I've been getting caught up with all of the new Half-Shell Heroes toys that came out this summer, and I'm down to one last new offering to go,
the Half-Shell Heroes Mutations vehicles. With this assortment, Playmates has combined the Mutations sub-line from the regular Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles toy line with its focus of transforming figures and vehicles and the Half-Shell Heroes toy line in a simplified form so that
even the youngest of fans can handle the transformations. The first offerings include a smaller version of the Shellraiser which transforms into
a recycling truck and a fire engine that becomes a tank. I've seen smaller vehicles with a similar gimmick for years where you could flip it over
and there was a different style of vehicle underneath. But Playmates has taken it to a new level with the complexity of what they have created
Packaging - 9/10The Half-Shell Heroes Mutations vehicles use the usual packaging design shared by all of the HSH toys, but they throw in an impressive "try me" feature that allows you to flip the vehicle over and transform it while it remains securely attached to the packaging. That is a really cool little extra. But it does have a few minor drawbacks. First, in shipping the toy is strapped down which keeps it from being transformed. The strap is marked with instructions for the retailer to remove it when unpacking. But I have yet to see a store actually remove them to allow customers to try the feature. Even if the strap is removed, there are photos showing the transformation process, but starting the process is not entirely intuitive and there is no text to explain it which could turn people off if it doesn't seem to work in the store. And finally, since the transformation requires flipping the vehicle over using one set of wheels as an anchor point, the packaging needs to be quite a bit larger than it would need to be otherwise by about 25%.
Sculpting - Shellraiser 7/10, Fire Engine 5/10Playmates did a nice job with picking the different forms for these vehicles. The transformation feature creates some interesting hurdles that need to be incorporated, starting with the large wheels mounted along the side of the vehicle rather than being mounted under the body as they usually would be. So the Shellraiser was a perfect choice. And the tank works well too. They do look a little strange with the fire engine and recycling truck. But it isn't as bad as I feared it would be. The recycling truck also has the handicap of having the barrels from the Shellraiser stuck to its front bumper as well. I also want to give credit for them managing to fit a rotating water cannon on the fire truck without it getting in the way of the transformation. The tank is the one vehicle form that leaves a bit to be desired. It has the form of a tank. But there only part of a turrent and what might once have been a cannon barrel, or the air intake for the hemi engine... one or the other. But my biggest problem with it is that the driver is standing out in the open. There's not much point to armored transport if you don't ride within the safety of the armor. Actually, that's the biggest issue with both forms of both vehicles, they don't work very well with the Half-Shell Heroes figures. Standing in what should be the cab of the recycling truck or fire engine just calls attention to how out of scale the vehicles are. They are far too small to look realistic with the figures. They are more like giant versions of the vehicles the Shriners drive in parades. And speaking of the figures, I've been impressed that Playmates has been creating all new sculpts for each figure so far. But that streak ends here. The fire engine/tank includes a version of Raphael that combines a regular Raphael body with the head from Tank Commander Raph from the Tread Cycle. The Shellraiser/recycling truck comes with a version of Donatello that uses the original Donatello body with a new head. They aren't bad figures I suppose, just not as impressive due to the reused parts.
Paint - 6/10There's not a lot of paint work on either Mutations vehicle. But they did make sure to do enough painting to break up any large areas. They also added stickers on the fire engine and recycling truck for the lettering. Painting those areas would have been better, but I suppose decals are easier to switch depending upon the language of the area in which you are going to sell the toy. The paint work on the figures is well done as well. There's just not enough effort put into the paint work to make it very impressive.
Play Value - 6/10As I said in the introduction, the idea of vehicles that transform by flipping over is not new. But with the HSH Mutation vehicles, Playmates has taken it to an all new level. Most of the designs I've seen just have the body of the vehicle pushed through the frame, so there is always a limit to how big the body of the vehicle can be. But Playmates has devised a means by which the body of the vehicles fold up to conserve space. This way the frame and wheels do not have to be as large but the body of the exposed vehicle can still be fairly large. But the transformation is a bit more difficult as a result. You don't just push the vehicle down through the frame and flip the vehicle over. Instead, you need to pull on the front and rear bumpers to pull the frame apart slightly, this will allow the existing vehicle body to fold in as the alternate form folds out on the other side of the frame. It is an ingenious design and works very well. There is just one hitch. The frame around the outside of each vehicle locks into place. And when it does, it takes a fair amount of force to pull it apart once again, too much force for most small children I suspect. I like the idea of being able to lock the vehicle into the form of your choice. But then they should have included a release mechanism.
Value - 5/10The Half-Shell Heroes Mutations vehicles sell for $17 to $18. If they can sucessfully deliver on the promise of providing two vehicles in one plus a bonus figure, that would not be a bad price. But in the end, the vehicle forms just aren't that impressive due both to their size and lack of other play features. If they had picked a more interesting alternative form than a recycling truck or neutered tank, that would have helped as well.
Happy Hunting:The Half-Shell Heroes Mutations vehicles have been shipping for most of the summer and should be widely available in most areas by now. I've seen them in Target, Walmart, Toys R Us and a few other stores that carry the HSH line as well. They have also been added to the web sites for Target, Walmart and Toys R Us, though their availability fluctuates.