Going into its fourth year, the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy line is still going strong. But Playmates Toys has never been a company
to rest while they are ahead. So this year they attempted to expand the toy line with a new sub line entitled Mutations. As the title suggests,
the Mutations focuses on toys with an ability to change or transform such as the mutating figures from past lines. But since mutating figures are
generally more complex and more expensive, Playmates also created a cheaper, version to form a basic assortment for the Mutations line with a whole
new gimmick, swappable body parts. (Okay, it's not that original. Other companies have done it before. And Hasbro has been introducing a similar
concept into the lines for all of their licensed properties lately as well. But it is still new to the TMNT universe.) The Mix and Match line launched
at the start of 2015 with nine figures. They added three more figures this summer. But I'll concentrate on just the first nine for now.
Packaging - 8/102015 marked a drastic change in the appearance for almost all TMNT products with the introduction of the new, unified packaging design. The Mix & Match Mutations packaging does incorporate some of that new design and background near the top of the cards. But it is mostly overshadowed by the brighter blue background behind the figures themselves and the prominent Mutations logo on the card insert. The cards have an image of Leonardo with a bunch of random body parts on the top right corner of each card. different artwork for each character as they did for the basic assortment figures would have been nice. But this at least makes it easy to sort the Mix & Match figures out from the basic assortment figures if they are mixed together on store pegs. Each figure is displayed with at least one limb disconnected and one limb swapped out. So it demonstrates the concept behind the line quite clearly. The back of the card has another photo of the figure's head atop an assortment of parts from other characters as well as a quick description of the concept and photos of all of the figures available in the line on the bottom. I like the overall look of the packaging and the way that it sets the figures apart from the basic assortment figures. And it should be noted that the Mix and Match figures don't seem nearly as prone to damage and crushed bubbles that seem to have become quite common with the basic assortment figures. The only qualm I have is that the packaging is so focused on swapping parts that it more or less ignores the figures on their own.
Sculpting - Turtles & Slash 5/10, Shredder & Splinter 7/10, Metalhead & Tiger Claw8/10The Mix and Match Turtles all share the same torso with different belts and weapon holsters. So of course, none of them actually match the original character designs properly. The head sculpts are decent, but the Battle Shell Turtles' head sculpts are the same expressions but with sharper detail. The Turtles also have the worst integration of the articulation with obvious gaps at the shoulders. The hips are just as bad. but the shell and plastron hide those gaps. Mix and Match Shredder is the third version of Shredder. Maybe the fourth time will be the charm. Mix & Match Shredder is an improvement over the second version in that the leg armor is molded on the legs eliminating the gap along the seams and doesn't have the undersized head. But he has gone back to the tiny gauntlet blades of the first Shredder for some reason. At least they are not preposed in as an extreme position as the second version. It's two steps forward, one step back. The remaining four figures are all remarkably similar to the basic assortment figures. Both Metalhead and Splinter have all the same detail and texturing, but none of it is quite as sharp. Meanwhile, Tiger Claw turned out the opposite. The Mix & Match version is VERY similar to the basic assortment figure but there is a bit more depth and sharpness to the details. Finally there is Slash who would be almost indistinguishable from the basic assortment figure if not for the fact that they made his legs almost twice as long. That almost sounds like a good idea on paper since the basic assortment Slash was so much smaller than he should have been. But he's not any more imposing just because his legs are longer now. I'm guessing they altered the legs so that they would be more compatible with the legs of other figures without the resulting figures being completely lopsided. But in my opinion, swapping out the limbs should have unusual results. And giving a figure one leg from a shorter character should result in the figure being shorter. That's half the fun, creating weird conglomerations which may or may not be completely ridiculous looking.
Paint - Turtles 5/10, Others 7/10The paint work on the Mix and Match figures is nothing exceptional. But it is well executed. The Turtles end up looking a bit plain since there is no attempt to paint any of the detail work. The plastic for their skin has a slightly glossier finish which seems inappropriate and just highlights that they are toys. There is more detail work on the other figures which is nice. The paint applications also appear to have been applied better. It is often difficult to tell right away what color is paint and what is the color of the plastic which is a sign of a really well executed paint job.
Articulation - 4/10Each of the Mix and match figures has the exact same articultation with the exception of Splinter. Each has ball joints at the hips, shoulders and neck. Splinter also has a rotating joint at the base of his tail. The ball joints actually work fairly well. They provide the figures with a decent range of motion. And they have just the right tension to hold a pose well without being too tight to move or remove. But no matter how well the five ball joints work, they don't justify the removal of all of the other articulation that the basic assortment figures have. They could have even added more of the interchangable joints for the elbows and knees. That would have allowed you to mix up the parts even further while still being cheaper than more complex joints.
Accessories - Metalhead 2/10 others 5/10Each of the Mix and Match figures comes with their signature weapon(s) and a spare body part. So each of the Turtles has their weapon. Splinter has his cane. Slash has his mace. Tiger Claw has his pistols. Shredder has a sword and two throwing stars, both borrowed from the first Shredder figure. Metalhead is the only figure to not have any extra weapons. He doesn't really need anything. But throwing in his remote control would have been a nice touch. It is also worth noting that they didn't put much effort into the weapons. They all seem to be reused from the basic assortment figures and none of them are painted. They did include a spare body part with each figure, a limb from either Donatello or Metalhead. Thinking about it, the extra body parts make sense. If you were to buy only one Mix and Match figure the interchangable limbs would be all but completely worthless since you wouldn't have anything to swap them out with. But as soon as you buy either Mix and Match Donatello or Mix and Match Metalhead they become superfluious. They also missed the chance to use the option of interchangable to the figures' advantage such as including both a helmeted and unmasked version of Shredder. It's a shame. A line that includes spare body parts already is such a prime candidate for a build-a-figure. Instead we get reused parts that become more and more pointless as you buy more figures instead of parts that would have encouraged and rewarded you for buying all of the figures in the series.
Features - 6/10In case you haven't already figured this out, the Mix and Match Mutations figures all share a common feature, the ability to swap their limbs and heads between figures. Each interchangable part has a ball socket that attaches to the figures at the neck, shoulders or hips. The limbs are completely interchangable, meaning you can connect a head to the shoulders of a body or an arm to any of the hips. That sounds a lot more interesting than it really is. Yes, you could make a figure with heads for each limb. But chances are you are just going to swap right arm for right arm or a leg for a leg. And while other toy lines have had a justification for wanting to swap limbs such as Mega Man who gains the weapon of his enemies. But here it just facilitates the natural desire of little kids to play Dr. Frankenstein with their toys. Of course, there is always the flip side to that argument. Given how common the desire to disassemble and reassemble one's toys is, you have to give some credit to a toy line that allows them to do just that.
Value - Turtles & Slash 4/10, others 6/10While I'll give them credit, the Mix and Match feature is not the craziest idea that Playmates has attempted to incorporate into the Ninja Turtle line over the years. And it works reasonably well. So all of that combined with the fact that the non-turtle figures turned out so well just as figures themselves and the $9 price tag seems fairly reasonable. The biggest challenge I see for the line is that it puts Playmates Toys in direct competition with themselves and the basic figure line. And while the Ninja Turtles and Slash are not horrible figures, when there are better versions of the same characters available right next to the Mix and Match figures for the same price it is hard to justify buying these just for the part swapping feature. The same holds true for Shredder, Splinter, Metalhead and Tiger Claw to a lesser extent. The Mix and Match versions actually look a little better than their basic assortment counterparts as long as you don't mind slightly less articulation.
Happy Hunting:The Mix and Match Mutation figures are their own assortment of figures, separate from the regular Ninja Turtle figures. But both lines seem to be carried at every store that I have seen so far. So finding them should be no problem. In truth, they don't seem to sell all that well in most stores so the challenge may be finding a store that doesn't have them. But the first series of figures has been shipping for almost a year now. And series two and even series three figures are beginning to show up in stores now as well. So it is quite likely that at least some of the first series figures may be rotated out of production. So if you are interested in them, it would be best to pick them up sooner rather than later. And with all of the sales running during the holiday season, chances are good that you'll be able to get them at a discount.