With the reviews for the T-Machines vehicle and playset reviews down, there's just one more current T-Machine product on the market for me to review,
Leo's Auto-Tuner Party Van. Taking the basic T-Machine design, a partially sculpted figure mounted on top of a TMNT vehicle, and increasing its
size greatly and adding electronic sounds which are controlled by the spinning of the rear wheels. It is an odd premises for a toy. Its size
means that it doesn't have a way to interact with any of the other existing T-Machine toys while still being too small to fit in with the regular
toy line. And being able to control the electronic sound effects with the wheels is a feature that I would not have thought of if I sat down
and tried to brainstorm ideas for hours. So the Auto-Tuner Party Van has a long way to go to prove itself as a worthwhile addition to the T-Machines
Packaging - 6/10The Auto-Tuner Van is packaged in Half-Shell Heroes style packaging which wraps around the van at the bottom but leaves the top two thirds open. Then, they put a gap around the rear wheels so that you can try out the wheel spinning control feature. The card does have a unique image of Leo and the Party Van on the top right corner to match the other T-Machine cards while the back has two photos of the toy being rolled back and forward to activate the electronic sound features. Overall, the packaging fits with the overall TMNT line well thanks to the standardized background and graphics that were introduced this year. But there isn't much to tie it into the T-Machines line other than the few places where they slapped the T-Machines logo onto the packaging. And the photos on the back don't do much to make it seem like a fun toy either. And the limited amount of material over the rear wheels seems like it is going to be quite susceptible to wear and tear.
Sculpting - 9/10The Auto-Tuner Van is something most TMNT fans probably won't give more than a second glance at, but it is actually one of the best look sculpts of Leonardo that Playmates has produced yet. And the van is well done too. Technically they skimped a bit by not sculpting the handles or door panels on the driver's side or the front passenger's side door. But that is only because those areas need to be flat for the decals. So the only thing that I dislike about it is the tires. They are completely flat on the sides other than a dimple on the back tire to give you someplace to put your finger to rotate the tires for the sound feature. But they could have actually sculpted some words/texture in those area instead to get the same results without sacrificing the appearance. And while normally this would be a VERY minor issue, the packaging and electronic feature both call attention directly to that spot making the issue stand out more than it should.
Paint - 8/10The Auto-Tuner Van doesn't have a lot of paint work on it. But what is painted looks pretty good. And Leonardo is fairly well painted as well. There are a few details that they missed such as the grips of Leo's swords and the wrappings on his fingers. But overall he is well above par for a TMNT toy or really for a mass market toy in general. And then they added the decals for the doors and windows of the Van. They really make the van look great. I'm guessing they used actual artwork from the show for the body panel decals, including the Venus emblem and Foot symbol tally marks on the drivers side. The decals do have the drawback of not blending well with the plain yellow of the rest of the body panels. But they stop in areas that help to hide that as much as possible. You should also watch out for how well they were applied before buying one. There is very little room to spare where these decals fit. So if they aren't straight, the edges aren't going to be flat and may be prone to peeling. Mine were all fairly straight. But the edges were still curling up in some of the tighter corners. It's easy to fix, but only if you catch it before the decals get damaged.
Features - 7/10The Auto-Tuner Party Van has just one feature, electronic sound effects. But they can be used in two ways. As displayed in store, the front wheels will trigger electronic sound effects including both vehicle noises and spoken phrases. You can then control the speed of the spoken phrases by turning the back wheels, even making them go in reverse. (No, I didn't hear any Satanic messages when it is played backwards.) And as long as the back wheels are in motion, the sound effects and phrases will continue. Parents ought to love that. Fortunately, Playmates Toys thought of that and gave the Auto-Tuner Party Van a second mode that can be selected via the switch behind the rear axle. In this mode you can hear a random phrase from Leonardo each time you press the button mounted on the roof just behind Leo. There are no vehicle sounds and you don't control the sound with the rear wheels though. Finally, it has every parents' favorite feature, an off switch. The Auto-Tuner feature is interesting and works reasonably well. But given we already have Talking T-Machines that are actually in scale (or close to it) with the rest of the line, I don't know if the Auto-Tuner feature is really that much better.
Value - 6/10Leo's Auto-Tuner Party Van sells for $20. It is in almost every way a really cool toy and the controllable electronic sounds is a creative idea. So $20 is not a bad price. It even includes the 3 AA batteries necessary for that price. The only real draw back is that the Auto-Tuner Party Van just doesn't fit in with any of the other existing TMNT products. It is too large to fit in with any of the other T-Machines. And if you want sounds, there are already the Talking T-Machines. But the van is still too small to fit in with either the regular toy line or even the Half-Shell Heroes. So I'm just not sure where the market is for this.
Happy Hunting:The Auto-Tuner Party Van was released this summer along with the Talking T-Machines. I purchased mine from Toys R Us. But I have also seen them at both Target and Walmart stores. It is also listed on Toys R Us' web site now as well.