The flood of TMNT product for the holiday shopping season continues. This time it is the lastest additions to the small
vehicle assortment, the Turtle Tunneler and Hover Chopper. For those who haven't be watching their USDA recommended daily allowance of
cartoons, shame on you. But to get you up to speed, the Turtle Tunneler was introduced late in the second season of the
new TMNT cartoon. Donatello designed it to quickly travel down to an ancient underground city populated by mutated
victims of the Foot Clan's genetic experiments including Razor Claw, Stone Biter and Quarry. (Stone Biter and Razor Claw
have both had figures released of them earlier this year and Quarry is due out soon.) And Playmates Toys has given us a
toy version of that vehicle now. As for the Hover Chopper, I have no idea where they got the bright idea for it.
Packaging - 5/10Like the other vehicles in the TMNT line, the Turtle Tunneler and Hover Chopper come in a windowless box, something rather unusual in this day and age. The front of the box has a large image of the vehicle with a slight blurring effect to make it look like it is in motion. As with other vehicles, the TMNT logo is displayed in the top left corner of the box while the vehicles' name and description are given in the lower right hand corner. The good news is that Playmates Toys may be listening because the colors for the background have been changed slightly from previous vehicles. Unfortunately they changed the green section that actually made sense and replaced it with purple for the Tunneler and blue for the Hover Chopper. The attrocious orange color remains the primary colors for the packaging. The side panels of the box have a smaller version of the same image of the tunneler from the front or an image of the Hover Chopper's two modes as well as a four line explaination of the vehicle. The bottom of the box is left blank save for the legal disclosures and UPC symbol while the top just has the TMNT logo and vehicle name. The back of the box has another image of the vehicles, without the motion blur this time, that has the features pointed out as well as having small images of some of the features in action. The TMNT logo once again adorns the top corner of the box next to another description of the backstory for the vehicle. Obviously Playmates didn't know the actual back story of the Tunneler since the write up included has nothing to do with the epsiode of the show where the vehicle appears. The rear panel also has small images of the Battle Shell, Turtle Tracker, Pogo Copter, Shell Sub and Sewer Lid Launcher.
Sculpting - Chopper 5/10, Tunneler 3/10There's two words that describe the Turtle Tunneler, inaccurate and uninteresting. Playmates has had a habit of not being very accurate to the show with some of their offerings in the past, but this may take the cake. The most obvious change is of course the scale. In the show, the Tunneler was huge, as large or larger than the Battle Shell. It easily accomadated all four turtles. I can live with the toy being made smaller, since a scale sized version would not have sold well enough to justify making it. But the toy is radically different than the design from the show. The drill section is too narrow with the teeth along the outside. It shouldn't have tapered in so much and the center should be larger with the "teeth" on the inside. Playmates made the front two sets of wheels into a half track as well which I don't understand. The rear wheel are far too small. They should be at least 3/4 of the height of the vehicle but they are only a little over half that size. Thsy should also be much wider, extending almost all the way across the back of the vehicle. The change in size was likely are necessary compromise since the wheels would occupy the cockpit area if they were done on-model but they didn't get the style of the wheels right either. Ther should have had a flat rim that was flush with the outside of the tire. Instead they are sculpted with a fairly standard rim. The body itself is slightly off, it should taper more in the back and along the sides. But the hands-down, strangest change was the decision to add a spoiler to the Tunneler! What does a subterrainian vehicle need improved aerodynamics for? And then to top it off, they decided to add two hand holds just under the spoiler as well. The one redeeming area of the vehicle is the engine section which actually is very close to being accurrate to the show.
Normally I'm not much of a stickler for show accuracy. If Playmates could improve the design from the show to make a better toy, I could live with that. The truth is the design from the show isn't that interesting anyway. But they didn't really improve it, just changed it or possibly even made it worse. The huge rear wheels of the original design contrasted against the realatively small front wheels gave the cartoon verison a greater appearance of power. With the smaller rear wheels, it looks more like any other vehicle design. The spoiler and hand grips further harm the appearance by throwing off the angular flow of the cartoon design.
The Hover Chopper is better, but still falls shorts of being outstanding. As a chopper, it works quite well but is just a bit too large and slightly lacking in details. The body is exceptionally large to accommodate the jet turbine engine. It fits with the general design of the show but looks odd on its own. The hover mode is better. There isn't much change. The front wheel is split in half and the front fork folds outward in the middle. The rear tire extends backward and then unfolds similar to the front. The width added by moving the tires to the sides help compensate for the girth of the cycle itself. Unfortunately the wheels don't work well as turbines. The rims are designed to look like a cross between a thowing star and a propeller blade which is a good compromise, but the undersides were left with no detailing at all. And the sides of course still look like tires.
One thing I'm am always a bit leary of with motorcycles in the Turtle line and whether the figures will actually be able to fit on the vehicle. Fortunately that is not problem for the Hover Chopper. Both the original Turtles and the more articulated, Fighting Gear figures fit better than I would have expected. My only disappointment is that Casey can't fit on it. But that is due to the figure's limited articulation and not the Hover Chopper.
Paint/Decals - Tunneler 3/10, Chopper 5/10Once again, the toy is radically different than the cartoon version's design. And once more, I believe the cartoon's look is better. The cartoon version is primarily a dark blue with a dark red over the cabin and tan or gray on the sides by the engine. Playmates went the obvious route with the Tunneler. It's one of the Turtle's vehicles; it has to be green. They could have at least used a darker shade of green instead. The interior is especially disappointing. Playmates made no serious attempt to decorate it. The seat and stearing wheel are red. The dash is dark green and everything else is the same light green as the exterior. The missile launchers are notably dull as well, just dark green boxes. a sticker or paitn to make it look like part of the engine would have greatly improved them. There are several stikers which come preapplied but they are rather bland as well. There is one for the lights on the front of the spoiler, another for a vent in front of the canopy and then two with the TMNT logo, one on each side. The stickers are quite dull and don't really add anything to the vehicle. At least the paint applications came out quite well. The lines are clean and the colors are consistent. They even added an airbrushed scorching effect to the front.
Like all of the new TMNT line, the Hover Chopper has a very simple paint scheme but it works. The body is blue with green flames. The frame is grey. The engine, forks and exhaust are all silver. There are two decals preapplied for the speedometer and tachometer. The smaller decal for the tachometer falls on a seam for the body which means it doesn't have a perfectly flat surface to which to adhere. the only other minor problem I have with the paint is the headlight. It is actually a spring firing missle and was cast in red plastic. That would be fine if it were a break light, but for a headlight it shoud have either received some paint on the front or have been cast in a different color like yellow.
Play Value - Tunneler 5/10, Hover Chopper 6/10The Turtle Tunneler has three play features aside from the obvious rolling wheels. The spoiler can be folded down into a running board. The drill head turns when the vehicle rolls. And there are two firing missiles on either side of the front of the vehicle. The spoiler/running board is the biggest addition but just doesn't do much for me. It maily serves as a means to incoporate more than one figure while playing with the vehicle, but the figures look rediculous hanging off of the back. (Not to mention, who would want to ride back there while the vehicle is tunneling through rock and red hot magma. The turning drill is a nice addition but nothing new. When the front wheels are turned, a gear inside turns the drill head. I should mention though that when I say front wheels, I do not mean the half tracks, which are a single piece of molded plastic. The actual front wheels are a small pair mounted underneath the vehicle between the half tracks. The missile launchers which have become a halmark of Playmates' vehicles in this line are the final, extremely weak action feature. And I do mean weak. The launchers themselves can be hidden withing the front section of the vehicle and deployed by pressing the gray section square on the top of the vehicle, similar to the mechanism for the Battle Shell. The individual missiles can then be fired by pressing the red button on the side of either launcher. The springs for the launchers are very weak. The missiles can't go more than a foot before they hit the ground.
The Hover Chopper has as many play features as the Tunneler, and they work well. The first feature is the spring loaded missile headlight I mentioned in the last section. By pressing a small red button on the top of the gas tank, the projectile fires out from within the headlight. It isn't the strongest projectile, but is better than the Tunneler's. The second feature is a kick stand function. The lower set of exhaust pipes rotate down to support the bike in an upright postition. It isn't really needed in bike mode since the body is so fat that the bike won't tip any way. But in hover mode, the pipes help to support the rear end and keep it level. The final feature is the transformation from bike to hover mode. The process is very simple; pull the rear wheel back and then fold both wheels out. But the second mode opens up a lot more play options for a kid, or display options for collectors.
Value - Tunneler 6/10, Hover Chopper 7/10The biggest thing the Turtle Tunneler has going for it is a lack of competition. There just aren't many toy lines with vehicle accessories anymore beyond the occasional Batmobile. And at a price of just $10, the TMNT vehicles are a nice change. The addition of a tech pack backpack from the "Return to the Underground" episode would have really cause the value to improve. If the scale change is a big problem for you, the mini Ninja Turtle figures from Playmates are almost in scale with the Tunneler. The Hover Chopper deserves some extra credit for how well it fits in with the existing line as a compliment to both the Turtle Cycle as a second motorcycle and to the Razor Jet as a flying vehicle for the good guys.
Happy Hunting:Both vehicles are shipping now as part of the small vehicle assortment and should be available just about everywhere including Toys R Us, Walmart, Kmart, and Target. I found it at Walmart awhile ago. If you prefer to shop online, your options are going to be a bit limited. The only two sites I have found that still carry the entire TMNT line are Amazon and Walmart.com