Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fast Forward is here. With the green teens tossed a hundred years into the future, they are
going to need some new gear. And of course, they'll need some new wheels. I've already reviewed their main ride, the
Hyper Shell several months ago. Today I take a look at some of their other rides, the monocycle Steel Wheels and the Shell
Speeders which are a cross between a motorcycle, an ATV and a hovercraft. (How a bunch of unemployed New Yorkers maintains
a veritable fleet of vehicles is beyond me.)
Packaging - Shell Speeders 4/10, Steel Wheels 5/10These are the first basic sized vehicles we have gotten under the new Fast Forward line and I'm not very impressed. The packaging design hasn't actually changed much in form from previous vehicles, just a normal window box with a window that wraps around to both the front and top panel. The changes come in the form of the graphics used. The individual elements are not wildly different, the TMNT: Fast Forward logo, a picture of the vehicle in action, another photo of the action feature and a name plate with the four turtles above it. These items are then recycled for the top and side panels and part of the rear panel. The individual elements are fine, but put together they result in a very crowded looking box. The Fast Forward packaging also marks the return of brighter backgrounds for the packaging. I thought it was ugly back in 2003 and it isn't any better looking now. Nor does it tie into the TMNT property in any way. But at least it stands out on a store shelf. The rear panel is very similar to the previous layout, but with different proportions for the various elements. In particular, the graphics showing other products take up a much larger portion of the space, half of it in fact. As a result, the photo of the actual toy had to be shrunk down to fit with a significant loss of detail as a result. Finally there is the interior and the presentation of the toy itself. Both the Steel Wheel toys and the Shell Speeders are packaged with the figures riding the vehicles. The vehicles are then displayed against a very, very dark backdrop. The background is actually a skyline, presumably of New York in the year 2105. But it is way too dark. Aside from questions about why a major city doesn't have a single light visible, or the fact that such a dark background doesn't fit well with the brighter tone of the new show, it just doesn't show off the toys well. Take a background that is black and dark blue, put a dark green vehicle in front of it and a dark green rider on top of it and guess what, none of it shows up well. The Steel Wheels score better since the gray center section does contrast better. It's isn't a big problem when viewed under the harsh lights of your typical retail store. But when viewed in even slightly dim light, Raph and Leo's Shell Speeders almost disappear into the background.
Sculpting - Shell Speeder 6/10, Steel Wheel 7/10The figures that are included are identical to the basic carded versions in terms of sculpting. It would have been nice if they had at least mixed around the head sculpts to add some variety.
The Shell Speeder starts out as a futuristic ATV. The body is slim and elongated like a motorcycle. The front wheels are mounted on long arms that stick out in front to further lengthen the body. But they also give it a slightly fragile appearance two. (I certainly wouldn't want to see this thing after a head on collision.) The small, narrow turbines/wheels look like they would be more appropriate riding on train rails than speeding down a road. By contrast the rear end is much more bulky and squared off with the wings wrapping around the larger wheels and fenders. When transformed, the front arms rotate to lay flat and then swing out to the sides. The rear wings fold out to the sides and the fenders form the wing tips. The fenders on the front wheels are suppose to do the same. But when you do that they start to look more like guards or bumpers in case the Turtles have a hard time flying without running into things. By leaving them in their original position they tie into the shape of the wing better and extend the wings out past the turbines. The body is lacking in detail in many areas. There is nothing for a control panel. And despite having a jet intake, there doesn't appear to be any exhaust. There is also no good place for the figures' feet to rest or to keep them from hitting the tire/turbine. Granted it is only a toy, but that is still a poor design. There are also a couple of small touches that Playmates missed. They made the stabilizer fins on the back hollow which is easily visible from the sides. They are not that thick. They could have just tapered them a little more and made them solid pieces. Then there are the round gatteling gun looking things sticking out in front of the fins. They have two screw holes in the sides facing the outside into which the stabilizer wings can be plugged. It is too bad they did find a way to move the wings without removing them.
The Steel Wheels have another interesting if wholly unrealistic design. The outer wheel itself is split in half down the middle. Four pairs of feet provide the tread surface and ensure that you will never have a smooth ride and may just rattle a few bones loose. The side panels are detailed enough to keep them from seeming dull but not overly busy. But the pilot's area is really dull and difficult to access. Pulling out the left side helps, but it is still a very tight fit for the figures. And once they are in there, they can't see anything. There is a square sculpted onto the outer rim that might have been intended as a monitor. There should be enough space that they could have put an actual window there allowing the figure to see out between the two halves of the outer wheel. It would also have helped bring more light inside to see the figure and added interest to the area between the halves of the outer wheel which right now is extremely dull.
Paint - 5/10The paint work on the vehicles is minimal. Most of the color comes from the plastic itself. The few paint applications that are done are enough to keep the vehicles from looking too dull, as long as the rider is in place. The area occupied by the figures in both vehicles are very plain, lacking even basic decals for the controls. It's also a shame that they decided to color code the vehicles. Since each of the Turtles has their own Shell Speeder in the show, color coding them means it won't look right if you just buy two more of them for Donatello and Michelangelo. The figures sport a darker paint scheme than their carded counterparts. The armor is all black and the belts are color coded to match the bandanas. The darker armor looks nice and allows these figures to serve as black-ops versions. But once again, the paint work is too minimal. Many of the details in the sculpts are virtually invisible due to the lack of paint detail. And all of them have pieces of armor that are completely unpainted. Quality control on the paint work is pretty good, though there are some stray silver marks on the sheaths for Leonardo's swords.
Accessories - 5/10Each set comes with a pair of projectiles for the vehicle and a set of the Turtle's signature weapons or weapon in the case of Donatello. The projectiles for the Steel Wheels are duel tipped with a red pair for Donatello and green for Michelangelo. The Shell Speeders have two slightly pyramid shaped projectiles that plug in under each handlebar. The weapons for the turtles are cast in translucent plastic and then painted silver where appropriate. They look nice, but paint rubbing off when they are stored can be a problem. On the plus side, the plastic used is fairly stiff which should ensure that wilting won't be an issue. But it also means that the chuks for Mike are too stiff to be posed well. Storage can also be an issue. Leonardo has regular sheaths that are part of the belts. But the other three have hard plastic clips for their weapons which then plug into their belts. Those clips don't always stay on their belts well, particularly on Raphael. Due to the stiffness of the chuks, they tend to pop out easily. And of course, the weapons can't be stored while the figures are in the Steel Wheels.
Articulation - 6/10The new Fast Forward Turtle figures have nineteen points of articulation.
Play Value - Steel Wheels 5/10, Shell Speeders 7/10The main action feature of the Shell Speeders is their ability to transform from ATV to flight mode. Of course they also have the spring fired projectiles that are both launched when a button behind the wind screen is pressed. Their range is limited and it would be nice if they could be fired independently. The Steel Wheels can fire their projectiles independently. And technically they also have two modes, normal and stealth. The difference between the modes is just how far apart the two halves of the outer wheel are and the fact that in normal mode the vehicle makes a clicking noise as it rolls. Turning the handle that sticks out of the back a quarter turn switches modes, plus it gives you a handy place to hold the vehicle while making it roll. (Just don't confuse it with a rip cord and try to pull it out.) Unfortunately the gaps between the feet mean that it tends to stop rolling at those points, particularly on hard surfaces. And while the normal mode where the wheel is wider doesn't look as nice when viewed from head on, it does help to make the vehicle more stable. It's far more stable than I would have predicted.
Value - 4/10 (7/10 if you don't have the basic figures already)The retail price of the Shell Speeders and Steel Wheels is $15. Given that you are getting a basic figure plus a vehicle, that would be a decent deal. Unfortunately that is only true if you don't already have the basic figure. Then it is just a clever way to force you to buy yet more figures. Still, the vehicles are nice and actually have appeared in the cartoon.
Happy Hunting:The Steel Wheel and Shell Speeders are shipping now. Originally I found them at Walmart here in Madison, WI. But since then they have also shown up at Target and Toys R Us .