Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles HSH Half-Shell Headquarters Playset review

Half-Shell Headquarters
My recent streak of Half-Shell Heroes reviews is almost complete. But there is still one last entry into the Half-Shell Heroes toy line that has been waiting patiently for its review for well over a year. And as the largest entry into Playmates' line of preschool TMNT toys, the Half-Shell Headquarters will hopefully serve as their magnum opus for the line should it not continue into 2018. That may seem like a tall order. But standing over two feet tall and expanding out to twenty inches wide, this bohemouth has the makings of being one of Playmates best playsets yet.

Packaging - 8/10

This playset is really big. But it has more than just its size going for it. And the packaging does a good job of showing off both the scale of the toy as well as its many features. Continuing with the design asethic of the rest of the line, Playmates went with an open box for the Half-Shell Headquarters. The box covers the entire back of the playset and wraps around the sides and above and below it as well. But almost all of the front is left wide open so you can see exactly what you're getting with the set and even try out a few of its features while it is still in the store. Meanwhile, the space on the sides, top and back of the packaging are covered with large photos showing off all of the features of the playset. But as much as I may like the appearance of the packaging, it does come with two notable drawbacks. The first is that it is so large that it is probably too large. I don't mean that they wasted space with it. The fully assembled playset fills the interior of the box completely. But most stores don't have shelves that will accomodate a two foot tall box. In the past Playmates got around this with their larger items by making the backside of the box orientated so that the box could be displayed on its side instead. The Half-Shell Headquarters doesn't have that option. And as a result I saw many stores where it was poorly displayed or even relagated to the overhead shelves, far from the eyes of the youngest Ninja Turtle fans. I also suspect that the size of the packaging may have played a large part in the decision of many stores to drop the playset from store layouts much faster than it probably deserved. The second issue with the packaging is that due to its size and open design for the front, the box isn't as strong as it could be. It isn't much of an issue on store shelves because the box is too large for anyone to want to stack them more than one high. But once you get it out of the store, the box is fairly easily bent due to the lack of any structural support in the front. Again, it should only be an issue if you are trying to keep the playset MIB. But if that is the case, I would be careful not to put any additional weight on top of the Half-Shell Headquarter's box.

Sculpting - 8/10

The Half-Shell Headquarters has an impressive sculpt both in terms of the overall design and the amount of detail put into it. The overall design of the playset is really well done. There are four different levels to the playset with each level containing multiple areas. The playset strikes a nice balance between making the areas big enough for several figures to be included together if you wish. But they are small enough that they don't appear to be empty if there aren't figures present. The bottom two levels do get rather small by comparison and are dominated by the action features. The actual sculpting for each area is well done as well. They included a lot of detail to give the spaces personality. The slightly chaotic/random appearance of the sculpted detail and the fact that some of the sculpted debris on the top level limits your options for where a figure can simply stand may annoy collectors who just want to be able to display their HSH figures. But I don't think young kids will mind at all.

Paint - 4/10

There is not much paint work on the Half-Shell Headquarters. There is some for the hands and large Raphael face. And the two buildings in the background of the top level have some painted trim. But beyond that, the playset uses a handful of preapplied stickers and a varity of different colored plastic to add visual interest. The end result is passable. But there is a world of potential here that is going to waste as well.

Play Value - 8/10

A playset like this can derive its play value either from its play features or just from being a great environment for free play. The Half-Shell Headquarters strikes a nice balance between the two. As a play environment, it works really well. Once fully expanded, you have a fairly large street level at the top as well as the lair level directly below it. The third level is used mostly for action features. The feet form the lowest level with one serving as a jail and the other being a ramp for the escape cart. They even made use of the opening between the legs to serve as a driveway for vehicles. Even if it did nothing else, the Headquarters would still have been a fun playset. But of course it is also packed with features. Sadly, it's most notable feature is kind of underwhelming. When not in use, the playset's hands and side platforms can be folded in. Doing so also causes the large Raphael head on the top level to flip down and hid behind the playset. It's an interesting idea. But it barely reduces the size of the playset and it doesn't actually close up any of the areas so that you could use them for storage either. When in use, the playset has plenty of action features as well. The top level has a trap door in the center as well as two slides on either end, all leading down to the levels down below. But while the slides drop figures into the lair, the center trap door drops straight through the lair level into another slide on the third level which in turn can deliver the falling figure to either the cell located in the right foot or the ramp and escape cart in the left foot. It's a fun feature and works well. But it dominates a lot of the space in the playset, especially on the third level. I don't know if it is worth the amount of real estate dedicated to it. The other features included are much less flashy: a pizza that can be slid into and out of the oven, an opening fridge, a flip down ladder and flip open sewer cover on the second level, the working cell door and a small cart that will roll down the ramp in the left foot. These smaller features seem like they are much more fun and easier to integrate into play than something like the the multilevel drop from the trap door. Aside from that, it does feel like there should be some feature built into the two buildings on the street level. It seems especially strange that one of the buildings even has an open door but it doesn't lead to anything. And ideally it would have been possible for the Half-Shell Headquarters to connect to the previously released Super Sewer HQ. But as it is, it is still a really fun playset.

Figures - 3/10

A playset wouldn't be very useful without some figures to play in it. So the Half-Shell Headquarters comes with a Raphael and Bebop figure. I like that they included some figures. But just as with the previous Super Sewer HQ, the figures that are included are identical to the regular releases of those figures in the basic assortment. So unless you start your collection by buying everything at once, chances are pretty high that you are already going to have at least Raphael if not both figures. And if you have Bebop, you are going to need/want his partner. So you are either going to need to buy the Rocksteady/Bebop two pack which will still leave you with two Bebops.

Value - 7/10

The Half-Shell Headquarters sold in stores for $60-$65. That is at least $10 more than the previous Super Sewer HQ. That isn't too surprising. The Half-Shell Headquarters is larger and has more features. So I would expect the price to be slightly higher. And on its own, the playset has plenty of value to justify that price. There's just two small issues holding the playset back in my opinion. The underwhelming choice of pack-in figures is the first negative. The second issue is the sheer amount of competition it faces. large playsets have become rather rare in normal action figure lines. But they seem to be pretty common in the pre-school targeted action figure lines like Half-Shell Heroes, Imaginex and whatever Hasbro calls their pre-school Star Wars line. The Half-Shell Headquarters isn't even the only large playset in the Half-Shell toy line. And while it is a better playset than the Super Sewer HQ, if you already have that playset, I can see a parent being hesitant to also buy this one.

Happy Hunting:

The Half-Shell Headquarters was available from all the usual stores when it was released in 2016. As of the time of me writing this review at the end of 2017, finding it can be a little tougher. Due to its size, a lot of stores dropped the playset early in 2017. The playset is still available on both Toys R Us and Walmart's websites though. And with the future of the line looking dim, if you are interested in the playset it is probably a good idea to get it while it is still available for the retail price.

playset MIB front

box back

Raphael & Bebop packin figures

escape cart

top level

headquarters closed front headquarters closed rear headquarters closed top level headquarters closed third level headquarters closed kitchen level headquarters closed ground level

Headquarters open

top level left side top level right side second level right side pizza oven second level left side fridge third level left side third level right side vehicle entrance third level extended platform left leg right leg cell with door open cell and toe area Half-Shell Heroes Headquarters and Secret Sewer HQ Raphael Bebop front and back