The toy industry likes to follow trends. When one company has a successful line other companies will often take traits from the successful line and incorporate it into their own. It has led to an increase in scale and detail in the nineties. The success of the Toy Biz's Marvel lines helped to pave the way for more and more articulation. The latest trend seems to be going small. Over the last year or so, Hasbro has launched small scaled versions of all of their most popular licenses. And now Playmates is jumping on that bandwagon with the reintroduction of Mini Mutants to the mass market.
Packaging - 2-packs 7/10, Vehicle packs 6/10The packaging for the Min Mutants retains the designs from the TMNT movie products including using the same sewer for the background and CGI versions of the four Turtles on the insert at the bottom of the bubble. They have also adopted the molded bubbles with the shape of a sewer pipe running along the edge of the bubble. The back of the cards have photos of all four two packs or the four vehicle sets. They don't bother with much text but the background used keeps it from looking dull. The only drawback that I see to the packaging is that the graphics tend to overwhelm the toys themselves. This is particularly true with the vehicle packs where three fourths of the bubble is covered with the insert. The result is that it is harder to see just what comes with the toy.
Sculpting - Turtles 4/10 others 7/10This is both Playmates' first forray into figures of this size and style as well as my own. As such judging these figures is a bit more difficult than usual as there isn't much of a benchmark for what the figures should look like. I will say that in looking at some of the similar sized figures done by Hasbro in a toy store today, the new Mini Mutant figures are more detailed. They are also a step up from the mini figures that Playmates produced for the TMNT Movie last year. The Turtle figures have a few issues with quality, particularly with the ones that came in the two packs. Many of the limbs are slightly warped leaving gaps at the points of articulation. What is odd is that the Turtles that come with the vehicles, despite being the same sculpts, don't have this issue. Even when the quality control isn't an issue, the various parts of the sculpts do not fit together and flow as well as they should. The neck at the base of the heads is more narrow than the top of the neck on the bodies leaving a ledge around the joint. The bodies were flattened around the hips and shoulders to allow free movement of the joints but that looks unnatural. Happily, the villain figures seem almost completely free from these issues making them the real draw of the two packs.
I do have one other note about the new style of Mini Mutant. They don't seem to know what style they want to do the figures in. Playmates' previous offerings of small scale figures since the Ninja Turtles line was revived in 2003 have aimed for realism in the sculpts. That is not the case here. These new Mini Mutants follow in the foot steps of some of Hasbro's recent lines like Galactic Heroes, Robot Heroes and Super Hero Squad figures in adopting a super deformed style. Traditionally, super deformed style entails shrinking the body, arms and legs while increasing the size of the head, hands and feet. The question then becomes how much you want to "deform" the figures. It doesn't look like the designers at Playmates Toys decided that yet. On the sculpts for the Turtles, the stylizing is barely noticeable. Granted, this is partly because they are based on the designs of the TMNT movie which already borders on the SD style with their large feet and hands. But even if you look at the four villain figures, you can see that the style isn't consistent. Rat King and the Foot Tech Ninja both have a very pronounced, SD style. (And I must say, they look quite cute as a result.) It is much less noticeable on Hun. But as with the Turtles, that has a lot to do with the character. Hun has such a large body that once it has been scaled down, it just brings in into normal human proportions. But then you have the Triceraton who just looks like a scaled down version of the full sized figure. In fact, I have seen one person's collection of an army of Mini Mutant Triceratons and didn't realize that they were not five inch figures until I read the captions. Hopefully Playmates Toys can lock down the style as they move forward.
Paint - 7/10The paint work on the Mini Mutant figures is generally well done. Despite the small size of the figures, they did not skimp out on the paint work, particularly on the villains. But with the diminutive size comes a significant drawback: any quality control issue becomes a big issue because the painted areas are so small. That being said, of the twelve figures I have, only the stealth suited Mike from the two pack has such a problem on my figures beyond a tiny spot here or there. That figure does have issues though. The white paint for the mouth was a little too thick and got onto the lips. The white for the eyes bled onto the bandana area and there is a small spot above his eye where the orange of the bandana came off. Any one of this things would be minor. But with all three of them within a space of a quarter of an inch and in such an important spot makes them stand out. Still, these are right in line or slightly better than what you would generally expect from a mass market action figure. But if you are a stickler for paint quality, you should take a close look at the figures in the store before you buy them to be on the safe side.
Accessories - Vehicle Packs 9/10, Two Packs 6/10The two packs of figures come with just the basic accessories. Each of the Turtles come with their signature weapon or weapons: swords, sais, a bo or nunchuks. Each of the villains comes with a weapon also. Rat King has his cinder block and barbed wire club. Hun has a hammer. The triceraton has a laser. And the Foot Tech Ninja has a set of swords. Rat King's club is a bit lacking in detail, but otherwise the weapons are nice. that's particularly true considering the size of the figures. I believe these are the only figures of this type to even come with handheld weapons these days. At the very least, they are the first small scale TMNT figures to have separate weapons since the Mini Mutants of the nineties.
The Turtle/vehicle two packs come in two varieties. Leonardo and Rapheal both come with a Shell Cycle painted in their colors, a stunt ramp, three traffic cones, and their weapons. Donatello and Michelangelo come with a Sewer Slider with a projectile for it to fire, a break away traffic barrier, and their weapons. Both types of vehicle have a pull back feature that propels the vehicles forward when a button either on the side of the Sewer Slider or seat of the Shell Cycle which sets them in motion. The Sewer Sliders also have a projectile which can be launched from the front. Both vehicles are nicely detailed. But the Shell Cycles definitely lose cool points for having training wheels for stability. But Leonardo and Raphael have the advantage when it comes to the other accessories. Michelangelo and Donatello's sets just come with a break away traffic barrier. By contrast, Leonardo and Raphael come with a stunt ramp for them to jump over on their cycles. They also have three traffic cones so that you can set up small obstacle courses.
Value - Vehicle Packs 8/10, Two Packs 6/10The two packs of figures sell for just under $6 in most stores while the vehicle packs sell for $8. Those prices are in line with other, similar toy lines even while these figures have several advantages over those lines such as the added articulation and accessories. The problem with the Mini Mutant toys is that the value drops as you buy more of the available sets. You could get by just buying the two packs, but most fans are going to want regular versions of the Turtles without the black stealth suits. The vehicle sets provide you with the regular versions of the Turtles. But then half of each of the two packs become unnecessary. And if you are buying all of the vehicle packs to get a full set of the regular Turtles, you are paying for duplicate sets of accessories. And it will only get worse as additional products like the play sets are released. There is just no way to get into this line without being forced to purchase the same or almost the same version of each Turtle over and over.
Happy Hunting:The Mini Mutant toys are enjoying fairly wide distribution, particularly the two packs. I have seen them at Toys R Us, Target and Walmart stores. Basically, you should be able to find them anywhere that carries TMNT toys. The vehicle packs are tougher to find. Thus far I have only seen them at Walmart stores and at Walmart's web site. Hopefully that will change with time.