When I reviewed the three original T-Machine playsets back in October, I was not very impressed with the Turtles' Revenge set. But they
were back with a bigger and hopefully better version near the end of 2015 with the Race to the Sewer playset. And that was joined on store
shelves in January by the third small playset, the TCRI Tower and Subway set. So the world of the T-Machines continues to grow.
Packaging - Race to the Sewer 6/10, TCRI Tower 8/10Both the Race to the Sewer and TCRI Tower & Subway sets have the same basic packaging design as the first three playsets. The front is dominated by a large artist's image of the playset with numerous T-Machines vehicles zipping around. Each has the included T-machine vehicle visible in the top right corner. The back of each box has a photo of the actual playset with the features in action. The Race to the Sewer set has a bit of a problem in that the box has to be wider than most of the past sets to fit the parts. But the image of the set is relatively narrow since the set is taller than it is wide while the box is wider than it is tall. So they had to fill much of the empty space with a photo of the set on one side and increasing the size of the graphics on the other side. It would have been nice if they could have just design the box to stand upright. But most stores don't have enough room for a twenty inch tall box on a shelf.
Sculpting - Race to the Sewer 4/10, TCRI Tower 8/10These two sets follow the pattern set out by the first three T-Machines sets with the TCRI Tower forming a more extensive play environment while the Race to the Sewer set is more limited. But the race set is still a significant improvement over the the Turtles' Revenge set. It still lacks a back side or any real depth for the central tower. But the tower looks decent as a backdrop. That doesn't sound to bad until you compare it to the TCRI Tower and Subway which is fully sculpted on three sides, all of which look decent. Even when viewed from the back, you don't see the huge empty spaces that the previous two sets had since there is a large ramp running through the center of the building.
Each set comes with a T-Machines vehicle of course. The TCRI Tower comes with another T-Rawket, this time with Donatello. The T-Rawket is my least favorite vehicle in the entire T-Machine line. So it is unfortunate that we end up with four of it. But at the same time, the completionist in me is glad that they completed the set of all four Turtles. The Race to the Sewer set comes with a new version of the Party Wagon with Mikey behind the wheel. It seems a little redundant given that we already have the Party Wagon that was included with the Shell Launcher. But this version is completely new and it much more detailed and accurate to the cartoon.
Paint - 4/10There is very little paint work on either of these sets. For the TCRI Tower, the lettering and Kraang on the tower are painted as is the top of the street light on the left side. There are a number of decals that can be added though. And they go a long way toward making this a fairly bright and colorful playset. My biggest issue with the TCRI Tower is just that the colors that were chosen for the set don't seem to work well together. Dark green brick with a bright blue roof is just not a combination I have ever seen or really want to see in real life. And the coloring for the Kraang is off as well. It's too red, like a Kraang that got a sunburn. The raceway set has almost no paint work. But the addition of the decals to the central tower makes it look reasonably detailed. My biggest complaint about this set is the three different colors used for the track itself. The grey for the center third would have been fine since it actually looks like the color of concrete. But then it is connected to a pale blue portion above it and bright green for the lower third. The bright colors of the track give the entire set an appearance more appropriate for a preschool toy.
Features - Race to the Sewer 5/10, TCRI Tower 6/10The TCRI Tower set has a single main feature. A T-Machine vehicle can be loaded into the tower with a pair of clamps holding it in place until the button at the top of the tower is pressed. You can then either allow the vehicle to be stopped at the roof level or slide out a section of the roof to allow the vehicle to drop down and emerge out of the front door on the lower level. There is also a spot on the left side of the roof that can be attached to the gas station set. Finally, a vehicle can drive through the back of the playset to emerge from the other side. The features aren't too complicated, but they do make it a well balanced playset overall.
The Race to the Sewer playset is similar to the Turtles' Revenge set. There is one starting point at the top and the track for two vehicles. Once they are released, they make two and a quarter laps around the tower before spilling out at the end of the ramp. As they race down the track, there are two points where gates can be activated which will stop the inner lane and shift the vehicle from the outter lane to the inner lane. You can also load the included Kraang ball into the saucer mounted above the start. It will be released with the cars, landing in a random lane, and chase the vehicles down the track. Then at the end, it is suppose to activate a flip up panel to stop it from going off the end of the ramp. They even built in a connection to hook this set up to the Turtles' Revenge set if you wish. So obviously I can't complain too much about the amount of features in the set. But there are two big drawbacks. The first is that everything is triggered by the same mechanism, the billboard on top of the central tower. Pressing it down releases the T-Machines and the Kraang ball as well as moving both sets of gates. While you can release the billboard to move the gates back to their default positions, the T-Machines will get to the bottom of the track so fast that you won't have much time to hit the billboard before it's too late. The bigger issue is that there is nothing to do with the set other than sending cars down the track. For such a large item, that lack of variety really disappointing.
Value - Race to the Sewer 5/10, TCRI Tower 7/10The Race to the Sewer set sold for $40 when it was first released while the TCRI Tower & Subway shares the same $15 price tag as the previous Gas Station and Sewer Lair sets. The higher price for the Race to the Sewer set compared to the other T-Machine playsets is understandable given its size. And if you are lucky, you may be able to find it at a substantial discount now as stores have been slowly dropping it from layouts in 2016. But I still find that the smaller T-Machines playsets provide a much better value for your money since they work well as both as a play environment and display piece and still manage to include an action feature as well.
Happy Hunting:The Race to the Sewer playset was released in the second half of 2015. It is still available through Toys R Us stores and their web site. But as I have mentioned already, the set has been dropped from layouts at several other stores. By contrast, the TCRI Tower set is shipping along with the Gas Station and Sewer Lair playsets and should be available in just about every store that carries the T-Machines.