When Playmates Toys decided to push the Mini Mutants line this year they must have been serious. Right off the bat they released a full series of eight figures, four packs with a Turtle and a vehicle and the Battle Shell play set. That would seem to be a pretty complete offering to most people. But Playmates wasn't done there. The Mini Mutant Turtles needed a home. So the line is getting a Sewer Lair. Actually, it is getting four lairs, one for each Turtle. And if you buy them all, you can combine them to form a large sewer play set with a street scene up above. It is an ambitious idea. And with only two of the four sets available so far, we will have to wait to see if the completed lair can measure up to the hype. But in the mean time, Leo's Ninja Dojo set and Raph's Iron Pumpin' Gym have hit store shelves. do a buch of half sized Turtle toys really need a super sized lair? I guess we will find out.
Packaging - 6/10The Mini Mutants play sets are packaged in boxes with a small window to show off the figures that are included. None of the actual play sets are visible. Instead there are large photos of each play set on the front their respective boxes. That same photo is then reused on the back along with a couple of photos showing the features in more detail and one showing all four play sets combined. Overall the packaging is nice, though the material isn't very thick which leaves it prone to damage. But I do get a sense that they didn't quite know what to include on the front of the box since they just reused the same image from the back including all of the balloons showing off the features. So where most TMNT toys have a nice clean look to the front and then more detail on the back, with these play sets there doesn't seem to be much difference between the fronts and backs.
Sculpting - Dojo 5/10, Gym 3/10After seeing the terrific job that Playmates did with the vehicles for the Mini Mutants line and the interior of the Battle Shell, I was really looking forward to the play sets. Unfortunately the play sets have a much more simplistic style to the sculpting. This is particularly true of the upper, street level where they forgo sculpted detail almost completely in favor of a few large decals. The same is true of the lower level of Raph's gym play set. It does have a sculpted rack of weapons. But the sculpt is very flat. It almost looks two dimensional. The Dojo play set is better, but not much. The background of the lower level does have a sculpted wall with a few nice details such as a electrical circuit breaker panel. The bases are the least detailed areas. They border on looking like a preschool toy. I think I'll be happier with the play sets once all four are connected and the sheer size can make up for the lack of detail, but for now, they strike me as being pretty mediocre.
Paint - Dojo 4/10, Gym 3/10Paint work on the play sets is pretty minimal. The upper sections rely mostly on stickers to decorate the walls and signs. They are quite detailed, but they can not replace the depth that is missing from the sculpt. The lower level of the gym also has a large decal to add detail. But once you get past the decals, the paint work isn't that great. The Turtles are suppose to live in a sewer. But every surface is perfectly clean. But I'm most disappointed that they didn't bother to paint the barbell weight that is sitting on the platform in the middle of the lower level of the gym play set. That is just lazy.
Play Value - 6/10Each of the play sets has several action features. The Iron Pumpin' Gym has a trap which will flip a figure up to the sidewalk level and kick any bystanders through the doors. The weight bench is also a hidden cannon. When the barbell weight in the front is pushed, the weight bench turns ninety degrees and fires off a projectile across the gym area. The Dojo play set has four features. There is a sparring area with two platforms which move back and forth and spin the figures when the levers on the front are pushed in or out. There is a break away wall along the back. Finally there are two traps, a training post and a sewer pipe which spin around when triggered by a button. The barbell kick trap on the gym set is creative and works well. But the others are less inspired.
Figures - Gym 8/10, Dojo 6/10Each of the play sets comes with two figures. There is a regular version of one of the Turtles and a villain with each. The Dojo set comes with Leonardo and the movie version of the Shredder. The Gym set comes with Raphael and General Mono. The Turtles are identical in sculpt to the versions included with both the two packs and vehicle packs, but without the silly stealth suits. So if you haven't already bought the vehicle packs, these make a handy way to get the regular versions of at least two of the Turtles. The addition of General Mono and Shredder are nice. But while Mono look fine both in terms of sculpting and paint work, I do wish he had been larger. Shredder works fairly well in the Mini Mutants deformed style until you take off his helmet. The eyes lack pupils which make him look particularly soulless. And since the head is more or less in scale with the rest of the figure, the only thing that is really deformed are his hands. In terms of articulation, General Mono has the same seven rotating cut joints as the Turtle figures: neck, shoulders, wrists and hips. The Shredder on the other hand just has four points of articulation: neck, waist and shoulders.
Value - 7/10The retail price of the Mini Mutant play sets is $20. If you factor in that the two figures alone would account for $6 of that price, $14 for the play sets themselves is not too bad despite the shortcomings. At the very least, they make a nice display background for the Mini Mutants. And they should get even better when the remaining two sets are released.
Happy Hunting:The Mini Mutant play sets are available from most retail stores that carry toys. I bought mine from a combination of Toys R Us, Target and Walmart stores. So finding them in your area shouldn't be too difficult. There is also the on-line option of ordering from Toys R Us.com.