Playmates has been making Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures for a very long time, over a quarter of a century. And in
that time, they have done quite a bit to expand the line. But they have remained quite faithful to the action figure
aisle. That finally changed in 2014 when Playmates Toys introduced the Half-Shell Heroes toy line and the Turtles
invaded the pre-school aisle. The line is more than just versions of the Turtles that are made to be safe for the 3 and up
set, the characters have been given a completely new design that has them looking like younger, cuter versions of their
Nickelodeon cartoon counterparts. The line launched in 2014 with nine basic assortment sets, each including either two
Half-Shell Heroes figures or one of the Turtles with a small accessory vehicle. Three more sets with additional enemies have
been released in 2015. So before this line grows too large, I think it's time to check out what the younger Turtle fans are
Packaging - 8/10The Half-Shell Heroes line uses open front packaging similar to what we have seen with the eleven inch figures and many of the deluxe figure lines. The figures are attached to a plastic tray and the card. But the figures themselves are in the open for you fans to get their hands on them. Normally I would be concerned about how well such a design will hold up on store shelves over time. But while I have seen a few bent cards, I must admit that overall, they have held up well. Graphically the new line has a cleaner and brighter design than it's bigger predecessor. The "outside" of the front is a plain white background with simple geometric shapes and bright colors. The "inside" and the back of the cards has a more traditional green, turtle shell patterned background. The four Turtles each get uniqe card backs showing just the Turtles and their vehicles along with a small version of the promotional image showing the entire line and a small, generic paragraph of text. The other two packs show all nine sets for the series one figures and all twelve sets for the three series two sets. I was a bit disappointed at the soemwhat generic card backs. But then I realized that it doesn't make a lot of sense to waste effort putting a bunch of text or information on a package intended for a child too young to read any of it. The goal with the Half-Shell Heroes packaging design seems to be to get the toy into the hands of the intended fan. If they can do that, it's quite likely that they will want to buy it. And to that end, the packaging is very well designed.
Sculpting - April 3/10, Shredder 4/10, Raph, Metalhead, Stockman-Fly, Snakeweed, Kraang & Splinter 5/10, others 9/10The Half-Shell Heroes line was a bit of a surprise in that I was expecting the characters to just be Super Deformed versions of their regular designs from the show. But in actuallity, the designs are more nuaniced than that. It appears that they were trying to create younger versions of each character, complete with the appropriate proportions. (The heads and hands are slightly larger, but not enough to qualify as deformed.) The style works really well for most of the characters. The Turtles look good. Tiger Claw is downright adorable. Spider Bytez is a bit underwhelming as the Half-Shell Heroes design ends up looking just like his full sized counterpart. There are a few of the figures that have minor issues. Raphael has plastic webbing between the tines of his sais, presumably as a safety precaution. Snakeweed has similar webbing between his antenna and in general the sculpted detail isn't as sharp as the other figures. Splinter's head seems just a bit, off, like the shape isn't quite right. I also don't like that his tail is molded to his body. Metalhead has a nicely detailed body and legs. But the hands and forearms seem too large. And his faceplate is pretty dull too. Stockman-Fly's sculpt is fine, but rather dull since most of his body is just a plain human shape in jeans and a polo shirt. Kraang's arms, legs and head are great. But for some reason they made his body pudgy. And worse yet, they sculpted the actual Kraang in his chest so that he look more like he was splattered across the front than recessed in the chest. Finally we come to the two figures that I was slightly disappointed with, Shredder and April. Shredder is not that bad. But you start with a design that already has large blocky armor and then exaggerate that, it is a bit too much. Plus, they shaped his face to match the contours of his mask, so his face has a very strange shape. It might not be something you notice right away. But once you see it, it is hard to overlook. Lastly there is April. Her head sculpt is great. Everything else is attrocious though. The body is boxy. The neck is too long. And both arms are sculpted in odd positions which make it look like her elbows are slightly bent in the wrong direction. I don't know how April got a final aproval when she looks so much worse than every other figure in the line.
Paint - April 3/10, Snakeweed, Splinter, Metalhead, Stockman-Fly, Kraang, Shredder & Donatello 4/10 others 6/10The paint work on the Half-Shell Heroes is decent for most of the figures, but not impressive. Of all of the figures, only Donatello had any noticable quality issues. His left eye continues up onto his mask. April once again proves to be the least impressive of either series. She doesn't have any significant problems. But there was no attempt to paint any of the details so the figure just looks dull. Both Stockman-fly and Snakeweed are similarly lacking and a bit dull looking. Metalhead and Shredder both have a slight metallic sheen, but they don't really look like metal. Kraang has a better unpolished "metallic" finish. But the Kraang in his belly is not very detailed. Splinter looks decent. But I'm quite annoyed that they didn't bother painting his tail. The rest of the figures look pretty good. They do cut corners a bit by not paying much attention to the back of the figures. Some people will also be annoyed that Dogpound's spikes aren't painted. I don't mind it though since at least they all match.
Articulation - Spider Bytez, Fishface, Snakeweed & Slash 4/10, Others 5/10The basic articulation for the Half-Shell Heroes figures is six points of articulation. That includes rotating hips (with the legs connected together through the torso), rotating and hinged shoulders and a rotating neck. Fishface, Slash and Snakeweed all have their neck movement restricted if not eliminated. Spider Bytez has no neck, and thus no neck articulation. He also doesn't have hip joints either. So the only articulation he has are the shoulder joints. But they aren't very useful given his stubby little arms. The good news is that all of the joints are nice and tight so holding poses is no problem. Ideally I would love for these figures to also have rotating wrists. But I suspect that they could not do that since the hands would be a choking hazard if they came off.
Accessories - Leo & Michelangelo 7/10, Raphael 5/10, Donatello 4/10, Others 0/10The four Turtles are the only figures to include any accessories or weapons that are not permanently attached to their hands. Each of the Turtles comes with a small vehicle, each with a built-in action feature. Of the four, Leonardo has my favorite accessory vehicle of the four, a backpack with glider wings. When the button on the back is pressed, the wings flap. It's cute and appropriate for the show. Mikey has a motorized skateboard. When you pinch the exhaust pipes together, a pair of wings pop out under the skateboard. The fact that the skateboard doesn't have working wheels, is a real disappointment. But the novelty of a skateboard with wings is enough for me to overlook the wheels. Raphael has a minibike which is the best vehicle of the four if only because it is the only one with working wheels. But it is huge. Standing next to it, the bike is almost taller than Raphael. And it's action feature, a set of blades that pop out when the exhaust pipes are pinched together, is fairly lame since the blades barely come out from the bottom and of course they don't spin. Finally there is Donatello's luge board which is both a lame vehicle and has an equally lame action feature. Once again the wheels are just for show. And a luge board that doesn't roll might as well just be a plank of wood. The action feature is a set of claws on the front which close when the left front tire is pressed in. But the claws are too narrow to fit all the way around a figure anyway. There just isn't much to be positive about with Donatello's luge board.
Value - April/Splinter and Donatello 4/10, Others 7/10The retail price for the Half-Shell Heroes figure packs is $8 in most stores. That's a decent price for two figures or a figure with a decent vehicle as an accessory. Unfortunately for Donatello, he doesn't have a decent vehicle for an accessory. The only set that I have any real reservations about is the Splinter & April set. Splinter is decent, though not great. But he is also available from in the Super Sewer HQ set anyway. So if you don't care about April, you still have an alternate means of getting Splinter.
Happy Hunting:The Half-Shell Heroes line has been out for almost a year now. The Dogpound and Fishface set was quite hard to find originally. They seem to be more common now though. The three sets for series two started shipping at the beginning of 2015. And they too seem fairly common. The line itself is fairly easy to find as well. It is carried at all the usual chains: Target, Toys R Us, Walmart, Kmart, etc as well as on most of their web sites. (Though a few of them don't bother to list each set individually. So you just have to place an order and take your chances on which one you are going to get.) So if you have a little fan that has been wanting some TMNT toys of his or her own, you should have no real trouble finding any of the sets they want.