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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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The Reverend's Review: HeadRobots 'Snake'

Name: Snake
Allegiance: Himself!
Primary Military Specialty: Intelligence
Secondary Military Specialty: Ordinance (Experimental Weaponry)
Subgroup: Headmaster

"Snake wasss once a man. A man!!!"
Old Snake has been providing the underworld with illicit technology and services for years, all the while waiting for his moment to strike! Now, with reverse-synthoid technology, Snake transfers his mind into a captured Head Robot. At long last, the power of the [Transformers] is his to wield! He has become the ultimate combination of treachery, cunning, and raw power. Snake has only one goal in mind, to revive the long-dead [Cobra] organization!

([Names] "omitted" (blacked out, but not very well) in the original filecard)

For the unaware, a character named "Old Snake" appeared in one episode of the Generation One post-movie episodes ("Only Human"). Old Snake was depicted as a masked arms trader selling his services on contract - in this episode's case, to mob boss Victor Drath. In this capacity, he provided Drath with "synthoid" technology to somehow create human bodies for four captured Autobots (Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Springer and Arcee) and imprison their minds within them while Drath and his underlings piloted the bodies. The idea apparently was to smash the now-human Autobots in a hydraulic press or something. (Yes, this isn't the most direct way of doing the job, I know.)

In a nutshell, it was strongly implied that "Old Snake" was in fact the Cobra Commander of 2006. It was indicated that his "organization" was a thing of the past by that point. But you can read more about Old Snake elsewhere on the internetz.

Now, not too long after this episode aired, the G1 line would produce the various "-Master" gimmicks - Headmasters, Targetmasters, Powermasters, and various combinations of them as well. When G1 finally folded in the U.S., as most people know, the Transformers continued on in Japan, with some expansions on the basic concept (well, an entirely different take on the concept, but they did progress on from the same point as far as the toys are concerned).

As the line continued in Japan, there was some work done towards designing head-only Headmasters - in other words, just transforming heads to fit the larger robot bodies. The "Headmaster Teens" are the best example of this, but there were other designs that apparently didn't make it into production. Not all of them had humanoid forms, either. For example, IDW's "Ark II" compendium of concept art depicts heads that transform into a sea snake, a dugong, a lizard, a wolf, and... a cobra.

Fast-forward to today, when a few third-party companies are looking to produce some of these rare or unseen designs to make a few bucks. In this case, this offering is sold by Highend TFs - and is supposedly limited to 300 pieces.

Snake comes packaged in gleefully designed packaging meant to emulate the 80s GI Joe boxing, down to the "HDROBOTS - A Real American Head" bannering, the "SNAKE VILLAIN" callout, the artwork on the left side and the "HEAD-ON" mimicking of the Hasbro logo at bottom center. The back features a "Filecard" with his information, just like the GI Joe toys of that era. The back also has a little depiction of Snake serving as Mindwipe's head.

Head Mode:
Snake comes packaged in this mode. Its a squarish, dark blue color with a narrow silver face. There's some detail on and around the face - few bumps and protusions. The front of the head narrows upwards, giving it a sort of tall, almost pyramid-ish appearance. The face itself is visored and masked - while the whole effect isn't something you could show to any average person and get "Cobra Commander!" as a response, the relative look is reminiscient enough. The three-quarters of the head behind the face is squarish, as you'd expect from a Headmaster, with some black treads at the rear. There's a tab-and-ridge protrusion at the bottom of the head, not completely unlike any other Headmaster, which plugs into the receptacle on the various Headmaster bodies.

Snake's head mode plugs into any of the larger Headmasters I have (Highbrow, Mindwipe, Skullscruncher, Weirdwolf). It doesn't fit on Cerebros due to the ridges on either side of his head-receptacle. It also fits on the smaller "Junior" Headmasters I own, such as Siren, Squeezeplay and Horri-bull. It triggers the built-in Tech Spec meters properly on all the larger Headmasters and on Siren, but not quite correctly on Squeezeplay and Horri-bull (as if it's not pushing the tab down far enough). And it actually looks pretty good with a lot of their color schemes.

It also bears mention that Snake comes packaged with a black double-barrelled hand weapon. This item can be held by most Headmasters firmly while he's in head mode. This weapon isn't the most imposing of all Transformers' guns, simply because it's a tad short and has an odd-looking depression between the barrels, but we'll get to the reason for that in the next section. Speaking of...

Robot Mode:

First off, there's no instructions provided with the toy. That's not necessarily a big deal, though it originally caused some brief confusion for me. Essentially, the head unfolds into a treaded blue cobra (and not just a doubled-up cobra, there's more to it than one movement). The colors more or less stay the same here - a dark blue cobra with its hood outstretched, featuring small slit red eyes on a pointed, thin head. The neck (which features two joints, plus the one at the back of the head) "snakes" (ha) out of the front of a treaded body. There's a small tail that can be flipped out from the underside. The neck can be positioned either in the traditional "rearing" cobra pose, or outwards as if it's striking out to bite someone (I guess this is the "Swivel-Head Clash Attack" they're referring to on the packaging). Limited, but still a lot of play value for a transforming Headmaster (Cerebros not withstanding). The thin head of the snake looks silly from some angles, but the transformation limited what they could do with it. The "trench" created on his back by unfolding the neck can be used to position his black cannons on his back - there's a guard ahead of the gun's handle that fits snugly into the trench. This makes him one of the few (if only) Headmasters I've ever seen with real, unambiguous firepower. Not so bad.

Also, the "depression" I mentioned earlier between the gun barrels - well, it has a purpose after all. It's a seat! Well, maybe. Highend TFs' photos show the (also third party) Spike & Sparkplug figures riding in it. Junior Headmasters (well, at least Siren's Quig) won't fit in it. Removing the cannons enables other headmasters to stand on Snake's back, though, so I guess you could do that. Diaclone pilots can also fit into the seat - or at least the one I have (belongs to Skywarp) will. There's nothing for their magnetic feet to stick to, but they do fit.

So yeah, should you? Depends on how much you like Headmasters, how much you like Cobra Commander, and whether you like the idea of a non-humanoid Headmaster, I guess. Me, being somewhat average towards all three... I still like it.

Transformation Design: For a Headmaster, he gets a 7 from me for not just being another doubled-over figure with a face on its back. Against all Transformers in general, sure, he's limited by his size and design.
Durability: 3. Go easy. He's got thin parts in his cobra mode. And I can't say authoritively how durable the plastic itself is. It's better than numerous Transformers knockoffs I've handled.
Fun: Again, for a Headmaster, he gets a high ranking - lets say 8 just because he can actually do something other than stand around or sit in a cockpit. The big bad weaponry in cobra mode helps too. Obviously, he can't hold a candle to the regular sized Transformers on his own, but I don't really see the point in giving him a low score just for that.
Aesthetics: 7. The molding looks good, and so does the coloring. Very good, especially for the third party origins. I can see some white scars from the parts being pulled from plastic trees but I'm not docking four points for that. While he's a good looking toy, his colors are dark blue and black - not really eye-catching in cobra mode. As a head, though, he actually looks very good on most figures he can fit on. I was surprised at how well he went with them.
Articulation: 6. Because he's a robotic cobra, mimicking a limbless animal, he's a little limited in what he can achieve in posing. The three neck joints (including the base of the head) help his case. I guess in a perfect world, I wish his cobra head could swivel sideways, but that's not a major downside. Also, because the "tab" for connecting to the Headmaster bodies is on the underside of the bottom neck joint, bringing the neck too far forward raises him off his treads a little - but there's still a good deal of motion available from that joint before that happens.
Value/Price: 8. Currently apx $30 US from HighEnd TFs. Not bad at all. There's also a tan version selling on BBTS right now for less.
Overall: 6. Not everyone likes Headmasters, and I'm not going to say that you will like this particular variant. But having him be Cobra Commander provides potential story fodder, for sure...
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