Playmates Toys focus with the TMNT license has taken a significant shift over this year. The five inch line has been all but
abandoned in favor of the latest incarnation of the mini mutant concept. Now the third series of Mini Mutants have begun
arriving in stores bringing with it the return of the Extreme Sports Turtles and four additional villains: Baxter Stockman,
a Foot Elite, Jammerhead and Shredder who is really based on Shredder's four arm clone from the 2003 cartoon and original
Mirage comic books. While I could happily do without yet another version of Extreme Sports, I am always glad to expand
my roster of bad guys.
Packaging - 7/10The packaging design makes a third appearance with no notable changes. For the most part, that is fine. This design is attractive enough and shows off the figures well. And unlike the Paleo Patrol series, there isn't any real need for a back story for the characters. So the only real downside is that the figures from the various series blend together on store pegs.
Sculpting - Foot Elite & Shredder 8/10, Leo & Don 6/10, others 3/10This is Playmates third outing in the new Mini Mutants style. I'm surprisingly pleased with the transition to the new style on a couple of the figures such as the Foot Elite and Shredder Clone, others are rather disappointing. The worst figure this time around is Baxter Stockman. This is partially due to the fact that they completely abandoned any of the multiple designs which Baxter has had through the recent cartoons. What we did get was a figure that is only recognizable as Baxter in so far as it is a combination of a mechanical body with an African American head. Even getting past the issue of it being inaccurate to the show, it still isn't that impressive of a sculpt. Jammerhead was the other figure that disappointed me, though I was far less surprised in his case. His costume design becomes fairly boring when translated to the Mini Mutant style. They replicated the pose of the full size figure which severely limits the usefulness of the articulation. But his biggest issue visually, is that they lacked a good way to attach the hose that comes from his back to his neck so they just put a collar section between the body and head. This added length along with his rather thin face and extremely tall hair makes the entire head look distorted and stretched out. From what I can tell, both Mike and Raph seem to be new molds of the same master sculpt as the first series of Mini Mutant figures, but with new legs. I can think of a lot of variations of the Turtles that I would like to see made, but Raph wearing moon boots and Mike with knee pads and the legs of a pair of shorts (but not the rest of the shorts) would not likely be anywhere on that list. Leonardo and Donatello are both new sculpts and turned out reasonably well. Leo suffers from the same problem as Mike in that the sculpting for his pants is not continued onto his body. But in his case, that could also be just an issue of the lower torso not being painted properly. The stand outs of this series are the Foot Elite and Shredder clone. Both are new sculpts of course. And both make the transition to the smaller scale and Mini Mutant style while maintaining a nice balance of clean design with enough detail to keep them from being boring.
Paint - Don & Leo 6/10, Jammerhead & Mike 5/10, Raph & Shredder 4/10, Baxter & Elite Guard 2/10When the first series of Mini Mutants figures came out, I was pretty happy with the paint work. The quality control was good and they didn't cut corners on the number of paint applications. They slipped a bit with the Paleo Patrol series. And things have gotten even worse with the third series. Both Donatello and Leonardo have extensive paint work. But the quality has slipped. There are more spots on Donatello where the paint was rubbed off than on past figures. They failed to paint the bottom of Leonardo's torso to match his legs. And the lines on both figures are not as clean as they were in the past. Jammerhead has more complex paint applications than any of the other figures, particularly on his head. But there are a lot of areas where the paint was too thin and the base color bleeds through. The paint work on Michelangelo is alright, but still has more quality issues than such a relatively simple figure should have. Raphael turned out well except for his boots. The border between the boots and legs are both sloppy. And by only painting the boots a single color, they fail to highlight the detail that is there in the sculpt. The paint work on the Shredder clone is pretty minimal. But for this figure, it still looks alright. There are small details such as the wrist guards on the upper set of arms which should have been painted. But I don't get the immediate feeling that the figure is missing paint work. The same can not be said of either Baxter or the Elite Foot. Both have only minimal paint work. And the grey and purple color combination on the Elite Foot is completely inaccurate to the show.
Articulation - Foot Elite 4/10, Shredder Clone & Jammerhead 5/10 others 7/10The four Turtle figures have seven points of articulation each: neck, shoulders, wrists and hips. For figures of this size, that is more than respectable. It is when you get to the villain figures that the articulation starts to slip this time. Baxter has the most with twelve points of articulation counting his wheels. The Shredder Clone loses a point because they did not allow each shoulder to move independently for some reason. The upper and lower pairs of arms are linked together through the body so that each pair has to be moved together. Jammerhead has the normal articulation for a villain in the line: neck, shoulders, wrists and waist. But because of the positioning of the sculpts of his arms, the articulation is far less useful here than it is on previous figures. The Foot Elite figure lacks articulation in either the hips or waist. It may only be one joint that is missing. But that one joint turns a large portion of the figure into a statue. Even the quality control slipped a bit. Leonardo has a loose hip joint which is something that had not been a issue with any of my previous mini mutant figures.
Accessories - Foot Elite 3/10, Baxter 4/10, Shredder Clone 5/10, Leo 6/10, others 7/10In keeping with the extreme sports theme, each figure except Baxter comes not only with weapons, but also some sporting goods. The Foot Elite has the worst accessories with a Razor style scooter and a gun. The scooter is alright, though comically oversized in order to accommodate the figure. But the gun is what annoys me. It is bad enough that they didn't include any martial arts weapons; they even designed the gun after a paintball gun which is hardly a weapon I would want to take into battle against a quartet of trained, mutant ninjas. Baxter is the only figure not to have any sporting goods since his wheels are built into the figure. He does have a pair of large pick axes to use as weapons. The Shredder Clone comes with a pair of roller skates/blades and a double headed hockey stick. Jammerhead has both a long knife and an axe to use as weapons, both of which can be attached to the cable coming from his back. He also has a snowboard which he can use to chase Leonardo down the slopes. The four Turtles each come with a removable helmet, their signature weapons and some sporting goods to match the villain with which they are paired. For Leonardo, that is a snowbike: a bicycle frame with skis in place of tires. Raphael has a pair of skates and a hockey stick. It's too bad they forgot to include a puck. Michelangelo has an off road skateboard. Donatello has the nicest accessory of all: a bicycle with rolling wheels, turning front fork and working kickstand. The extreme sports gear that was included with these figures are better than I would have expected them to be. But they still pale in comparison with some of the gear produced in the Tech Deck and other similar toy lines.
Value - 5/10The Mini Mutant two packs will set you back $6 to $7 in most stores. If you are very fortunate, you can find them for a little less. That isn't a bad price for two figures plus accessories even if these are obviously much smaller figures than the regular line. But the value of this series suffers from several issues. First and foremost you have a slip in quality for the paint work and accessories. But more important is the character selection. I'm sure there are plenty of individuals who don't feel the need to add another variation of the Turtles to their collection just to get a new villain. This was less of an issue with the first series where they were all new characters and the second series where at least there was some connection between the two figures in each two pack.
Happy Hunting:The third series of Mini Mutants have been shipping for a while now. So depending upon the rate of sell through of older products in your area, they shouldn't be too hard to find. Right now, all of the major toy retailers including Toys R Us, Target, KB Toys, Kmart and Walmart carry these figures. (Not all Walmart stores carry TMNT products any more though.) I have yet to find them for sale online yet other than through eBay. But they should eventually show up at Toys R Us.com.