didn't get packed in by accident.
- The shape of the pre-posed hands, on both figures, should have been designed a bit better, allowing for a wider grip. Or, alternatively, Hasbro could have included guns with narrower handles--they have dozens of them to choose from after all.
- Hasbro missed the boat on the test tubes--transparent plastic should have been used.
- Hi-Tech's design doesn't do much for me. As far as JOEs go, he's average at best in my book. His wacky proportions don't do him any favors either.

Where to Buy:
In my previous review, of the Cobra Tele-Viper, I stated that Family Dollar stores were the only ones, locally, still carrying the Valor VS Venom line. Well, it turns out I was wrong, as I found these two packs at my local Big Lots! store. In addition to this set they had Duke & Cobra Commander, Heavy Duty & Razorclaw, and Alley Viper II & Viper. There were two Heavy Duty & Razorclaw packs, but only one each of the others. That said, these are older figures (2003), so, you're not likely to find these on store shelves elsewhere--online is probably your best bet if you don't have a Big Lots! nearby.

For Parents:
Hasbro recommends this set for ages 5 and up. The choking hazard is something to be mindful of, as there are a number of small accessories in this set. Also, it's a good idea to remind your child not to fire the missile at other people or pets.

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