Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Lego... there are a lot of fans that have been waiting a very long time to see these two childhood favorites
cross paths. There have been TMNT building sets in the past. Mega Bloks had the license for a short time in 2003 and produced half a dozen
sets over two years. There was also an European company that made TMNT building block sets during the run of the original cartoon. But
there is no question that when it comes to building block sets, Lego is the gold standard. Now its time to see if the twenty five year
wait was worth it. There are six sets in the initial wave, ranging in price from $13 to $70. I'm going to start small with the Kraang
Lab Escape set which at 90 pieces is the smallest of the six sets.
Packaging - 5/10The smallest TMNT Lego set comes in an equally small box. The front has a banner with the Lego and current TMNT logos and a CGI image of the four Turtles. Under that is an image of the completed set in an action pose with Michelangelo escaping while a Kraang alien and Foot Soldier attack. The back panel has several photos of the set showing off the features as well as a short comic strip at the bottom. There are a number of small issues that I have with the packaging. The first is that I don't care for the style of image used on the front panel. They are very realistic, to the point of almost appearing to be a slightly altered photo. But the art style lacks whimsical character of either the comic strips on the back or the various CGI animation and video games. I'm also a bit disappointed that the design for the TMNT Lego sets don't stand out better amongst the other current Lego lines. Lego has enough licenses and a wide enough variety of lines to be given its own aisle in most stores. But it generally seems to be fairly easy to see which sets were part of which license or sub-line at a glance. But the TMNT sets are very similar to some of the other lines, particularly the Monster Fighter themed sets. This set also has two issues unique to it due to the size of the box. Because it is so small, there is not enough room on the front to specifically show the figures included in the box. All three are clearly visible in the images on the box. But not being that familiar with Lego, I was still just assuming that all three would be included until I opened the set. It seems like a safe assumption, but it is only necessary to make that assumption because there isn't enough room to display the included figures the way they are on the other five sets. Finally, and most seriously, because the box is so small and the contents relatively light, the box is constructed of thinner material than any of the other sets. Even though the sets have only been out for a week or two, I've already seen a number of them showing dents or other damage.
Sculpting/Design - 9/10When you are dealing with such a small building block set, one of the big challenges seems to be effectively using those parts to create as many play features as possible. I was always disappointed with the Mega Bloks sets as they wasted most of the materials creating environment and structure that ended up being pointless once built. But the Kraang Lab Escape set is just the opposite. There are no wasted parts; everything is there because it adds something to the final product.
Of course, a big part of the set is the three figures and how well Lego managed to translate the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle character designs onto the Lego bodies. The Foot Soldier is pretty straight forward: a standard black Lego figure with painted details. The Michelangelo figure starts with standard Lego feet, body and hands and adds a shell shaped backpack that loops over the neck and a new head sculpt. The face, front shell, belt and knee pads are then painted on. The painted face, while technically out of proportion for the size of the head, works quite well given the use of exaggerated expressions and Looney Toons style wild takes in the current cartoon. Finally there is the Kraang alien. Lego probably could have gotten away with just a pick head attached to some tendrils. They could have even just modified the octopus mold they already have. Instead they created a fully sculpted Kraang body that sits atop a pink Lego head. This is quite cool as it theoretically allows for a Kraang that can be attached to the heads of the enemy. Unfortunately the reality is that none of the characters to whom you would likely want to attach the Kraang (namely the Turtles or Splinter) actually use the default Lego head. But at least you can still have him attack the Foot.
Paint/Color choice - 9/10One of the things that bothered me quite a bit with most of the Mega Bloks sets was the outlandish colors used. Just because the Turtles are green, it doesn't mean that everything around them needs to be green or orange. The Kraang Lab Escape set avoids this almost completely. The red base for the lever to the left of the computer terminal seems a bit off. But to say that that is minor is an understatement. It is also nice that there are no stickers to be applied since they inevitably start to peel off. The few details that are added to bricks are printed or painted directly onto the bricks.
Features - 8/10For such a small set, there are quite a few features here. The containment device has a control panel for figures to 'interact' with as well as a lever on the back to flip the back of the chamber and any figure contained inside free of the base. There are also clips on the side so you can store Michelangelo's nunchuks while he is trapped. That is a very cool and creative touch. The Kraang walker has four moving claw feet as well as a larger pillar to add support (or a target for enemies to attack). It also has two projectile on the sides of the upper portion that can be launched by pressing on the back of each projectile. But they also are held in placed until that time so there is little chance of them falling out and getting lost accidentally. The upper portion can be detached to work as a small flying craft as well. The bubble covering the Kraang alien opens on a hinge on the back. Unfortunately the mounting plate used to attach the Kraang alien is not compatible with normal Lego feet so other figures can't sit in the dome. There is enough room for them to bend over and still close the dome though. I kind of wish there was a bit more for Michelangelo to do in the set. But that would just be extra icing on an already sweet cake.
Accessories - 6/10There are three accessories included with the Kraang Lab Escape set: Michelangelo's nunchukus, a morning star for the foot ninja and a pizza. The morning star seems like a weird choice for the foot ninja, so I'm assuming it is just recycled from other sets. The nunchukus are okay and the real chain links are nice, but it is also a bit plain. The only reason I give the set an above average score in this regard is the inclusion of the pizza. There is really no reason to include it, so it feels like a neat little bonus to the set. It also adds a touch of humor to the set which is quite appropriate for the TMNT license and the current TMNT cartoon.
Value - 9/10The Kraang Lab Escape set has a retail price of $13. Toys R Us started selling it and the other TMNT sets early and at a higher price, but at this point there is little to no reason to pay more than the suggested retail price. Since the only other build block sets I've purchased in the last 25 years were the Mega Bloks TMNT sets from almost a decade ago, that is really the only basis I have for comparison. $13 is almost exactly what the small Mega Bloks sets used to sell for back in 2004 and 2005. Of course, if you compare the piece count, the Kraang Lab Escape is considerably smaller at just 90 pieces compared to the 120+ pieces that most of those sets contained. But in terms of the overall quality of the completed sets, this set is much more satisfying and fun than the Mega Bloks sets.
Happy Hunting:The TMNT Lego sets were released officially on Christmas and have been showing up in most stores that carry Lego kits as they recover from the holiday season and reset their shelves. As I mentioned earlier, Toys R Us jumped the street date and had many of the sets earlier. But by now, they are available in most stores. I bought my set from Target. But I've also seen them at Walmart and they are available directly from Lego.com too.