Alright, here we are with the next Exo-Force review! Today we’ll be looking at the first truly large set, the Striking Venom!
As always, a quick look at the figures first.
We start with a moderately sized squad of six Iron Drones. We’ve seen these figures before, but four of these are equipped with guns, which can be held in the hand or slung on the figure’s back as seen near the back of the group in the picture. The other two drones lack both guns and eyes, the latter of which being particularly confusing, but this will be explained later in the review.
We also have our first look at the golden-plated leader of the robot forces, Meca One… …’s upper body. That doesn’t seem right…
Ah, that’s better. This was actually a point of controversy with the set, as it was originally sold without Meca One’s legs, as the intention is that he’s physically built himself into Striking Venom, like a monstrous extension of his own body. This is also likely why the figure lacks eyes, as the large red eyes on the vehicle itself are probably supposed to represent Meca One’s own consciousness.
Whatever the case, the problem was that the box depicted Meca One as having legs in the character profiles on the back, leading many to expect legs but not receive them. Lego was eventually sent enough complaints that later batches of the set were altered to include a pair of legs for Meca One, and single bags containing just legs were sent to people who had issued complaints. This wasn’t the only difference between the original and altered sets, however, but again, we’ll get to that later.
Moving onto the vehicle itself, here it is compared to the already enormous Sonic Phantom just to show its colossal size. This is an absolute behemoth that barely fits on my backdrop, so if you intend to purchase this set, be warned. It’s gargantuan in size, almost 50cm wide! That’s as wide as the Axalara is long!
It’s not something to laugh at either, it’s got an incredibly threatening design that fully embodies the robots’ aesthetic, aided by the attention-grabbing towering knee spikes, along with the low-slung cockpit and huge turret on top.
We’ll start with the legs, all four of which are practically identical. They’re each tipped with a stickered backhoe scoop used as a digging claw, which the description claims is for “tunnelling”. Slightly implausible, but certainly not unimaginable. I suppose it’d burrow down and erupt from the ground where the humans least expect it.
Moving up we find an Iron Drone suspended on a technic contraption built into the main leg, itself nine studs wide in some places. I presume the Drone is mounted here for point-defence purposes, protecting any vulnerable areas on the limb. The Drone’s feet are plugged into cones at the base of the leg, locking the troop in place and preventing it from slipping off.
Once its feet are detached, however, the entire contraption can be extended down to deploy the soldier for ground combat. From there, you simply unplug its eyestalk from the connector and fold up the assembly again.
This section of the leg ends in a massive knee spike, itself taller than the support mechs! The protrusion is decorated with a green geometric design, which adds some necessary colour to the machine.
The knees themselves are entirely fixed at a 90 degree angle, however this is ultimately not an issue, as it greatly improves the model’s stability and ensures the integrity of the build. Continuing down the leg, the next segment is considerably thinner, but is still bucked out by a couple of the robot’s signature spiked armour pieces, this time in dark green.
The entire leg is connected to the body by a pair of heavy ratcheted hinges, providing immense sturdiness. An angled technic beam is attached to one side of the leg as a ‘stopper’ that prevents the legs from moving any further up, limiting the poseability of the mech. However, a walking motion can be achieved thanks to the amount of flex in the leg, and the joints are luckily stron enough that they’ll still hold their position even if these pieces are removed.
Once they are removed, a much wider range of poses is achievable, adding to the expressiveness of the set. It is slightly more unstable in these wackier poses, however.
The only other extremity attached to the main body is the head, which is deliberately shaped like an upscale version of the robot minifigure’s head. This feature is shared with a couple of other robot vehicles, although I think, in this case, it’s supposed to further represent Meca One’s physical link to the mech, like it’s an expression of himself.
The cockpit is flanked by a pair of typical staircase cannons, and a minigun of identical construction to the Thunder Fury’s is seen mounted at the front. This is a feature we’ll see shared by a number of other robot machines, suggesting constant manufacture of specific mass-produced weapons that they attach to various vehicles. This fits with the storyline stating that the robots took over the industrial side of Sentai Mountain, likely providing them with multiple factories for producing armaments.
The windscreen hinges upwards to reveal Meca One inside, his body fully integrated into the machine.
The neck of the cockpit is hinged, allowing it to also look up…
…or down, for a full range of firepower.
Four more staircase cannons protect the main body, sticking out from either side of a defensive shield. Three more of these shields provide coverage for the other sides of the body, looking properly tough by use of a trick using a sticker. You see, the windscreen piece used here is completely clear at the front and a different, more cloudy texture at the back, separated by a slight indent. A perfectly shaped sticker covers up the thinner transparent plastic, leaving only the murkier, more armoured-looking translucent plastic visible. It’s a very neat trick and a great use of stickers.
The interior of the body is fairly empty, but there is room for two more Iron Drones, this time with their heads hooked up to some hoses, explaining their lack of eyes. No explanation for what these hoses are is ever presented in any piece of media, leaving it up to the imagination. Most people tend to think of these as charging stations, but I prefer to think of it as a similar situation to Meca One in the cockpit. While Meca One’s integration likely controls the cockpit weaponry and the actual walking motions of the machine, I’d like to think these two Drones are controlling the frontal guns above the cockpit.
Additionally, a neon green column extends from the centre of the body, with some kind of hub attached near the top, with a pair of Devastator arms attached to it.
This column is directly attached to the main turret, with yet another robot integrated into the vehicle’s technology, backing up my idea of the other Drones being plugged into the frontal guns. This time we find a Devastator torso buried in a wicked pair of titanic six-barrelled machine guns, looking absolutely lethal. They really look like they’d pack a punch, and the gunner is further aided by additional equipment at the rear of the artillery platform.
On the left side, a light brick is plugged into the gunner’s head, lighting up his eyes when the button is pressed. This doesn’t really simulate anything, it’s just a cool effect. Maybe he’s supercharged or something.
On the opposite side is a curious cylinder filled with fiery marbled frisbees - Exo-Force’s incredibly infamous disk launcher.
The disk launcher was the only projectile system introduced by Exo-Force, and it is not particularly well-regarded within the Lego community, generally seen as an unreliable, impossible to use launcher with a flawed design. Ultimately, though, it’s not as bad as people say, as long as you have the right technique.
The most common issue people have with the launcher is that the disks fly out the top of the magazine when you try releasing the trigger. I find that if you place your thumb over the top of the magazine and pull the trigger with your index finger, this problem is negated entirely. Admittedly, it’s still not completely reliable, but it’s a definite improvement.
As an added bonus, a conspicuous green knob on the bottom of the body allows you to rotate and aim the turret without having to risk breaking the top off, as well as simply being really satisfying to do for some reason.
Before we get into prices, I just want to discuss the other changes made I mentioned at the beginning. As well as Meca One’s legs being included, later batches also swapped out all four staircase guns on the body for four of these, and the two side guns on the cockpit were replaced with two of these with some black cylinders capping them off. The reason for these further changes is completely unknown, and will seemingly remain a mystery for the time being. This also means that there are three distinct versions of the set:
- The original, unchanged summer 2006 release. This is the most common version, as it was in production for the longest time.
- The original release with legs supplied from Lego directly. This would only include people who purchased the original set, filed a complaint and as a result received a ‘leg pack’ direct from Lego. This is the version I own, and always have owned.
- The second release with included legs and altered frontal guns - this is the rarest version, but it is still easy to come across if you’re looking for it. It doesn’t look as good as the original thanks to the altered guns though, so I wouldn’t suggest going specifically for this one.
To cap off this review, let’s talk about price. Striking Venom retailed for a measly £34.99, an incredible steal for almost 650 pieces! Not to mention it’s insane size and high minifigure count, this set is an astounding value, one of the most reasonably priced sets I’ve ever seen in any theme. This is undoubtedly one of the best value sets ever produced, with the sheer size of the model alone being greater than sets nowadays that cost almost ten times the price like the Grand Piano, measuring only 35cm long and 30cm across, with over 3000 more pieces!
And of course, the greatest part is that this set, remarkably, hasn’t increased in value at all, still being worth about £35 and therefore retaining the original set’s incredible value!
Overall, aside from the slightly tricky to master disk launcher, this is a phenomenal set, and one that rightly deserves a full score of 10/10. If you have the space, I would wholeheartedly recommend picking it up. You won’t regret it.
Next time we’ll have a look at the most sought-after set out of the entirety of Exo-Force’s three year run…