Hot on the heals of the Robo Hunter Turtles, Playmates has released another series of Turtle variants with a hunting theme,
the Monster Trappers. The Monster Trapper turtles are supposed to be based at least in part on the events of season four of
the new TMNT cartoon. But for now, they seem more like mutant green versions of the original Ghostbusters line of the
eighties. I'm sure the Shellbulance vehicle and fire house play set will be announced soon.
Packaging - 7/10It's hard to believe that I have been complaining about the ugly orange packaging of the new TMNT line for almost two and a half years. But Playmates has finally redesigned the packaging for the TMNT line. Change is good, at least in this case. The Monster Trapper figures are the first deluxe figures to feature the new designs. The new design borrows several design elements from the packaging of the Robo Hunter figures (review and photos) while still having a very distinct look. The fast motion blur stripes color coordinated to the figure across the top of the card are back, as are the images of the character and quote, though they are now on the right side of the card rather than the left. But the majority of the card is occupied by the huge bubble. While the bubbles don't have the elaborate shapes of some of the old designs, but they are still distinctive due to a large left side that is set at a forty five degree angle. Within the bubble there is a huge insert that covers the entire left side and bottom panel as well as over a quarter of the bottom and right side of the bubble. It shows the various types of traps that are included with each figure on the left panel and has the Monster Trappers logo on the bottom and wrapped around to the right side. The figure and accessories are displayed in the remaining space. (Looking at the amount of empty space below the figures makes me think these figure probably should have been either part of the basic line or at least closer to the Ninja Action figures. The backs of the cards are pretty similar to the new basic cards as well. More space has been dedicated to a photo of the figure and accessories. There are photos of the other figures in the line, but the photos of the available vehicles were left off, which is rather odd considering how much more room they had on the deluxe cards. Once again, the file cards are gone, though there are still individual blurbs for each figure at the top as well as the stock explanation of the Mutants and Monsters story line. It will be interesting to see how the new packaging for all the new products blend together on the store pegs, but I have to say that this is a definite improvement.
Sculpting - 4/10All four turtles get new sculpts once again. This time each is wearing a tactical vest and what looks like a rain fly over their shells. Once again, Playmates has done a good job including a lot of detail on the figures but they just don't appeal to me. They're almost like the TMNT meets Rob Liefeld's X-Force, a lot of extra belts and pouches and not enough attention paid to getting the basic form right. There's even the requisite giant padding on Michelangelo's elbow. They also sculpted a small laser onto Donatello's right hand with a cable going up to his arm. Of course this means that if the arm isn't in the default position the sections of the cable don't match up. Why they didn't just use a separate cable as they did with the Robo Hunters is beyond me. The Monster Trapper figures also have the slightly thicker sculpts similar to the original figures or the Fighting Gear figures which doesn't really affect the appearance that much, but it does reduce the range of motion for the articulation.
Paint - Michelangelo 4/10, others 5/10The paint work on these is slightly better than some of the recent TMNT figures, but still just average. The paint applications are fairly clean and consistent for mass market figures. But while there is a greater effort made to paint most of the details in the sculpt including painting the "no monsters" logos, most of the smaller details were skipped and just blend in. Things like the pouches and buckles on the vests and belts are all unpainted. Michelangelo has the added drawback of at least one major detail that was under painted. The giant elbow pad on his left arm has one section that is painted black, but the bulk of it was left unpainted. The result is it looks like Michelangelo's elbow has swelled to three times its normal size. Get that mutant a doctor.
Articulation - 4/10The Monster Trapper Turtles have the same twenty three points of articulation as the Fighting Gear figures:
Accessories - Raphael 3/10, Leonardo 4/10 Michelangelo 5/10, Donatello 8/10The Monster Trapper figures are deluxe figures due mostly to the number of accessories that come with each figure. Unfortunately, what they gain in quantity, they lose in quality. (Someone should point out to Playmates that is supposed to work the other way around.) Each figure comes with the same basic assortment of gear: a new version of their standard weapons, a monster catching weapon, an extra weapon or accessory, a backpack to hold a monster once it is captured, the same spring loaded monster trap and two little monster figures made of soft, rubbery plastic. Obviously that is quite a few accessories, but in most cases they aren't that great. Several are pretty poorly thought out. Many are quite poorly executed. And a few are both poorly designed and executed. But there are a few highlights mixed in as well, including the fact that they can actually carry or store all of their accessories with them. (With one exception)
Leonardo's accessories follow the general pattern pretty closely. He has two katanas which are new molds, but once again left unpainted. They can be stored in the loops on Leo's back. His monster catching weapon is a gun that fires two spring loaded projectiles that have real string net attached between them. It is a nice idea and the firing mechanism is stronger than I had expected. The net is fairly small but it is still doesn't spread out fully when fired. Leo's extra weapon is another set of projectiles with small claws on the end that can be used in the net gun. The claws are too small to actually hold anything though. But as a nice added touch, the gun is designed so that just the bottom projectile fires if the button is only pressed halfway so that the two can be fired independently. Of course, that also means that the net can be half fired if you don't press the button completely. His backpack has a claw cage. Pressing up on the button on the bottom releases the cage while the button on the top clamps it shut. The backpack has a serious problem though. The monsters don't fit! When the claws are closed there is only about three eighths of an inch between the claws and the backpack. This is actually a problem common to the entire series. Playmates attempted to compensate for this by making all of the monsters extremely thin, but it is not enough. Leo's final weapon is the spring loaded monster trap. It looks like a landmine with four trapezoidal panels around it. When the "no monsters" symbol in the middle is pressed the panels snap shut, trapping whatever monster or finger happens to be in the middle. It is a nicely designed accessory, which is good since every figure gets one. But it would have been better if the panels were a little longer so that they could do more than just clamp down on the base of the monster. Leonardo's two monsters are a little yellowish brown dog like creature and some weird bug thing with two heads, one on each end. The imagination used in designing all of the little monsters is the one consistently cool thing about this series even if they all do have to look like they went through a trash compactor so that they are thin enough to fit in the backpacks.
Raphael comes with the same basic assortment. He has his sais of course. And they can be stored in the holsters on his calves. His monster catching weapon is a cannon with a spring loaded firing claw projectile. It is easily the weakest projectile launcher I have ever gotten with an average distance of about four inches. Raph does come with two extra accessories rather than just one. One is a headset with microphone to communicate with the others. But the other one is a set of handcuffs, an odd choice for trapping monsters, none of which have hands or arms even close to being large enough to which to attach the cuffs. Raph's backpack is a cage to hold any trapped monsters. Without any paint it looks a little bland but at least it is large enough to hold some of the monster figures without crushing them, but not all of them. Raph has the same spring loaded monster trap as all of the figures of course. Finally there are his two monsters, a dog or possibly a large rat monster and a big green bug.
Michelangelo's accessories include the usual nunchakus, a net, a grappling hook, a containment backpack, the usual monster trap and two monsters of course. The nunchakus are another new mold, but nothing very interesting. He does have my second favorite monster catching weapon of the four, a bolo net. At three inches by two inches, it is a little small. But it is nicely crafted, made of real cloth netting, hemmed all the way around and with four little plastic 'weights' sewn on each end. Mikey's extra weapon is a pretty pitiful grappling hook that is little more than a handle and six inches of string tied to one of the hooks from the Air Ninja figures. The backpack is a more high tech and probably more realistic design if you are going to store a monster on your back. It even has a small cable to connect it to the strap over Mikey's right shoulder. But like Leonardo's claw backpack, there is very little room inside. The monsters will fit, barely, but only if they are crammed into the bottom which makes them tougher to remove. Its large size also means there isn't room to store Michelangelo's nunchakus on his back. There are two clips on the backpack itself to hold them, but of course that only works while the backpack is on. There is the monster trap once again. And then there are Michelangelo's monsters, a little yellowish monster rabbit or frog and a red fish like creature that reminds me of a mutant shrimp. Like I said earlier, they are rather imaginative designs. But the evil prawn of doom has a problem in that it is too top heavy and falls over constantly.
Finally we come to Donatello who is the one figure whose accessories might actually justify the higher price of the deluxe figures. To start with, Donatello has to come with a bo staff of course. But rather than just a plain staff, this one has an lasso tether on one end very much like real animal control agents use. When the wide section of the staff is retracted, a loop of string is exposed. Once it has been looped around a target the staff can be extended to capture the monster. It is a nicely designed weapon that actually makes sense for the monster trappers theme. Donatello's monster catching weapon is even more impressive. It is a containment cell shaped like a fifty five gallon drum. The top can be pulled up to reveal the area to store a monster. Then by pressing the buttons on both sides of the unit, it snaps shut. The top is even made of clear plastic so you can see whatever monster is inside. It's not perfect. It is too small to fit all of the monster figures and the 'no monsters' symbols used for the buttons and lettering for "danger" were left unpainted. But it is still the best accessory of the series. Donatello's extra weapons are less impressive, the same grappling hook as Michelangelo and monocle headset that clips over the right side of his face. His backpack is similar to Michelangelo's but this time with a clear panel for a door. As with Michelangelo's, it is a tight fit for most of the monster figures and it also has a clip on the side to hold his bo staff. He has the usual monster trap as well of course. Finally there are his monster figures. One is a little red creature with four eyes. The other is a yellow creature that looks a bit like a cross between a crab and a bat. The eyeball creature is a tough fit for most of the monster containers due to the size of the eyes. And for some reason they got cheap and only painted the pupils on two of the four eyes. (They are sculpted onto all four.) The yellow creature is easily the worst one to try to fit in the monster traps and containers. It is much wider than any of the others. It can be made to fit by folding back the limbs on either side though. It is also the only monster figure that can't stand on its own. I don't mean it is unstable, it simply isn't designed with a flat base on which to stand at all.
Value - Donatello 6/10, others 4/10These are deluxe figures. I found them for $10.99 but they will probably be available for under $10 when they become more widely available. Since the figures themselves are no more impressive than the usual basic figure, you are really paying as much as half of that price for the accessories. Donatello's are the only ones that can really justify the extra cost and even then it isn't a great value. I was lucky in that I had a coupon for $10. At just over $8 a piece they are better deal.
Happy Hunting:The Monster Trapper figures are just now hitting stores. I found mine at Toys R Us in Madison, WI. Mine is the first report of seeing these in stores that I've seen. No doubt they will be available more widely in the near future. But you may have to wait for the fall resets to be completed at stores like Target and Walmart.