TMNT Shell Shifters

group photo
With the lack of recent releases for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy line or most of the other lines I'm interested in, I've finally had a chance to go back and fill in a few holes in my collection. One such hole is the Shell Shifter figure/vehicles. A follow up to the MECH wreckers of a few years ago, these are another attempt by Playmates at creating full sized mechanical fighting suits for the Turtles.

Packaging - 6/10

The Shell shifters are packaged in a standard window box which allow you to see the front and top of the toys. There is also a photo showing the transformed mode of the toy. The sides show off the other three Shell Shifters and the transformation process. The back of the boxes have more photos of the mechs and how to transform them once again. While the packaging is reasonably attractive, it doesn't do a lot to make the Shell Shifters look like a fun toy. The Shell Shifters are too large to be packaged in anything but a neutral standing pose even if the toys were capable of more. But a large part of the problem is the packaging in designed to try to sell the Shell Shifters primarily on their ability to transform. It seems like a reasonable idea. Kides love giant robots, especially ones that transform. But simply leaning backwards is a really lame transformation. So when that is all the packaging tries to promote, the toys themselves seem pretty dull. It should also be noted that the Shell Shifter boxes seem to be more prone to damage than most TMNT toys. I had a great deal of trouble finding a set without at least some significant damage to add to my MIB collection. That is likely due in part to the fact that I waited so long to buy mine. But it also is due to the fact that the Shell Shifters are heavier than most TMNT toys but the packaging was not strengthened to compensate for that.

Sculpting - Leo/Raph 6/10, Don/Mike 5/10

Playmates cut a few corners with the Shell Shifters. Unlike the MECH Wrekkers which shared one of two main bodies and then had unique arms, legs and other components to make four different toys, there are only two different Shell Shifters: one for Leonardo and Raphael and a second one shared by both Donatello and Michelangelo. And even those two reuse parts from the Mech Wrekker toys. (In Playmates defense, they did make a number of minor changes to the sculpts.) I don't mind the reuse of parts from the MECH Wrekkers in principle. But it does create an issue since the movie style figures included with the Shell Shifters are bigger than the ones that were included with the MECH Wrekkers. As a result, Donatello and Michelangelo barely fit in their cockpits. Leo and Raph's Shell Shifters have real rubber treads similar to a tank which is far more interesting as a toy than the immobile feet of the other two. There is one area where both Shell Shifter designs fall flat on their face, the hands. They don't have any! Instead, Playmates gave Michelangelo and Donatello's mechs a pair of club/scepter/ missiles which plug into the arms. As a alternative in addition to some form of normal hand they could have been a nice bonus. But on their own, they don't really cut it. Raphael and Leonardo's mechs are a little better since they come with a drill like weapon for the hands. They have their short comings, but at least they look like they could be weapons.

Paint/Decals - Donatello 3/10, others 4/10

Playmates went with a slightly more realistic choice of colors for the Shell Shifters with each turtle's signature color for accents. They then use stickers to add additional detail. The results are pretty lackluster. The paint isn't enough to make the details of the sculpts stand out.

Articulation - 3/10

The articulation for the Shell Shifters is limited almost entirely to the arms. They rotate at the shoulders and have hinged elbows. The wrists rotate as well. And of course the cockpits open as well as the shielding over the legs. Leonardo and Raphael's units also have projectile launchers on their shoulders that move.

Accessories - 4/10

The main accessory for the Shell Shifters are the included pilot figures. Each one comes with a TMNT movie figure, but none of their weapons. Of course each Shell Shifter also has the weapons that plug into the wrists. For Donatello and Michelangelo's mechs, those are a pair of simple club like attachments. Leonardo and Raphael's mechs have large drills which have a hinge at their base and a rotating drill head. All of the Shell Shifters also have projectiles for their shoulder cannons. Leonardo and Raph's have a third projectile as well.

Play Value - 2/10

The Shell Shifter's major feature is the ability to transform from mech mode to assault transports. It's a neat idea. But since it consists entirely of leaning backwards and resting on wheels mounted on either the arms or the cannon above the cockpit. Such a transformation doesn't really make a lot of sense though. The Shell Shifters do retain the motorized movement function of the MECH Wrekkers. And that function can be used either while standing or when transformed. Beyond that, each mech has spring loaded projectiles on each shoulder as well as a third one above the cockpit of Leo and Raph's mechs. Turning the knob on the back of each launcher will cause them to fire. They are actually fairly strong. Finally, each arm has a knob behind the elbow which allows you to spin the weapon attached to the wrist. All the features work, but they are pretty underwhelming.

Value - 3/10

The Shell Shifters sold for $20 to $25 originally. That is a fairly steep price, particularly if you want to get all four. That fact that each Shell Shifter comes with its own figure, which on its own would cost you at least $8 does help to justify that price somewhat. But at the same time, it is hard to imagine that very many fans are going to buy these and not already own at least one version of the TMNT Movie figures.

Happy Hunting:

As I stated in the beginning, I am very late in buying the Shell Shifters, much less writing this review. So at this point, finding them at retail is going to be tough. The only place I know of that still has them is Toys R US which has the Donatello and Raphael Shell Shifters listed on their web site. If you are looking for the other two, you will probably have to go to the secondary market and check out sites like eBay.

Shell Shifter Leo MIB Shell Shifter Leo box back

Shell Shifter Raph MIB Shell Shifter Mike MIB

Shell Shifter Don MIB

Shell Shifter Raph

Shell Shifter Don

Shell Shifter Raphael front and back Shell Shifter Raphael figure Shell Shifter Donatello front and back Shell Shifter Donatello Figure Shell Shifter Michelangelo Shell Shifter Michelangelo front and back Shell Shifter Michelangelo figure Shell Shifter Michelangelo cockpit Shell Shifter Michelangelo in mech Shell Shifter Michelangelo accessories Shell Shifter Michelangelo weapon storage Shell Shifter Michelangelo weapons Shell Shifter Michelangelo win assualt vehicle mode Shell Shifter Mike and Don Shell Shifter Donatello and MECH Wrekker Don Shell Shifter Leonardo Shell Shifter Leonardo front and back Shell Shifter Leonardo figure Shell Shifter Leonardo cockpit Shell Shifter Leonardo accessories Shell Shifter Leonardo launchers Shell Shifter Leonardo arm weapon Shell Shifter Leonardo assualt vehicle mode Shell Shifter Leonardo and Raphael shell Shifter Leonardo and MECH Wrekker Raph