So it appears that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license proved to be a popular addition to the Lego brand last year as
they are back for a second year with a whole new line-up of sets as well as sets for the Ninja Turtles movie. They are also
getting a slot in the line up for Lego's new line of sets aimed at younger kids called Lego Juniors. Targeting kids too old
to still be playing with Duplo blocks but not quite old enough to handle regular Lego sets, the Juniors sets promise an "easy to
build" experience. So I was curious as to what would set these sets apart from the other TMNT sets. And to be honest, even
after having built the Turtle Lair set, I still don't feel like I have a real answer. But I do have a fairly cute little Lego set.
Packaging - 8/10The Juniors line distinction starts with the packaging. While the general design is similar to the other TMNT sets: a large photo of the completed set on the front and several photos of the set's features on the back. But it swaps out the more elaborate backgrounds for solid red. It also has a graphic on the back that does a bit to explain the "easy to build" concept as the set has pre-packed bags, easy instructions and quick start. I like the cleaner look. Though I must admit that a big part of that is that my first, large Lego set as a kid was a basic building set made up mostly of red bricks. So I tend to associate the color more closly with Legos than most people would.
Sculpting/Design - 9/10The concept behind this set is fairly ambitious, create two vehicles and a lair playset with about ninety pieces. To that end, they were fairly successful. The Foot air boat is very simple but servicable. Leonardo's vehicle is fairly reminescent of the Sewer Slider from the 2003 cartoon. And thanks to the bulky frame it is built around, it manages to be larger and more substantial than I would have thought likely for such a small set. The lair has a bay for Leonardo's vehicle to drive through, a small area for the Turtles to plan their next mission against the Foot and a small upper level. The set attempts to deliver a lot and manages to pull it off. It's all pretty simple, but that's to be expected in a set designed for beginner builders.
Paint/Color choice - 5/10One of the challenges with building block sets based on the Ninja Turtles is the tendancy to want to include a lot of green even when that is not appropriate. Lego had done a great job of avoiding that with the sets last year. There are some hints of them slipping into it with this set. The lair walls are green rather than the grey or brown that would be more appropriate for a sewer tunnel. The bright green for the bench/couch in the lair seems really out of place. I guess we are lucky that the outlandish colors are limited to just the one piece. There is also a significant ommisson in that the lower portion of Leonardo's front shell, the part below the belt that should be on his legs, is missing as are his knee pads. It's rather wierd that they would leave those off when they are already producing versions of Leonardo's legs with them for all of the other TMNT sets.
And then you come to the decals/stickers. One of the ways that the Juniors sets differ from other Lego sets is that there are no stickers to be applied. One might expect that to mean that there were no decals for the set, or that their use would be much more limited. But to Lego's credit, there is no shortage of decals. They are all just pre-applied. That is a nice touch. But for some reason, they didn't bother to include/apply a decal on Leonardo's skateboard. It is a small oversight, but since every skateboard included with every TMNT set so far has had those decals, it is a more noticable ommission than you might think.
Features - 5/10The Turtle Lair set has two basic play features built in: a set of barricades that Leonardo's vehicle can pass/crash through and a seesaw that can be used to launch two included manhole covers, or the occassional Foot intruder. Neither of those features are very impressive. But the point of these sets is simplicity, so I wasn't expecting elaborate action features and the set really doesn't need them.
Accessories - 5/10The Turtle Lair set includes a handful of accessories. Leonardo comes with his skateboard and two swords. The Foot Ninja has a pair of throwing stars. And there are two manhole covers to serve as projectiles for the seesaw launcher. That pretty much covers the basics. It doesn't feel like anything is specifically missing. But there is also nothing particularly impressive included.
Value - 8/10I had my doubts about the Juniors concept for Lego sets when I bought this. And the Turtle Lair set certainly didn't convince me otherwise. The set should prove easier for first time builders since there are fewer small pieces to deal with. The instructions may be a bit easier for a first time builder to follow since there is usually only a couple of pieces added in any single step. And of course, there are no stickers to apply. But the differencein skill level needed to build this verses any of the other Lego sets I have seen is very minimal. But while I am not sold on the Juniors line as a concept, the Turtle Lair set itself makes a very nice introduction to Legos in general and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license. In one small set, you get a couple of characters, a pair of vehicles and a mini playset. It probably won't be enough for a dedicated Turtle fan. But for someone just getting into the Turtles or Lego, it makes a great entry point.
Happy Hunting:The Juniors sets have been shipping for a few months now. Though not all stores seem to be carrying them or at least not the full Juniors line up. So you may need to find a larger store with a larger selection to find the Turtle Lair set. But if you are having difficulty finding it, it is also available directly from Lego's online and brick and mortar stores.