In the ninties, Playmates was very quick to combine their cash cow license, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with every other license that they got
their hands on. Some of those results were just a bit unusual such as the Jim Lee TMNT figures. Others were strange to the point of defing reason.
(a TMNT Water Baby?) But few of the ideas ever really went anywhere beyond a single series of figures. The one exception to this is when they combined
their Exo Squad license with the Turtles to create the Muta Force figures. On the surface, it is a pretty strange. The Turtles are trained martial
artists. Furthermore, they live in a sewer with limited access to resources. So why, and perhaps better yet, how would they build mechanized suits?
What ever the reasons for thier initial creation, the idea has resurfaced several times since then, first with the M.E.C.H. Wreckers and then Last year's
Shell Shifters. And now they have been resurrected once again as a a part of the Mini Mutants line as the Exoskeleton figures. And since all indications
seem to point to this also being the last offering in the Mini Mutants line, lets hope they were able to go out on a high note.
Packaging - 8/10The Exoskeleton figures are the second set of figures to use the slightly redesigned packaging that we first saw on the Aerial Assault figures. It is similar to what they have been using since the TMNT movie, but they have brightened it up quite a bit. The piping is gone from the bubbles, replaced with an insert designed to resemble an old subway tunnel. The back shows all five Exoskeleton toys along with a brief explaination for the Turtles having such items. Unlike with the Aerial Assault figures, the new design works well here because the the Exoskeletons are large enough not to be overshadowed by the packaging.
Sculpting - Raph 4/10 Leo 7/10, others 8/10Before opening the Exoskeleton figures, I was fully expecting the figures to rely heavily on recycled parts with limited decorative parts. But that is not the case. The Mini Mutant figures which are included are of course identical to the previously released versions. But the Exoskeletons themselves are all new and unique. Of the five designs, the one that stood out the most was Raphael's unit, but for all the wrong reasons. Its design seems to be heavily based on the powerloader from Aliens. It has rather lanky arms with sai shaped clamps in place of hands. And like the Aliens design, the pilot is left very much in the open. The design doesn't make a lot of sense for a machine meant for battle, but my real issue with the figure is that the detail work on the mech is lacking and fairly flat where it does exist. It makes the entire toy look clunky. But Raphael's mech is the only one to suffer from that problem. The other four have a nice balance of detail work and overall design. There's really only two issues that annoy me about them. The first is that Michelangelo's mech has two large windows over the pilot, both set to the side. But that leaves the pilot staring straight into the center post. To make matters worse, the windows mean that you can see the figure staring at nothing. The other rather odd design choice is Leonardo's mech. It is designed to resemble a samurai's armor. what is strange is that the mech is designed with the pilot left almost completely unprotected.
Paint - Raph 3/10, Mike 6/10, others 5/10The quality of the paint work on the Exoskeleton figures is quite consistent and without any significant issues. There is however a great deal of variation in the amount of paint work. Raphael's mech has very little paintwork at all. It does have some color thanks to accent pieces being molded in a different color. But it still leave the toy looking very bland. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Michelangelo's mech which has a large amount of painted surface area. There isn't any detail work on it which is a shame. Had they added more painted accents The toy could have been really amazing. The other three Exoskeletons more or less split the difference between the extremes set with Raph and Mike's suits. By judiciously painting a few key areas and details, they break up any large areas with the exception of each mech's back. The end rexsults are not that impressive, but they get the job done.
Articulation - Shredder 8/10, others 6/10This is another area where the Exoskeleton figures greatly exceeded my expectations, at least in terms of effort. The end results are a slightly different matter. All five have a significant amount of articulation, between a dozen and eighteen points of articulation. That includes shoulders which swivel forward and back at the torso, rotating shoulders, hinged elbows, rotating wrists, and hinged hips, knees and ankles. And of course there is also some additional articulation for the opening cockpits and a few of the features. They could easily have gotten away with as few as a half dozen basic joints on these figures. Instead they not only fully articulated the figures, they also designed them with working pistons at many of the joints. There are limits though. Most of the joints have a very limited range of motion, often less then forty five degrees. In fact, the only joints with a full range of motion are the elbows on Shredder's mech.
Accessories - Raphael 5/10, Shredder & Michelangelo 8/10, Others 7/10With the exception of Raphael, each of the Exoskeleton figures have both weapons for the mech and for the figure itself. In Raphael's case, his sais take the place of the hands of his mech. It does still have a projectile for a weapon and a pair of sais for the Raphael figure. Shredder on the other hand actually has two weapons for his mech, a large sword and bladed staff, as well as a weapon for the Mini Mutant Shredder figure and his removeable helmet. Both Donatello and Leonardo have small weapons for the figures and matching larger weapons for their mechs as well as projectile weapons. In Leonardo's case, the launcher on his left arm can be removed as well, though doing so serves no purpose. Michelangelo has two pairs of nunchuks, one for the small figure and one scaled for the mech to use. There is also a projectile launcher mounted on the top of his mech. And he has one other unique accessory, a translucent drum with a removable top which can be held in the mech's right hand which is actually a claw, or attached to its back. It doesn't have an immediate, obvious use. But such unique accessories are the type which can greatly increase the play value of a toy.
Value - Raphael 5/10, Others 7/10The retail price for the Exoskeleton figures is $10 to $11 each. Given the complexity of these toys, that isn't a bad price considering that they come with a Mini Mutant figure with them. I do question the point of them in so far as giant mech don't really fit in with any of the other Mini Mutant toys very well. It is particularly strange to think of the Turtles having four giant mechs when Shredder's Exoskeleton is the only enemy vehicle in the entire Mini Mutant toy line unless you want to count the scooter that came with the Elite Foot figure in series three.
Happy Hunting:The Exoskeleton toys have been out in stores for quite a while now. But if you can find a store that still stocks TMNT toys, they should still be available. Sadly, around here the only store left with them is Toys R Us. But if you can't find them locally, they are still available from their web site.