My return to childhood via Lego continues as the sets get bigger. Up for review this time is Lego's take on the Turtle's home
from the new cartoon series in the form of the Turtle Lair Attack set. It's certainly not surprising that we should see the
Turtles' subterranean home as a part of the Lego line. Both Mega Bloks and the European company that did the building block
sets for the original cartoon both included sewer lairs. But what is surprising is that at 488 pieces, the Turtle Lair Attack
set is only the second largest set released in the first round of the TMNT license. But while it isn't the largest, it seems
like a very good contender for the best set of the series.
Packaging - 7/10The packaging for the Turtle Lair doesn't really vary in its design or execution from the previous TMNT Lego sets I've reviewed recently, so I'll by breath and skip the the description. Because the box is larger, there is more space for larger photos and images of all of the mini figures that are included. Lego also made the box of thicker material, so the risk of shelf wear is not an issue here as it was with the Kraang Lab Escape set. However, while the box is larger, so is the completed set. As a result the image of the lair is still fairly small to see all the detail. The colors of the set also match the background are very similar to the colors of the set itself, so it is a bit difficult to tell what is product and what is backdrop. It is also worth noting that since the lair set is much shorter on the left side than the right, it leaves a lot of unused space on that part of the box which had to be filled in with additional background.
Sculpting/Design - 10/10As I looked at the photos of this set on the box, I wasn't that impressed. It seemed small and fairly cramped and cluttered. But as I went through the process of assembling the set, I was repeatedly surprised at just how much thought and detail went into the design. With a set like this, there has to be a balance between the the size and the complexity while keeping the piece count under control. Lego did an amazing job of designing a lair set that is quite detailed, where almost no brick is included without a good reason. The backside of the play set is the one weak point. But even that wasn't completely ignored. Little touches like the TNT sticks on the back of the wall keep it from being too dull. The other trick that Lego pulled off with this set is managing to make so much of the set modular so that it can be expanded as space allows by removing components such as the Shredder training dummy or the equipment for Donatello's lab. With all of the components attached to the main play set, it will fit in as little as a single square foot of table space. But by popping out the components the same set can expand into a much larger play area without before seeming sparse.
The Turtle Lair Attack set includes five mini figures. (Five and a half if you want to include the Shredder dummy) We get another Foot Soldier and Ray Bradford in his Dark Ninja outfit as the two enemy figures. On the good guys' side, the set includes another Raphael, this time with his teeth bared, Splinter and Leonardo. Both Raphael and the Foot Soldier are available in smaller sets. But this is the smallest set that includes Leonardo, and the only one to include Splinter or the Dark Ninja. The inclusion of Bradford is a nice touch, though perhaps a bit unnecessary since his role in the show in this form didn't last long. I am a bit disappointed that Splinter doesn't have real legs. The sloped Lego brick that was used for the bottom portion of his kimono looks good, but the pegs are shorter than those of the mini figure legs so Splinter is prone to coming apart at the waist. I have to admit that I am both surprised and a bit disappointed that this is the cheapest set to include Leonardo. It makes completing the main quartet a fairly expensive prospect if you are mostly interested in just the mini figures. But I suppose that is half the point of doing it this way. Finally, it is worth mentioning the Shredder training dummy. It is not a true mini figure. It is made of a regular mini figure body and head and includes the same removable helmet as the Shredder mini figure from the Dragon Chopper set, though one made of a duller color plastic. But it doesn't have a normal set of legs. Instead it comes with a shorter set that lacks articulation. The shorter legs legs are a nice touch as they make the already humorous looking mini figure look even cuter. I kind of wish that they had included enough of the Shredder parts such as the shoulder pads, hand claws and cape to make this a reasonable stand in for the Shredder mini figure for those that didn't already have the Shredder's Dragon Bike set. But it is certainly understandable why they didn't.
Paint/Color choice - 10/10The brick colors used throughout the lair set are pretty much exactly what you would expect, a lot of browns and grays. There are a few brighter bricks such as the yellow bricks used for the "lights" on each wall. But those exceptions are limited and sensible. There are only two places where I didn't care for the colors used. There are four translucent yellow pieces to represent water flowing out of the training area of the lair. But it would make more sense if those pieces were blue instead, especially when there are also similar yellow pieces on the floor nearby to represent reflected light. The second area where the colors get a bit out of hand is the small see-saw included to launch figures. It is silly for such a small piece, made of only a dozen bricks, to include seven different colors. In the end, it doesn't look like it belongs with the set. It looks like something that was built out of random, left over parts.
Features - 8/10The Turtle Lair Attack set doesn't have a huge number of action features such as launching projectiles, but it is packed with play features. That isn't to say that it doesn't have any action features. There are five: the spinning training dummy, a breakaway section of wall in the bottom level of the right half, a shooting pizza oven, the flip open "trap" door on the street level and a rotating rod coming out of the wall at street level. Those action features are fairly simple, but they work well which makes them nice highlights in a play set already filled with points of interest for a playing child.
Accessories - 10/10The lair set includes a lot of accessories. For weapons you have three silver swords for Leo and Splinter, two sais for Raphael, two black swords for the Dark Ninja, a throwing star and sickle for the Foot Soldier and a staff for the Shredder training dummy. The set also includes a couple of tools for Donatello's work area, a pizza to shoot out of the oven, blue and red skateboards for Leo and Raph and a number of random items to fill the shelving unit. That would be plenty. But to add a bit of icing on the cake, Lego also included a brick removal tool with the set in case you wish to take the set apart at some point. It is a neat little tool that can attach either to the top or under a brick to pry it loose from other bricks, a short rod to force axle pieces out and a tapered edge to wedge between brick to pry them apart. I've yet to take any of my sets apart, so I can't vouch for how useful it really would be. But from the few tests I did with it, it seems to work well.
Value - 9/10The retail price for the Turtle Lair Attack set is $50. That is not a bad price for a set with multiple figures and a multitude of features. Honestly, the only reason why I can't give it a 10/10 is that if judge the lair set on its own, having the lair, Splinter and only two of the four Turtles leaves it feeling incomplete. Without Michelangelo and Donatello, the set is left with an orange and a purple hole left to fill.
Happy Hunting:The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Lego sets started to hit shelves immediately after Christmas and should be on store shelves in most chains by now. I have seen the set at Walmart, Target and Toys R Us. It is also available from the web stores for all three of those chains as well as Lego's web store. So finding it should not be too tough.