It's more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Fast Forward reviews tonight. This time it is the line's play set, the Hover HQ. For
those who have not had the chance to see the cartoon, the Hover HQ is part of the Turtles' new motor pool. Its name would
suggest that it serves as a mobile base of operations. But in the cartoon, it is never used as much more than a means of
adding the ability to fly to the Hyper Tank. In the toy line, it does serve as the headquarters for the green teens. And
considering Playmates Toys track record with great play sets such as the original sewer lair play set, the Technodrome
and the sewer lair play set from the modern line, this was one toy to which I was really looking forward.
Packaging - 5/10The Hover HQ comes in a large box, similar in design to the Hyper Tank. There is no part of the actual toy visible, instead the packaging relies entirely on photos to show off the toy in both modes. And it does a really good job of showing it off. The photos of the toy in its vehicle mode make it look both attractive and quite fun. And the photos of the play set mode do a wonderful job of masking the play set's main drawback, its scale. There are really only two issues I have with it. First of all, it's ugly. I just can't stand the yellow backgrounds and find them completely inappropriate for the Ninja Turtles in general. (But if you've been reading my reviews you knew that already.) Well on the Hover HQ's box there is simply a lot of that background visible. This is due in part simply to the size of the box and partly to the fact that the images of either mode have to be a bit smaller to leave room for photos of both modes on each panel. The second issue I have is the weight of the box. It's light, too light for a box of this size. And that isn't a good sign of the value of what is inside. But in truth, by the time someone has pickup it up off the shelf, they are probably going to buy it anyway.
Sculpting - 3/10The sculpting for the Hover HQ has plenty of detail work, but is lacking overall. The vehicle mode in particular is disappointing. The body has a large rotund look that is fairly reminiscent of a turtle withdrawn into its shell. There are a few features on the exterior, mostly weapons in the front and along the sides. But to me it seemed to have a bit of an incomplete look. It took a while for me to figure out what it was that was missing, the front skis. In the show there are large protrusions shaped a bit like the skis of a snowmobile. The toy has them as well, but they are scaled down and barely stick out from the body. They should be much more pronounced. Once you open the play set up, things improve a bit. The entire play set has a very clean look that works well with the futuristic theme of the show and toy line. The interior work that was done looks nice, but there are a lot of areas that were left largely untouched, the entire left wall for example. But the biggest issue is scale. Everything is far too small. The work bench on the right side wall only comes up to the knees of the figures. If the Turtles are suppose to be five feet tall, then the tower would only be about eight feet tall. And the cockpit area is similarly undersized. If you were to look at it without figures, it looks as though it should be rather spacious. But if you actually try to fit two figures in it, they look like sardines. It could be a great play set for mini figures, but there isn't a lot of display options for the full size figures.
Paint - 4/10For such a large vehicle/play set, there is very little paint work on the Hover HQ. Most of the color and highlights come from decals which are pre applied. The only paint work in the play set form is a small panel between the seats in the pilot's area. Everything else is a decal. That's not the worse thing in the world, but it does leave a lot of areas looking quite plain. Areas such as the work bench on the right wall and the elevator and the area behind it could look much better with a little paint. The vehicle mode is better. There are enough paint applications on it plus a few decals to add some contrast and visual appeal. But it is still quite minimal for such a large toy.
Accessories - 6/10The Hover HQ has a lot of parts and accessories. There are two adjustable satellite dishes, a claw on an arm which attaches to the tower, a cannon that sits atop the tower, a zip line, two weapons racks and a Sh'okanabo training dummy, all of which attach to the play set. The set also comes with three chemical canisters, an assortment of weapons and ten missiles. The claw arm is a nice idea, but the scale issues raise their ugly heads again. The claw is so low that it can't even lift an item higher than a figure. The cannon looks nice, but since it can't aim downward, it isn't very useful. The zip line is one of the best accessories of the set. Rather than just being a solid piece of plastic as past zip lines have been, this one has rolling pulleys that allow it to roll smoothly down the rope. The small size of the play set means that there isn't actually enough room for the figures to go anywhere. By the time the rope flexes a bit, the figures are already touching the floor. Still, it is a cool accessory, it just needs better placement. The weapon racks are nothing special. But the center platform makes a wonderful training/dojo space, so a couple of racks to have weapons is useful. The same can't be said of the training dummy. Aside from the fact that the dummy itself is quite small, it is mounted to low to be used by a figure standing on the platform and too high for a figure standing on the ground next to the platform. The chemical canisters are a nice touch. They can be stored inside of the tower and then released to roll across the platform. It's a feature that has been seen in a while and slightly reminiscent of the original Turtle Van. The weapons consist of three different types of staff weapons with the set coming with two of each. Their nice, but a little variety would have been even better. The missiles are pretty simple. But it is nice that all of the launchers use the same type of projectile so that they are interchangeable. With all of that, there's no question that the Hover HQ delivers on accessories in terms of quantity. But I wish that they had spent some more effort to improving the quality.
Play Value - 5/10The Hover HQ is packed with features. But it is also plagued with several basic flaws which overshadow most of those features. To begin with, the vehicle mode lacks depth in its play value. There is almost no means for the figures to interact with it when in vehicle mode. You can't even put a figure into it without opening up the whole front end and top. It does have the option of connecting it to the Hyper Shell. But doing so requires that most of the parts inside be removed and the vehicle opened up to fold the front end out of the way. And then after you do all of that, the Hyper Shell simply pops into place in the front and pops back out just as easily. On a smooth surface, the connection is strong enough to pull the Hover HQ behind the Hyper Shell. But hit a bump or put it on carpet and the Hyper Shell pops right out. (Don't even think about being able to lift the combined vehicle up in the air and "fly" it around the room. The play set mode is better. But the scale issues really hurt it. (After all, who needs to send their figure up an elevator that only goes up about half of the height of a figure, especially when the elevator can't even reach the floor. And who wants a training dummy that makes it look like you are training to kick small animals rather than fight a monster like Sh'okanabo should be.)
The straw that broke the camel's back for me was the process of switching modes. With past play sets like the Technodrome and the modern Sewer Lair, you could fold the play set up with everything inside or close to it. Then they could be opened up and ready to go as a play set. There wasn't much need to disassemble anything. The same isn't true with the Hover HQ. To fold up the playset, the cannon has to be moved/removed, the zip line removed from the side wall, the satellite removed from the back panel, the training dummy removed and both weapon racks removed. If all of that doesn't make the process needlessly complicated enough for you, there is the matter of the support stand. In order to support the weight of the rear wall, there is a piece on the rear of the roof that can be extended to act as a support. In a well made toy, you would expect that part to slide out and lock into place to serve as a support and then slide back into place for the vehicle mode. But on the Hover HQ, the support bracket has to be snapped off and then reattached. And there is only so many times you will be able to do that with the relatively thin plastic before it is going to start to get stress marks and possibly break. In the end, the process of switching is such a pain, that I suspect most people will just choose one mode or the other and not bother.
Value - 3/10The original retail price for the Hover HQ was $50. Unfortunately it just doesn't deliver $50 worth of value. It had a lot of potential. But the scale issues and a few short cuts on Playmates' part kept it from living up to that potential. The good news is that there are some cheaper options. I picked up the set during a buy one get one free sale last fall. (Yes, I'm that far behind in writing these reviews.) Now you can find the set on clearance for around half price. At $25 it is still not a great value, but it should be worth at least that much as a display base/backdrop for figures.
Happy Hunting:The Hover HQ sets have largely disappeared from shelves, but there are still a few options online. Walmart.com and Target.com both have the set available. You may still be able to find it in stores that aren't as fast to clearance items out such as Kmarts or Kb Toy stores as well.