I've been going over all of the offerings under the Mutations banner. But there is one more series of figures that was released this year,
Mutations versions of the Battle Shell concept. But unlike the Battle Shell Turtles that we saw in the basic figure assortment which gave
the Turtle's storage compartments in their shells. Here the gimmick seems to be that the Turtles can slip out of their organic shells and
slip on some high tech replacements. Leo gets a jet pack, Don gets a suite of surveilance gadgets etc... Ninja Turtles with mechanical
additions are not a new concept. But this is the first time I can recall the Turtles giving up the natural armor of their shells to do it.
Let's see if it was worth it.
Packaging - 8/10The Mutations Battle Shell Turtles are packaged in fairly standard window boxes. The large window shows off the figure and the battle shell equipment well. They must have thought that the Battle Shell idea would be a bit tough for consumers to comprehend since they used the entire back of the box for photos of it, pushing the usual legal fine print and photos of the other figures in the line to the bottom of the box.
Sculpting - 3/10All four of the Mutations Battle Shell Turtles share the same body and limbs with different heads for each. The body used is quite strange looking. They had to make it quite thin to accomodate the Battle Shell armor and the regular shells. But as it is, it clearly doesn't match the limbs since both the thighs and forearms are thicker than the torso. Add in comically long and thin necks don't help either. Their one saving grace is that by making them so thin, the clip-on shells actually match fairly well and look natural.
Paint - 3/10If they had put as much effort into the paint for the torso of these figures as the other limbs, they wopuld be decent looking figures. They did skip some of the details on the arms like the finger wrappings and the shoulder pads. But compared to the torsos which have just a single letter painted on the left shoulder for each Turtle's initial and are otherwise a sea of monochrome that allows all of the sculpted detail to blend in and disappear. The reason why they did this is obvious of course, they assumed the torso would be covered at almost all times either with the clip on shells or the battle shell armor. And with the regular shells added, they do look much better. But they also look very similar to the basic assortment versions of the Turtles I already have which makes them kind of pointless.
Articulation - 4/10The Mutations Battle Shell Turtles body has thirteen points of articulation. There are rotating and hinged joints at the shoulders, elbows and hips. The neck is technically a ball joint. But there is only a few degrees of vertical movement possible. So it acts more like a rotating joint. That's a shame since a group of figures whose gimmick is that they have giant armored flight packs are probably going to want to be able to look up and down. I am also annoyed by the lack of knee joints. I'll assume that was dropped so that they could carry the weight of the armor packs without tipping over to easily. But it definitely feels like they should be there anyways. The shoulder joints also seem to be tighter than they really need to be since they aren't supporting any usual weights. None of them were actually stuck, but they doi require a bit more pressure to move than the other joints.
Accessories - Leonardo & Donatello 3/10, Michelangelo 4/10, Raphael 6/10Each of the Battle Shell Turtles comes with two clip on back packs and two projectiles. The first pack is their traditional looking shell and plastron. Each one is hinged along the center of the shell. So when you pinch the tabs together on the back, the plastron in the front splits down the middle and can be lefted off the figure. It's a wierd idea. But it works. And as I wrote earlier, because of the compromises made to the base figure, they actually look quite natural when wearing the seemingly bulky clip on shells. Of course they are still missing the Turtles' noprmal weapons or a place to store them. Once you remove the regular shell, you can clip on the battle shell armor instead. Each Turtle has a unique armor but they each follow the same basic design. The armor itself covers the back. It then comes over the shoulders and covers most of the front as well. Then mounted off of the shoulders, just above the figures' arms are mechanical arms with different shaped projectile launchers attached at the elbow. Here's where things kind of go sideways for me. Playmates did a nice job of giving each battle shell a different name and theme as well as a unique sculpt. But what they designed is just mechanical kibble, very little of which makes any sense. Leonardo's for example is called the aerial assault battle shell which sounds promising. Who wouldn't want a jet pack or flight pack either in real life or for their toys? But then you look at the actual toy and it has a airplane style tail that flips up from the back and wings mounted above the mechanical arms. But the wings are mounted perpendicular to the tail like giant air brakes. I wasn't expected wind tunnel proven aerodynamics, but even a youg kid is probably going to notice that wings don't work that way. And then just to rub a bit of salt into the wound for Leonardo, all of the other battle shells include the flip up tails with other forms of flight built in anyways. The biggest issue for the other three battle shells seems to be figuring out what they are supposed to be exactly. Michelangelo's is called a stealth battle shell. (Because when I think stealth, I think huge, mechanical exo-torso.) There's nothing there that would seem to make him the least bit stealthy. Donatello has the recon battle shell which to me would suggest surveilance. Instead he has a large mechanical claw and a flip up targeting rectical that looks like it was inspired by a WWII fighter plane. Raphael's is probably the best if only because its name, the ground pounder battle shell, leaves its purpose up to your imagination as much as it's design does. It has two launchers on its mechanical arms which appear to be either flame throwers or they fire large beanbag rounds. Plus he has the best looking turbines on the tail for flight mode.
Action Feature - Leonardo 4/10, others 2/10So you design an entire series of figures around these battle shells. You compromise on the base figures themselves in multiple ways for the sake of the battle shell armor. You created four completely different designs and molds with cool sounding names like the recon battle shell or the aerial attack battle shell. So surely here is where it all pays off, with the cool, inventive action features that you buit into them right???? It's a shame. Had Playmates put some effort into the battle shells and included some variety, these could have been a cool toys. Instead the designs include just a couple of extremely basic action features and repeats them for all four battle shells. Each battle shell has a flip up tail on the back that is suppose to created their "flight mode." None of them actually do anything. They didn't even bother making the turbines for Raphael and Michelangelo's spin. Then, just behind the shoulder of each of the mechanical limbs is a button which allows them to go from hanging down at a fourty-five degree angle to sticking straight out to the side. It's a simple gimmick and doesn't seem out of place here. But honestly, for actual play value, I would rather have the arms mounted on a ball joint to give them better range of motion for most of the figures. The one exception is Leonardo's aerial assault battle shell. The spring loaded feature would have been perfect for the wings, if only they hadn't sculpted them to face the wrong direction. Finally you come to the mechanical arms themselves. Here is the make it or break it point for these figures. With a cool variety of different weapons, gadgets and features for each battle shell, these could have been fun toys. Instead every one of the battle shells has the same two projectile launchers and only the projectiles included differ from one battle shell to another. And with that shortcut, the battle shells instantly became just another batch of silly accessories that will wind up in a bin of random accessories within a week. What's worse is that they couldn't even include a spring loaded firing mechanism in both launchers. So you have the right side launcher with an underpowered spring assist that still has to be fired by pushing on the projectile from the back. And the left side which is only launched by you flicking the back with your finger. And with the friction between the projectiles and launcher being a great as it is, they can't really be fired at all. All in all, they are just a massive let down. And that's a shame. Mattel had a similar concept with the original Masters of the Universe line with the Stilt Stalker, Megalaser and Jet Sled toys, all of which could be strapped to the back of most of the figures and offered unique action features. It's a shame that the Battle Shells can't live up to what another company did over thirty years ago.
Value - 2/10With a price tag of $13, I'd really like to tell you that these are a decent value. On paper they certainly are. You are getting a new Ninja Turtle figure which would normally cost $9 on its own, plus the battle shell armor. But with the features of the battle shells themselves being so underwhelming and the figures having been compromised in multiple ways for the sake of the battle shells, there just isn't much here to justify buying them. If you have a kid that really wants them, you might want to pick up one, either their favorite Turtle or which ever battle shell design they like best. But once you have one, there is even less reason to get the other three since they repeat the same features in each.
Happy Hunting:The Mutations Battle Shell Turtles have been out for most of 2015. Most of the retailers that carry Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys have them. Thoguh that could change after the first of the year when stores reset their toy aisles. If you prefer online options, Toys R Us has them on their web site as of my writing this. They are also listed on Target and Walmart's site, but neither lists them as being available currently.