I opened my first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Lego set over the weekend. After a twenty five year absence from my
toy buying radar, I was looking forward to seeing if the new TMNT sets could live up to Lego's impressive reputation
and the first set didn't disappoint. That's good, because there were five more sets sitting in my living room
waiting to be opened and reviewed as well. So now that I got my feet wet with the small set, it's time to move up
to some of the medium sized sets: Shredder's Dragon Bike and Stealth Shell In Pursuit.
Packaging - 8/10The packaging for the Shredder's Dragon Bike and Stealth Shell in Pursuit sets is fairly similar to that of the Kraang Lab Escape set, but with a few notable improvements. Since these sets are larger, the boxes have more space as well. That means that there is enough room to show all of the figures that are included clearly on the front of the boxes. The boxes are thicker as well, so there is less risk of damage to the packaging. I still don't care for the motion effects added to the images on the front and backs of these sets. And would like to see a visual design that would allow these sets to stand out more on shelves. But those issues are fairly minor.
Sculpting/Design - Dragon Bike 7/10, Stealth Shell 9/10Both sets are comprised of one vehicle we have already seen in the Playmates action figure line, one new vehicle, and three figures. For the Shredder's Dragon Bike set you get the Dragon Chopper and a skateboard. The Stealth Shell In Pursuit set comes with the Ninja Stealth Bike and a boat. None of these vehicles have appeared in the cartoon at this point, so the only frame of reference I have for the design of the vehicles is to compare them to the Playmates counterparts. The Dragon Chopper seems like a tough design to pull off in Lego. There are a lot of unusual design elements like the dragon head for the front fender. But the designers at Lego did an impressive job of replicating a lot of them, certainly better than I was expecting. But even so, they were really only able to get the general form. And to accomplish that, they had to make the Dragon Chopper huge. If a Lego figure is suppose to represent a normal human of around 6 feet, the Lego Dragon Chopper would be about ten feet tall and over twenty five feet long! It's a monster truck on two wheels. And as a trade off, it come packed with a fairly simple skateboard with an engine mounted on the back. It is a nice homage to the old Cheapskate minus the fan on the back. But it is absolutely dwarfed by the monstrous Dragon Chopper. The stealth bike is a bit more in line with what I was expecting. The design for the opening canopy is different in that the entire thing lifts up instead of splitting into three pieces as the Playmates version does. The interior is simple, but holds the figure well despite not having a true seat and the figures having a shell in the way. The stealth bike is paired with a jet boat for Fishface. It is a fairly simple design which I'm sure is reusing existing pieces from another Lego set. While neither the Ninja Stealth Bike or boat come close to matching the complexity of the Dragon Chopper, they do seem relatively evenly matched for each other. And if you are a kid who may only have one or two sets, that is important.
As far as the figures go, each set comes with one Turtle, one Foot Ninja and another villain. The Turtles and Foot Ninjas are more or less the same as what came with the Kraang Lab Escape set except for the mask colors for Donatello and Raphael. The Foot Ninjas are identical to the one that came with the lab set. The Shredder and Fishface figures are both new. The Shredder figure is very cool. His face is scarred as it is in the cartoon which is visible through the mask. Fishface is an interesting figure. His design would not translate well to a Lego minifigure. So instead they designed an all new figure for him. Being unique, Fishface is much more detailed than a normal minifigure. But much like the minifigures which are typically flat on the front and back, Fishface's arms, legs and body are fairly flat on the sides. It is a nice attempt to fit in with the regular minifigs, but it doesn't really work. It just makes Fishface seems a bit cheap since his arms and legs are prone to popping off. (While it doesn't impact the score for either of these sets, I also feel a bit disappointed that Lego didn't figure a way to make all four Turtles available through the smaller sets. But it seems that if you are a Leonardo fan, you are going to have to pay almost as much for the cheapest set that includes Leo as it costs to get the other three combined.)
Paint/Color choice - Stealth Bike set 9/10, Dragon Chopper Set 7/10The Ninja Stealth Bike and jet boat both have fairly understated color choices. The Stealth bike is mostly greys and blacks with just a few yellow pieces to spice things up a bit. The only thin that I dislike about it is the use of a pale green for the tire rims and front wheel supports. It isn't bright enough to really stand out from the grey and doesn't fit in with most of the other parts. The jet boat is similarly subdued in the color choices with just a few white pieces to add a bit of visual interest. The Dragon Chopper on the other hand, could use a few color changes. The majority of the upper half is black with just a few red highlights. The bottom of the center section is two shades of gray. I suspect the idea is for those colors to represent the engine. But there isn't enough detail there to make it look like the engine. There is also a piece that connects the exhaust pipes to the body of the bike that doesn't match either in color which breaks up the visual illusion of there being exhaust pipes running from the engine. The skateboard that is packaged with the Dragon Chopper is even worse. The plain brown of the deck is passable as an unpainted skateboard deck. But then there is a layer of yellow bricks upon which is mounted a olive green engine. It is quite an ugly color combination and I can't figure out the reason for it.
Features - Stealth Bike 5/10, Dragon chopper 3/10The Ninja Stealth Bike has a set of projectiles on the top and the opening shell cover. The cover also has a translucent gray "window" that can be flipped open. The jet boat has another pair of projectiles as well as a pair of cylindrical "drums" which can be loaded onto a see-saw launcher on the back of the boat. That isn't a lot of features for either vehicle. But once again, the two vehicles are relatively balanced which is a big plus in my opinion. The Dragon Chopper set on the other hand just has a single set of projectiles on the Dragon Chopper which are mounted just behind the front wheel. Beyond that, the only feature for either the Dragon Chopper or the skateboard would be a small clip on the side of the engine on the skateboard to hold Donatello's bo. The lack of any other features makes the skateboard seems even more underwhelming compared to the other vehicles.
Accessories - Stealth Bike set 4/10, Dragon Chopper set 6/10The Stealth Shell in Pursuit set is supposed to come with two sais for Raphael and two throwing stars for the Foot Ninja. Fishface is left without any weapon which seems like a silly omission give that we know Lego has swords that they could have included. The Dragon Chopper set includes a bo staff for Donatello, a sword for the Foot Ninja and a number of accessories for Shredder. It also includes a small 4x4 flat Lego piece with a map deco on it. The inclusion of the map for Donatello and Shredder to fight over is a cute touch. But the real stand out are all of the accessories included for Shredder. Shredder has two claws which are held in his hands, a spiked set of shoulder pads, a removable helmet and a cape. The use of so many pieces to create Shredder's costume gives the figure great depth and a surprisingly imposing appearance for an otherwise cute little figure.
Value - Stealth Shell 9/10, Dragon Chopper 5/10The Stealth Shell in Pursuit set carries a retail price tag of $20. The Shredder's Dragon Bike set is suppose to sell for $25. The Stealth Shell set gives you two fairly nice vehicles and Fishface who is only available in this set. The Dragon Chopper also gives you the same two vehicles and three figure combination. But the Dragon Chopper is so large, that I don't think I would even want to use it with the normal Lego minifigures. And since Donatello is available with another set, it ends up felling a bit like you are paying $25 mostly just to get Shredder. Given that right now, this is the only way to get a real Shredder minifigure, and the Shredder minifigure is quite nice, I wouldn't say fans should pass up this set. But if Lego makes Shredder available in some other set, the value of this set will drop even further.
Happy Hunting:The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Lego sets are shipping now and seem to be available in most stores that carry Lego sets. I picked up my sets from Target here in Madison, WI. But I have also seen the sets in Walmart and Toys R Us stores. They are available online through those stores' websites as well as at Lego.com.