I usually try to stick to just action figures and accessories when picking something to review. But when it is a TMNT product,
I'm often a bit more flexible (a complete push-over). So I don't know if it was that or it just felt strange not having some
TMNT toys waiting for a review or a bit of nostalgia for the vintage version, but despite the fact that they weren't plastic,
I couldn't pass on Playmates' new Ninja Practice Pals. For those that don't remember or simply never had one, the original
Ninja Practice Pal was a stuffed version of Raphael that was designed to take the abuse of young boys fighting with it. The
new version is similar, a bit smaller but with more detail, and even include electronic sounds.
Packaging - 7/10The packaging for the Practice Pals is very similar to the packaging design for the large Battle Shell Turtles and the recent Dojo, Ninja in Training figures. However, since these are essentially stuffed animals, they must not have thought that they would need much protection. So the packaging covers less and is made of thinner material. If you are planning to take the toy out of the packaging it should not be a problem. But if you want a nice pristine packaging, you may have to look through a few in the store to find ones that are not already dinged or bent. The back of the packaging shows a few photos of the toy in the hands of a young boy and four of the ten phrases that it is suppose to be able to say. Personally, I don't care too much what is on the back since the actual toy is quite openly displayed in the front.
Sculpting - 6/10Obviously there is no sculpting that goes into a plush toy like these. But there can be quite a bit of difference in the amount of detail work that is sewen into them. And over the course of the various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy lines we have been treated to a wide range of plush toys with varying levels of detail work. The Ninja Practice Pals are more detailed than most of the plush toys produced during the original cartoon's run. Each of the fingers on the hands are sewen separately. The ridge around the edge of the shell is sewen so that it sticks out. And they even have a separate fabric mask. (Unfortunately the fabric for the masks is fairly thin and only sewen on along the bottom. I suspect that they could be torn off quite easily.) Little touches like those make these much more interesting than say the original Ninja Practice Pal which only differed from a WWF Wrestling Buddy by the shape of the head and the lack of a sewen nose. But we have also seen some very detailed plush Ninja Turtles such as the ones sold in the bedding departments of Target and Walmart stores made by Jay Franco & Sons. And even Playmates has produced more detailed plush Turtles in the form of the Ninjatronic Turtles that they made for the 2003 line.
Paint - 8/10A lot of the details for the Ninja Practice Pals comes in the form of the patterns printed on the material. It does a decent job of providing the details of the character designs.
Articulation - 0/10They are plush toys after all.
Accessories - 0/10The Ninja Practice Pals have no accessories. Of course I wasn't expecting any. But it still would have been a great bonus if Playmates had gone the extra mile to include either a plush version of Leonardo's swords and Raphael's sais.
Action Feature - 6/10Both Leonardo and Raphael come with an electronic feature. When an impact registers to the chest, you will hear one of ten phrases. The phrases are all quite short and half of them are simple yells or sound effects. The feature is a nice bonus, but doesn't work well enough to be much of a selling point. Since the phrases play randomly, you don't know if you are going to get a sound effect or if Leo is going to spit out a sound effect or say "prepare to dish out the mighty wrath of justice!" When you get lucky and it plays the appropriate phrase or noise, its a great touch though. But even if the randomness wasn't an issue, there are still a few minor improvements that they could have made. The box with the sensor, batteries and speaker is in a small pocket in the center of the rear shell. So impacts to the front often don't activate the sounds due to all of the padding. And when it does play, it sounds much better behind the figure because that is where the speaker is. You also have to be concerned with any battery operated toy and the possibility of the batteries leaking at some point. Fortunately you can remove the batteries if you prefer.
Value - 5/10The Ninja Practice Pals are selling for $30 each. That makes them 50% more expensive than the Jay Franco & Sons plushes. These are meant to be handled far rougher than other plush toys. They should be able to survive being hit, tossed, slammed and more. At the very least, the smooth surface means that they should be easier to clean. The fact that there isn't a Michelangelo or Donatello Ninja Practice Pal (or at least not yet) could also be a selling point in favor of one of the other TMNT plush toys that are out there.
Happy Hunting:The Ninja Practice Pals are exclusive to Walmart. That may only be for a limited time as was the case with the Battle Shell Turtles and Secret Sewer Lair Playset last year. But for now, if Santa wants to put a Ninja Practice Pal under the tree, you will need to either head to a Walmart store or Walmart.com.