REVIEW: THE CORPS! BEACH ASSAULT MISSION VEHICLE
The Corps!, a line of pseudo-military toys that has been produced for decades by the Lanard Toy company, will never be known as a high-level collectible along the lines of G.I. Joe, Star Wars, or anything else.
What it HAS succeeded in doing, however, is creating a nice little niche for itself as a decently-made, generally bargain-priced, good-quality action figure line that works well as a companion line to other 3-3/4"-scaled action figure series, most often G.I. Joe.
Indeed, during the traditional-style years of G.I. Joe, Lanard's Corps line was constructed along the same lines, and even continued after the traditional-style G.I. Joe line was first retired in 1994. Although neither G.I. Joe nor The Corps is designed along these lines today, and certainly The Corps was not the only line to emulate the Real American Hero, it could successfully be argued that The Corps is quite probably the most extensive and popular "secondary" line to follow on the heels of G.I. Joe.
Lanard is very much a global company, and they have produced 3-3/4" scale action figures for many different countries and product lines, most ultimately coming back to The Corps to one degree or another.
These days, The Corps can most often be found at Wal-Mart, in the form of multiple figure sets, and assorted vehicles. Most of these vehicles have seen prior release over the years, but something caught my eye recently. It was a brand-new vehicle, one that I had never seen before, sitting in a Corps! package.
The box, clearly common packaging for all of the new vehicles (with a sticker on the center denoting this particular one's name), advertises three new vehicles, very definitely stating that they are all NEW vehicles, on as many sides of the box as it could be printed. There's even a silver sticker on the front. The new vehicles all fall under the heading of MISSION VEHICLE, and include a jeep-like vehicle with the rather curious name of Komotto, an interesting tank called the Dire Wolf, not a bad name at all, and this item, a hovercraft called the Beach Assault. Perhaps the least imaginative name of the three, but it gets the point across, certainly.
And I am confident that the Beach Assault is an all-new vehicle. It was a 2009 copyright date on the bottom, sculpted into its design.
The Corps, conceptually, has gotten a little better organized in recent years. The toy line has a new logo -- and an impressive one at that -- and there's about a dozen or so team members divided into largely environment-specific teams, and even, for the first time ever, a clearly defined enemy force called the Marauders.
The back of the package defines The Corps as follows: "In a time of confusion, a fearful world requires men of honor and courage to step forward; heroes whose mettle has been tested and whose skills have been honed. From around the world they step forward; the best of the best, and take up the mantle of THE CORPS, an ever-ready team devoted to protecting every person, every country; our world."
So, what have we got with this Beach Assault vehicle? Well, it's different, I'll give it that. The design is really like nothing I've ever seen out of G.I. Joe, or even Star Wars or any other prominent 3-3/4" scale line. And yet it's not so fanciful that it's implausible. It looks somewhat futuristic, but it's not at all outlandish. I could see a vehicle like this being developed for military use, and possibly something like it already existing.
If it resembles anything, at first glance, given the largely steel blue color and, to a degree, the shape, it looks fractionally like the SPV vehicle used in the 1960's television series, "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons". But that comparison vanishes fairly quickly when you get a better look at it, and realize that it has two large fans in the back, and is designed to be a seafaring hovercraft.
Certainly the best-known hovercraft in the G.I. Joe arsenal would have to be the massive WHALE hovercraft. The question must then be asked, how well does the Beach Assault compare to the WHALE. And the answer to that question is -- it's not really a very fair comparison, although there are some similarities.
Up until the USS Flagg Aircraft Carrier came along the following year, the 1984 release of the WHALE gave the G.I. Joe team their largest vehicle to date. The Beach Assault, measuring about 10-1/2" in length, 5" in width, and about 3-3/4" in height at the fans is nowhere near the size of the G.I. Joe WHALE.
And yet, there is a structural resemblance, in that the Beach Assault has been designed to look as though it has a major flotation cushion underneath, and a somewhat angular body topside, with two propeller fans in the back. That may be about as far as the resemblance goes, but it is there, and honestly, I don't recall very many other vehicles over the years from either G.I. Joe or The Corps that used this "flotation cushion" appearance.
The flotation cushion has been designed to be a rounded rectangle, and is black in color. There are four small wheels mounted to the underside of the Beach Assault, that are reasonably well hidden, and allow the vehicle to scoot across any smooth surface or low carpet.
The question might be asked -- does it float? Well, that would depend on one thing, and that's whether or not the sockets into which the wheels are mounted are holes in the bottom of the "flotation cushion", or whether or not there is enclosed plastic on the upper side of the wheels, the wheel wells, essentially. If there is, then I would believe that the smooth, unbroken underside of the Beach Assault would allow it to float. And unlike the WHALE, it's small enough so that it could plausibly be used in a bathtub.
However, I don't really know. If those sockets represent holes in the bottom of the vehicle, then on its own, it won't float. It probably would if you put some duct tape over the wheels, but that seems to be a bit much to do. And frankly, I don't intend to test it out. It'd be just my luck to have the the Beach Assault sink, and then I have to let the poor thing drip out its entire interior for the next several days. You want a toy that floats? Nice assortment of boats over in the preschool section.
The upper body of the Beach Assault is, as I indicated, steel blue in color, with several streaks of dark blue camouflage spray-painted on it. It honestly looks like it would be a very effective seagoing camouflage color scheme.
The design is fairly sleek, with a somewhat angled front, especially the canopy about midway on the vehicle. The upper body seems to have four "fenders" at the four "corners" of the vehicle, basically just more prominent sections of the body. The midpoint of the vehicle is exposed, showing the upper side of the flotation cushion, and presumably allowing access into the cockpit of the vehicle itself.
The front of the vehicle has two sets of small weapons, mounted on the raised front "fenders". There is steel blue piping on the open midpoint section, and three raised vents of increasing size on the two rear "fenders".
The rear of the vehicle has two propeller fans. Each is encased in a circular structure about two inches in diameter. Each fan has a vertical blade protruding from the back, presumably for steering. The internal fan blades themselves do not turn. In fact it's very hard for an adult hand to even reach them. However, the external vanes do pivot in their sockets, so there is some demonstration of maneuverability.
There are various labels applied to the main body of the vehicle. These seem to be generally good quality, printed on clear vinyl, and have been placed surprisingly carefully. I've certainly seen worse. There are labels on the sides which are orange, and are designed as angled geometric lines and shapes.
The ones on the front are not as well placed -- at least they weren't on mine -- as they could have been, hanging over a raised area somewhat. However, I discovered that the labels can be removed surprisingly easily, without damaging them if done carefully, and can be restuck in better locations.
Other labels include the modern CORPS logo, numerical designations, a couple of warning signs, and a small label on the front that just has the words "THE CORPS" in somewhat futuristic type. There's also a couple of labels that represent the current logo of the Corps' sea forces. Nice to see that sort of carryover consistency.
The canopy opens near the back. If I have one small detrimental observation to make, it's that the canopy windows are not actually windows. The canopy is molded from the same steel blue plastic as the rest of the upper body, and the windows are painted black. However, this is a relatively minor point.
The cockpit is a two-seater, one seat behind the other. If the placement of a couple of levers on the armrests is any indication, it would appear that the rear seat belongs to the pilot, and the front seat belongs to the gunner or some such.
Almost any 3-3/4" action figure with decent leg articulation can fit into the seats, although the front seat has a little too much leg room. The figure I tested had a tendency to slide forward a bit too much. The seats are more curved than right-angled, which may be a factor, and are ridged to give the appearance of being upholstered.
There is a small rack of missiles in the back, three across, that can be popped up, but they need to be popped up (or closed back down) when the main canopy is open. The three missiles within do not launch on their own, but they are removable, although they are placed quite tightly in their rack.
Now, I'd like to make a note of a certain bit of packaging with regard to this vehicle. Most Corps vehicles tend to be packaged in what I would call open boxes. That is, they're in a box-like framework, and they're strapped down to it, but there is no plastic window between the vehicle and shoppers in the stores. While this is probably very economical for Lanard, it can result in damage or even theft to the merchandise.
And I've seen it happen. Tanks missing missiles, mounted guns gone, that sort of thing. Missiles seem to be the most common missing parts, and I'm inclined to think that this isn't so much the result of theft as shipping mishaps.
Whatever the case, with the Beach Assault, Lanard seems to have found something of a solution. In the package, the missile rack is displayed raised. It does add a little something to the look of the vehicle. However, there is a plastic framework around the missiles, that is NOT easily removed, that almost looks like it's part of the vehicle until you realize you can't pull any of the missiles out, or lower the missile launcher, as long as it's in place, and it doesn't appear on the photo of the vehicle on the package.
This, to me, is a remarkably effective means of securing the oft-lost missiles, and letting the vehicle still look good in package. I don't know to what degree the design can be implemented on other vehicles. Something like this would be highly dependent on the design OF other vehicles. But on the Beach Assault, at least, it certainly works.
The Beach Assault feels a little lightweight compared to other vehicles in its size range, but in my opinion, it's decently made. At the very least, you're certainly getting your money's worth with it.
So, assuming you like impressive pseudo-military vehicles, but don't collect The Corps as a concept, what use would there be for the Beach Assault? Assign it to the G.I. Joe team. It's just the right size to go up against Cobra's Water Moccasin in my opinion. It'd be absolutely perfect for that, if you're looking for what should be an even battle.
Suppose you don't collect G.I. Joe, though? Fine. It's just futuristic enough to get into Star Wars. Go see if those Clone Trooper Diver figures are still available, the Scuba Clones or whatever they were called. Assign some of them to this.
My final word on this? It's a cool vehicle. I think a lot of toy collectors tend to overlook The Corps because it doesn't have as prominent a name as some action figure lines, or they see it and they think it's some cheap knockoff. It's NOT. There's any number of collectors out there, especially in the G.I. Joe community, who know that there's some very cool stuff being produced by Lanard. This is one of them. New stuff doesn't come along from The Corps all that often. Here's something new. And I'm impressed with it.
The CORPS! BEACH ASSAULT MISSION VEHICLE definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!