For those who have read my last few reviews of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures, you know that I have not bee thrilled
with Playmates offerings as of late. And yet I still eagerly bought up those figures at first sight. So what do you think
it would take for me to pass up a set of Ninja Turtle figures for four months? Behold the Shell Kickers, Playmates' latest
line of deluxe figures. Here's hoping that they turned out better than the Shellastic figures.
Packaging - 8/10Just as the basic figures received a packaging redesign last fall, the deluxe figures did too. We have seen this design once already with the Monster Trapper figures and there are few changes made for the Shell Kickers. The cards are wider than the basic figures and the yellow and orange background color is replaced with a much more understated gray. That change alone wins my favor. The bubble is much larger to match the size of the card. While it doesn't have the partially sculpted shape of the basic cards, the left side is angled which keeps it from being too dull. In truth, the size of the cards and bubbles overkill. There really isn't enough figure to fill all that space even with the figures posed mid-kick. The large insert which wraps around to both sides and the bottom hides the empty space well. The back of the card has a series of photos showing the figures in action and the other Shell Kicker figures. The packaging is attractive enough. The only real complaint I have about it is that in looking at the packaging you already begin to get the sense that the only thing these figure have to offer is their one action feature. Once you open them up, you realize that there is good reason for that. But in the mean time, they could have photographed the figures interacting with other figures to downplay that limit.
Sculpting - Leonardo 5/10, Raphael 3/10, others 4/10The overall sculpting of the Shell Kicker figures is similar to the many basic figures we have already gotten in the TMNT line. There are two notable differences. The first is the inclusion of a knob on each figure's back to wind up the action feature. I was disappointed that they didn't do a better job of integrating them into the figure as they did with Gen and the other crumble in defeat figures. The other difference which isn't as immediately noticeable is the longer necks. The action feature for each figure is activated by pressing down on the head. But when the figures were sculpted, the necks were not shortened to compensate for the height added by the button. It isn't horrible, but it should have been fixed. Then you get to the compromises made to the sculpts to accommodate the action features. Leonardo is the only figure to escape with no such compromises. Donatello isn't bad either. Part of the knee pad on his right leg is missing to expose the joint within and there are some larger than usual gaps around the hips. The gaps are only visible from the side, so they aren't a big issue. But I don't know why they felt the need to leave the gap in the knee. But when you get to Michelangelo and Raphael they have large sections of their plastron shells missing near the hips which reveals the mechanisms for the hip joints. I'm generally not too critical of articulation compromising sculpts, but Raphael in particular is pretty bad.
Paint - Leonardo 4/10, Others 6/10The paint work on the Shell Kicker figures is very simple and clean. There are no washes or real detail work to speak of. So why the lower score for the fearless leader? Well, for some reason Playmates felt the need to paint small dabs of yellow across each of Leonardo's arm joints. There really is no need for this since the arms don't need to be in any particular pose for the action feature to work, though lining up the paint marks does ensure that the arms won't get in the way of the action feature. If they wanted to do this, they could have at least used more subdued colors. The yellow marks on green skin stand out too much.
Articulation - Leonardo 5/10, Donatello 4/10, Mike & Raph 3/10Each of the Shell Kicker figures have nine points of usable articulation located in the arms and neck. The arms have rotating joints at the wrists and elbows and rotating and hinged shoulders. The necks are ball joints. But the lateral movement is so limited that they are no better than rotating cut joints. Of course there is more articulation in the legs, but it is only useful as part of the action features. Plus it has a serious drawback. The legs cannot be locked into position to allow the figures to stand properly. Leonardo is the one exception. His left hip, which is the one that creates the kicking motion, is a simple rotating motion and will stop in the proper position to allow the figure stand easily. Donatello can stand. But since his right hip can't be locked into place, the leg slides out to the side. This leaves him doing a partial version of the splits. He can stand, but looks rather silly. Both Raphael and Michelangelo on the other hand have right hips which flop about freely. They can be balanced on top of them to stand. But even a slight bump will cause them to topple over.
Accessories - 5/10Each of the Shell Kicker figures come with their signature weapon(s) which they can hold or store on their belts. But their main accessory is a base to practice their kicking. Each Shell Kicker has their own unique base sculpt: a roof top for Leo, a sidewalk for Raph, a sewer for Mike and a dojo for Donatello. Each base has a clamp to hold the figure's left foot, and three dummy heads mounted on posts to kick. I like the bases. And I was very pleasantly surprised by their size. From the early photos I had seen, I was expecting them to be fairly small. But the bases are large enough for the figure with plenty of 'leg room.' Of course, there is room for improvement. First of all, the reuse of the same dummy heads is disappointing. All four bases have three dummy heads, two of which are the same Shredder and Foot Soldier sculpts. The remaining dummies include Baxter, an elongated lizard type head and a Triceraton dummy which is used on both Leonardo's and Michelangelo's bases. Surely they can come up with more than five different dummy heads. I appreciate that they went to the trouble of sculpting individual bases for each figure. But the sculpting doesn't match the figures as well as they could. And the scale on all but Raphael's is way, way off. It's a shame. These bases really had potential. Personally I keep finding myself wishing Playmates had designed them to connect together. They are large enough that if all four were put together, they could form a really great display piece. You could have had an almost complete roof top or a full dojo training area with a variety of training equipment similar to how some wrestling figure used to come with 1/4 of a ring that you could assemble if you bought all the figures. What we did get isn't bad per say, they just show a slight lack of imagination.
Action Feature - Leonardo 8/10, Donatello 7/10, Michelangelo 6/10, Raphael 5/10Each Shell Kicker figure has a unique kicking action. For Leonardo it is a tornado-kick. The left leg must be anchored for it to work, but when the feature is activated, the entire figure rotates at the left hip. While it is a simple mechanism, seeing the entire figure whip around is impressive. Donatello preforms a simple side kick. When the button is pressed the entire body will lean slightly from the left hip while the right leg comes up and the right knee straightens. It isn't quite as impressive as Leonardo's feature, but it does look good. I do wish that he was able to kick higher. As it is, Donatello can only kick about waist high. Michelangelo preforms a crescent kick. His right leg comes up straight out in front of him. When the leg is almost parallel with the ground, it quickly flies off to the side. Again, the feature works well. But where Leonardo's and Donatello's features move the entire figure, the sight of the leg kicking while the rest of the figure remains motionless is rather odd and not nearly as realistic as the others. Raphael's feature, a cross-kick, is very similar to Michelangelo's. But instead of coming straight up, when Raphael's head is pressed his right leg kicks out slightly to the side before coming up and in until it is straight out in front of the figure. Once again, the lack of movement in the rest of the figure looks very unnatural. The figures have to be wound up using the knobs on their backs. Once that is done, their features are activated by pressing down on their head. Another nice touch is that the figures return to their original position each time. So you do not have to reset them to use the feature again, just press down on the head again. With a full winding, each figure should be able to perform three kicks. I'm not a huge fan of action features normally. I think they do more harm to a figure than what they add far too often. But I do appreciate an original action feature when it works well. And these do work well.
Want to see them in action?
Value - Leonardo 7/10, Donatello 6/10, others 5/10The Shell Kicker figures are the latest set of deluxe figures and carry the same $10 to $12 price tag as previous offerings. But before you can consider their value you have to understand that every aspect of these figures is completely dominated by the action features. If you don't like action features, skip these. I don't mind action features and get a kick out off well designed features that are both original and work. Kicking action may not be the most original idea, but the style of each kicking feature is pretty unique. And they work! Leo is my favorite of the four. He is the only one that could pass as a normal figure and has the best action feature too. Donatello is a close second. Michelangelo and Raphael aren't bad. But with action features that are limited to just one leg and significant compromises made to the rest of the figure for those action features mean that they aren't great either.
Happy Hunting:The Shell Kickers have been shipping since the beginning of the year. So by now they are widely available. I picked these up at Target. But I have also seen them at Walmart and Toys R Us. If you prefer to buy your mutants online KB Toys.com has started stocking the TMNT line once more and have the Shell Kickers albeit for a slightly higher price. And of course there is also Amazon.com as well.