Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair Play Set

box front
The relaunch of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line means all new versions of the green teens, their friends and enemies like Shredder and the Foot Soldiers. But it also means that we have another chance to get a new sewer lair play set. And in this day and age, when large scale play sets are few and far between, that is a rare opportunity. There was a time when almost every major toy line had at least one large playset. From Castle Greyskull to the Deathstar, Boulder Hill to the U.S.S. Flagg, if you were a fan of a toy line back in the 80's, there was probably a play set that went with it. But these days, stores don't want to devote the space for a huge boxed item that is too expensive for most customers to buy. So the play set is becoming a rare sight. But this is one case where Playmates Toys' reluctance to follow the path that the rest of the toy industry is on may work to fans' advantage as it has brought us the third and largest version of a TMNT sewer lair.

Packaging - 9/10

The Secret Sewer Lair comes in a large box, a very large box. At 15 by 27 inches, this is going to be one of those gifts that kids will recognize under the tree as soon as they see the giant box. The packaging is somewhat unique in that there is no front and back to the box. On one side there is a large graphic set in a portrait format to take advantage of the full height of the box. Then when you flip the box over, a similar image is used with the box set on its side to give a 27" wide view of the full width of the image plus a photo of the actual toy with a kid to demonstrate the scale. The four sides of the box are used to show off and list some of the features of the playset, though there isn't room for all of the 20+ features. Overall, the box looks good. And the use of an illustration instead of a regular photo is a nice throwback to the vintage line even though the image used here is done in a much more realistic style than the original toys.

Sculpting - 9/10

The Secret Sewer Lair Play set is fairly detailed and HUGE! I knew it was going to be large, and Playmates is not shy about proclaiming it as over 40 inches tall. But it exceeded all of my expectations. It is twice as tall and just as wide as the 2003 sewer lair. It even dwarfs the Monster Tower play set from the 2007 movie line. I suspect that this play set is in the top three largest ever produced for an action figure line. The U.S.S. Flagg from the 1980's G.I. Joe line probably has it beat and the bat cave from the Batman Forever is probably close. The cool thing is that all that height allows the set to be at least close to being in scale with the figures. It is still a bit small. But it is much better than I was expecting. There is a lot of sculpted detail throughout the sculpt. The only area where they came up a bit short is with the pipes that form the front supports on the left and right sides in the front. They are only sculpted on one side, as is the arch leading to the computer workstation. The pipes are a minor issue. But the arch has the unfinished side facing out towards the front. Ordinarily I wouldn't be put off by this. But Playmates did so well with the rest of the play set, that this short coming sticks out.

While the sculpting is impressive, the more impressive part is the overall design of the play set. It is very difficult for a designer to create a play set that provides room for the kids to play with the figures but doesn't seem sparse. And they really did an amazing job of that here. Not only are there multiple levels vertically, there are layers of depth. They even went so far as to create multiple points where kids are actually encouraged to play behind the play set as well. In the end, all this works to create a play set that isn't just tall for the sake of being tall or having a selling point to plaster on the box. They are actually using the space.

Paint - 5/10

Surprisingly, there are very few paint application on this huge play set. In fact, I think that there are only two! There is sculpted ooze that is painted green on the barrel on the street level and at the end of the chute where the ooze comes out down below. (It's too bad that the mutagen in the new cartoon is blue.) There are about thirty decals placed throughout the piece. Those decals, combined with the variety of colors brought in due so many parts being used, makes this a visually appealing set even if there isn't much paint work. The only place where they did fall a bit short is on the floor of the lowest level right under the periscope. There is not sculpted texture there, and the way the rest of the area is designed, it isn't entirely clear if that is suppose to be floor space or a drain basin. It really could use a decal like what was provided for the sewer pipe leading out the back.

Features - 10/10

This set is loaded with features. The box has it listed as 20+ features. This is no one trick pony. But what really impresses me is that Playmates went for loads of small features throughout the play set instead of allowing the piece be dominated by a single feature as the 2003 sewer lair was. The other nice thing about this set is that almost all of the features are well integrated into the rest of the play set. There are no big red buttons sticking out. And there are no spring loaded traps that go off every time a gnat sneezes on it wrong.

Accessories - 0/10

The only accessory included with the Secret Sewer Lair Play Set is the projectile for the cannon in the electrical transformer. (I suppose you could count the tire swing since it isn't securely attached to the rest of the set, it just clips on wherever you chose.) You don't really need any other accessories though.

Value - 7/10

This is a truly impressive play set, the type that a kid will remember for the rest of their life potentially. But it also carries a hefty price tag as well. Initially it was priced at $120. But since then the price has changed a couple of times to as high as $140. And since the set is an exclusive, you are either going to have to pay that price, hope for a sale or wait and hope it hits clearance. The good news is that it is quite likely that we will see it on sale yet during the holiday season. There was already a coupon available in the beginning of November that reduced the price to $99. I would not be surprised to see it available for that price again.

Happy Hunting:

The Secret Sewer Lair playset is a Toys R Us exclusive. So you have two options for getting one. The first is obviously to check out your local Toys R Us store. You can also watch the Toys R Us website. They have the lair listed, though it has been out of stock for a while.

box portrait mode

assembled lair front

Assembled lair rear

Lair with Monster Tower

unassembled parts fire escape Fire escape ladder transformer cannon (retracted) transformer cannon Elevator door elevator door open elevator top level rear view elevator lower level rear view elevator lower level mutagen barrel mutagen barrel dumped mutagen dump drain platform 1 back side ladder side ladder platform 2 dumpster periscope bottom periscope in dumpster upper tech panel upper tech panel rear view upper tech panel revealed Upper tech panel platform dropped accessories manhole entrance Manhole entrance ladder central stairs central stairs 2 computer station back computer station closed computer station tire swing training dummy Splinter's room Splinter's room door open sewer drain sewer drain rear view lair floor figures in lair