In this day and age of action figure production, vehicles and large play sets are quite rare. But one of the few hold outs that continues to
produce them is Playmates Toys. In one form or another, they always seem to come up with some way to produce at least one large play set for each new
iteration of the TMNT license. In the case of the Mini Mutants, they opted out of doing a large scale play set and instead planned five smaller
sets that could be connected together. The first two were released with the start of the
toy line. Two more, Don's Secret Surveillance Lab and Mike's Kickin' Crash Pad, were released last fall. Unfortunately it doesn't look like the
final set which was to feature Master Splinter will be produced.
Packaging - 6/10The play sets are packaged in boxes that are about 13 inches by 10.5 inches, but only a couple of inches deep. So it isn't hard to figure out that they are not fully assembled inside. That means that Playmates wasn't able to use a window box as they usually do. Instead the large area on the front of the boxes is used to display a large photo of the play set with the various features demonstrated. They do include a small window to show off the two figures included with each set. The back of the boxes recycle the same large photos from the front as well as adding a couple of smaller photos of the play sets features in more detail. There is also an image showing all four play sets connected together. The packaging looks nice and shows off the product well. The boxes are not the strongest that they could be. But they stand up to basic wear and tear well enough.
Sculpting - 6/10The sculpting for these sets tends to be somewhat basic since it is really meant to be a backdrop more than anything else. Both play sets follow the basic layout started with the first two. There is a larger lower area representing a portion of the Turtles' sewer home and a much smaller section of the street level and some sidewalk up above. For the lab play set, most of the sculpting work is on the back wall. The bricks and electrical boxes are sculpted into the wall. The floor of the lab play set is pretty plain, dominated by a diamond plate patterned ramp. Its upper level has a sidewalk with a store front for the back wall and a street light and newspaper box as well. It looks nice until you put a figure up there and see how short the store front is. Mike's Kickin' Crash pad has a generic section of sewer for the lower level but it does have several items of visual interest sculpted onto it such as a couple of pipes, pizza boxes and spilled sewage. (Or maybe it is spilled jello since it is raised above the floor as much as the pizza boxes.) Its upper level is even more stark than the other sets with at least half of the upper level being nothing but a brick wall. Of course, since there is no sidewalk for most of the upper level in order to leave room for the ramp, that is probably for the best.
The figures included with the sets are Michelangelo with a movie style Foot Soldier and Donatello with the Bigfoot monster. The sculpts for Don and Mike are the same ones that we have seen several times over. (At this point I believe that I have five of them.) So the real draw is going to be Bigfoot and the Foot Soldier. The Foot Soldier is a nice adaptation of the move design to the Mini Mutant style. My one complaint would be that he should be a bit taller. Right now he is only as tall as the Turtles and much smaller than the Foot Tech Ninja from the first series of Mini TMNT figures. But it could be worse, Bigfoot is smaller than the Turtles. He should be twice the size of one of the Turtles and instead he only comes up to their shoulders. Other than being too small, Bigfoot is a nice looking figure.
Paint - 4/10The paint work on both sets is fairly basic. Instead they rely heavily on decals to add detail to the back walls and for the store fronts on the upper levels. The paint work on the Turtle figures is similarly simple as well. There is one area where the sets stand out a bit more which is the two enemy figures. No one is going to call the Foot Ninja colorful, but the number of small paint applications on him for all of the gray trim on his outfit is impressive. A similar amount of work went into Bigfoot. Though he does have a few places where the paint coverage is spotty.
Play Value - Lab 7/10, Crash Pad 3/10Don's Secret Surveillance Lab has a number of features. The lower level has a set of spring loaded doors on the back wall. By pressing a button on the ramp mounted on the back, the doors are suppose to pop open. (I say that they are suppose to, since the release mechanism is not 100% reliable.) There is also a launcher built into the floor that will catapult the included scooter down the interior ramp when the manhole cover on the floor is pressed. It is a nice idea, but there is only enough room to fit on the catapult when the doors are open and it gets in the way when other vehicles try to travel over it. the upper level has a zip line which retracts into the street sign and a trap door in front of the store. Why they would want a trap door that actually brings the enemy into their lair is a whole other question. But one of the features I like best about the set is a real, working weapon rack mounted on the floor of the lower level. It is a small touch. But it is little features like this that allow a child to interact with a play set without being limited to repeatedly using one or two action features.
Mike's Kickin' Crash Pad is limited to just two major features. The first is the ramp Which connects to the upper sidewalk level. Depending upon how you attach it, it can either lead down to the sewer level or start above the sidewalk and end on the upper level. The problem is that in either position there is nowhere to go once you get to the bottom. It either ends off to the side of the lower level or on the short section of sidewalk on the left side of the upper level which isn't even big enough to hold the included skateboard. Attaching another play set can provide more room. But you will still be aimed at the back wall of that play set since they connect at an angle. The set's second action feature is the mailbox on the upper level which will tilt to the side when a button on the sidewalk is pressed. It doesn't move very far and there really isn't much room to place a figure that will put it in the path of the mailbox due to the small sidewalk sections. So as a feature it is all but useless. There is also a pipe which connects to the floor of the lower level with a loop on the end of it. On its own, it is pointless. But if you have both sets, it will serve as an anchor point for the zip line from the Surveillance Lab set. In the end, two marginal action features and one feature that only serves to improve another set aren't that impressive.
Value - Lab 8/10, Crash Pad 6/10The Mini Mutant play sets sold for $20 each. As I said with the first two sets, if you consider that the included figures alone would sell for $6, the play sets are a decent deal. But where the Crash Pad set takes a hit due to the problems with its play features, the Surveillance Lab not only provides several cool features, it also serves as a means to interact with the various vehicles that have been released in the Mini Mutant line up to and including the Battle Shell.
Happy Hunting:The Mini Mutant play sets were available from quite a few stores including Target, Walmart and Toys R Us. Unfortunately most stores have dropped support for the the line. At this point, the one store at which I still see these sets is Toys R Us. They are also listed on Target's web site, but are currently out of stock. There is another option though. Marshalls and TJ Maxx stores have been receiving some TMNT toys in recent months including the Mini Mutant play sets. And the best thing is that you can even save a few bucks if you are lucky enough to find them there.