It has been quite a while since My last review of a Mega Bloks set, almost a year in fact. But Mega Bloks only seems
to do one series
per year. But the good news is that with the new year comes new offerings. There are only two new sets
this year: the Mutation Garage
and Space Lab.
Packaging - 9/10The Shell Shock sets are essentially basic sets. But Mega Bloks has made radical changes to the packaging. The old boxes with the plastic insert in one corner are gone. The new sets come in three quarters of a five panel box. There is a complete rear panel. The side and front panels then taper until the right side panel is only about one third of the height of the box. The space left by the absence of most of the front panel is occupied by the turtle shell shaped storage case. The two figures that are included with each set, their weapons and a couple of bricks are displayed above the shell. The front panel shows the completed set, figures and vehicle. The front panel can be opened to reveal more pictures of the completed set and a second vehicle that can be built with the parts included. The back has another, large image of the set as well as photos of the three currently shipping TMNT sets. (The two Shell Shock sets and the Combat Lair set.) The packaging is certainly original and stands out even in the building block aisle with its ever increasingly creative packaging.
One word of warning here, I don't know how Mega Bloks packages their sets, but I have yet to actually get the right parts in with any of the six sets I've bought. The good news is that every time they have actually put in extra parts. I have yet to find anything missing. Still, as a matter of practice I suggest taking inventory of each Mega Blok set before you start assembly. If nothing else, it should save you considerable anxiety when you try to figure out where the extra parts go. Oh, and the Space Lab set comes with several parts that are not used. They are there for building the optional "building challenge" vehicle.
Sculpting (playset/vehicle design & figures) - Space Lab 4/10, Mutation Garage 7/10As with the first series of Mega Bloks sets, the big draw with these sets is the figures. Unlike the previous sets, the Shell Shock sets only come with two figures: a turtle and an Elite Guard. Unfortunately, after the first four sets, we have already gotten several of the turtle figures and there aren't any changes for the Shell Shock sets. But the Elite Guards are certain to be a big draw for most fans. The Elite Guard sculpt turned out reasonably well. The head is slightly oversized and the hat doesn't sit quite as low on the head as it should. But those two problems can be attributed as much to the block figure style as anything else.
None of the Mega Bloks sets have been very complex and the Shell Shock sets follow that same pattern. The Space Lab set has three computer consoles with only one chair, two oil drums, a large orange tank and the launch platform. The computers aren't very interesting and in general have been done to death in the past. Even the focal point of the set, the launch platform is dull and unimaginative. The Mutation Garage set fairs much better. The majority of the play set is taken up by a repair bay with two small ramps on which to park the vehicle. The back of the play set has a work bench for Donatello's tools and a computer for him. There are also two towers with some stadium style lighting. It's not a whole lot more complex than the Space Lab set, but it does fit the character better and doesn't look quite as generic.
While the contents of these setups is fairly minimal, the bases themselves are rather unique and deserve note. Both sets come in the same large turtle shell case. The shell is hinged on one side so that it can be set on any flat surface and opened with the top section forming a background for the set. It's a cute idea, but the execution didn't quite measure up to my expectations. Due to the space constraint of fitting everything on the back of the plastron, the sets seem quite small when opened. I suspect this is also the reason why the environments are so sparse as well. The backgrounds were a good idea on paper but fall a bit flat in reality as well. Rather than being painted onto the inside of the case, the backgrounds are vinyl sheets that sit over four pegs and are held in place with small building pieces. For the garage set, the pieces included were at least green so they sort of blend in, but the Space Lab set's back ground is held in place with four orange blocks that stand out like safety cones! The backdrops also pose a problem when the set is closed as they wind up taking up too much space and still get dented/pushed in by the other parts. The final short coming to the shells is that they don't serve a purpose. When I bought the sets, I assumed that they would serve as storage/carrying cases. But there isn't anywhere near enough room inside the shells to store everything unless you take everything apart. (And if you do, don't forget your instructions.) And I wouldn't suggest using it for that any way because the shells don't latch shut very securely. You'll probably be picking pieces up from all over the ground before long.
The final component of each set and the lion's share of the parts is the vehicle that comes with each set. For the Space Lab set, there is a small single-man space ship. The Mutation Garage comes with a dune buggy type off-road vehicle. Both vehicles are all right in their own right. But neither is that interesting nor are they related to the TMNT in any way. I was particularly disappointed to find that the off-road vehicle can't even fit through the garage door of the existing sewer lair set. After the great little Sewer Slider that came with the earlier sets and the very cool Battle Shell, these just don't measure up.
Paint (color choice) - Garage 5/10, Space Lab 3/10Once again, the mini figures for both sets turned out fairly well. That's a good thing since they are probably the biggest selling point for most people who buy these sets. Sadly it goes downhill from there. Some of the color choices for the bricks are poor, others just down right strange. The over use of orange brick is particularly odd, especially since neither of the sets has anything to do with Michelangelo. The Mutation Garage set fairs pretty well. The orange bricks were limited to just the undercarriage and rear fenders of the vehicle and not used on the play set at all. Still, things like the green workbench top, green bricks for the computer, and blue circles for the tire tracks on the floor are a little strange. A simple change in the color of the bricks used for these three things could have greatly improved the look of the set. A coat of gray paint on the yellow base would have really been nice as well. Color choice on the Space Lab set is just sad. I've already mentioned the orange bricks used to hold the background in place. As with the Mutation Garage set, all the computers in the Space Lab set are green?!?! The launch platform rests on a base of all red bricks which while not a bad color choice, ends up being rather bland with so little else around it. The space ship at least limits the use of the orange bricks to accents such as the fins on the wings.
(For those who are wondering why I didn't mention any stickers, there are some included, but they are mostly used just for the computer monitor panels and keyboards and an occasional vent. They don't really add much detail to the sets overall.)
Articulation - 4/10The Mega Bloks figures have seven points of articulation: neck, shoulders, wrists, and hips. Technically the Elite Guards have an additional point of articulation as their hats are a separate piece and can be turned. Why you would want to turn there hats around since they are the same all the way around, I have no idea.
Accessories - Lab 5/10, Garage 7/10I have been extremely happy with the accessories included with the previous TMNT Mega Bloks sets. But these didn't seem to be on par with the past offerings. The lab comes with just four accessories, two sais for Raph and an ax and spear for the Elite Guard. Being a space themed set I would have expected a laser gun or air tank of some sort thrown in there. The garage is a bit better. It comes with the same axe and spear for the Elite Guard and one of Donatello's bos. But it also adds a screw driver, socket wrench, box end wrench and a drill driver. (My set even had an extra drill driver thanks to Mega Bloks poor packaging skills.) In general though, I'm extremely disappointed that we didn't get all four of the Elite Guard weapons. I suspect that the two we did get came from Mega Bloks' Dragon line. So there doesn't seem to be any reason why they couldn't have made a trident and double sword for these sets and justified the cost by using them in future Dragons sets.
Value - Space Lab 3/10, Mutation Garage 5/10After a year of waiting, these sets are quite a let down from the past four. At just $13 at Walmart, the price is reasonable, especially compared to other building block products. Had Mega Bloks thrown in a third figure with each set, especially an extra Elite Guard figure with the missing two weapons to make a complete set of four the value would have been greatly improved. But as it stands, the lab set seems to make you buy a sparse, uninteresting environment, a small space ship and a figure your probably already have or at least could get from a better set just to get the Elite Guard figure. The Mutation Garage is a little better due to the strength of the garage. But in the end I still feel like I wound up spending $26 only to come up two Elite Guards short.
Happy Hunting:I found these sets at the Sun Prairie, WI Walmart. Since then I have also seen them at Shopko stores in the area. Given some time to recover from the holiday season and reset/restock their shelves, these should be available at most toy stores that carry Mega Bloks. Online you should probably watch Amazon.com as they have carried all of the TMNT sets so far.