I previously mentioned that I was falling behind on my toy reviews, and one toy line with which I'm completely behind the ball is the Playmates Ninja Turtles line. I've only reviewed figures from the first two waves and I guess we're on the forth now, depending on what you consider the waves to be. So for this review I'll try to make up some of that deficit by covering a couple of the newer TMNT mutant villains: Snakeweed and Cockroach Terminator!
I like everything about the mutants in the new TMNT cartoon. They're weird and freaky, and remind me a lot of the imaginative mutations from the original show. I even like the rules for the new mutagen... or, I guess I should say "lack of rules", since there doesn't seem to be a consistent logic around how the mutagen works. I usually like more solid rules in sci-fi because they help define the universe and make it reasonable (i.e. you can't go past Warp 10 in Star Trek, you have to destroy the heads of zombies to "kill" them in Dawn of the Dead, etc). In this case, I'm cool with the lack of rules for the mutagen because it pretty much has carte blanche to create whatever weird creature the story needs.
We'll start this review with Snakeweed, the first bad guy mutant we came across in the cartoon. If I'm not mistaken, he's also the only mutant villain to appear in more than one episode (other than Fishface and Dogpound). That makes Snake a pretty important character as mutants-of-the-week go.
I think it can be hard to make a plant-based monster cool. Designing an awesome shark monster is easy because sharks are pretty monstrous to begin with. Plant monsters are often just this side of lame because plants usually seem docile and soothing (Audrey II and Swamp Thing excepting). But Snakeweed is a fearsome and formidable foe for the Turtles, with just enough gruesomeness to balance out his tame herbaceous nature.
The first thing you'll notice is that Snake is much too small compared with the other Turtles. Screen-accurate scaling isn't exactly TMNT 2012's strongest suit, something to which Metalhead can attest. Snake's sculpt looks good, if a bit soft, but Playmates certainly captured the character well. The limited paint apps work for the character, and the light green spray gives the figure some much-needed visual variation. Most importantly, the gruesome heart and bifurcated legs have the appropriately bloody coloration.
The articulation works well enough, with a swivel neck, swivel-hinge shoulders, swivel-hinge chest, swivel-hinge hips, and hinge knees. It would have been great if the tentacles had a little more movement, though. I'm not sure if I want to go here, but I keep thinking that it would have been awesome if the tentacles were... dare I say it... bendy! At least he comes with two tentacle extensions for his claws.
The main problem with the articulation is that there's something weird happening with the sculpt around the knees that keep the legs from straightening out completely. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the legs are separated below the knees in the package so the figure can fit in the bubble (speaking of which, there is some assembly required). Whatever it is, Snakeweed would be a much more imposing enemy for the Turtles if he could stand up straight.
Let's shift gears and take a look at Cockroach Terminator. The episode in which he appears is among my favorites because it humanizes Raphael and makes him relatable, something that some of the other TMNT incarnations just couldn't pull off because they couldn't see past the "loose cannon" persona. Cockroach himself was pretty awesome in that episode, and the whole "insect with cybernetic enhancements" concept is perfect for an action figure. It's kind of like how the Metalhead character concept lends itself to a lot of great toy potential.
Unfortunately, just like the 2012 Metalhead, most of the potential fun is wasted on this figure. If you think of all the great stuff you could do with Cockroach Terminator... Trap Jaw-like attachments, blaster weapons, even a nesting doll cockroach shell that could pop off to expose his blobby final form... all we get is this saw blade attachment. Except it's not quite an attachment because it doesn't really attach to the figure. The cables of the saw blade fit through a hole in the body so you can puppet it from behind the figure. Of course, the problem is that when you take the saw blade out, you're left with a huge awkward hole in the figure's body. Oh, and the saw blade itself doesn't spin, so it's just kind of there. Hm. We need to try a little harder here, people.
Cockroach's sculpt is representative of the character, but like Snakeweed, the details are soft. When I was perusing some of the pictures I took of the cockroach, I thought I had taken them out of focus. Nope... that's just the way the sculpt is. Fortunately, he's appropriately scaled with the Turtles. The paint apps look okay, and I'm glad that Playmates took the time to paint the robo-detailing because they help to hammer home the Cockroach's robotic-ness.
The articulation isn't all that bad considering the design of the character. You won't get much movement out of those stumpy legs, with only a swivel-hinge joint at the hips, and the neck is a simple swivel joint. But the arms have a nice range of motion with swivel-hinge shoulders and elbows. Those arms are so prominent that they need the additional articulation, so Playmates made the right call there.
Both figures clock in at just under $9 at Walmart. They're more substantial than the standard $10 Star Wars figure (even though the feet of both are hollow), but throwing in a couple more accessories would sweeten the deal further. Some extra battle-damaged tentacles for Snakeweed and a pre-mutation robo-cockroach mini-figure for the Terminator would have been awesome.
So who wins in this match-up? Sorry, my insectoid friend... I'll have to go with Snakeweed here. His cool and expressive look really stands out on the shelf, but more mobile tentacles would have made the figure more fun to play with. Also, fully-extendable legs would have helped make him seem more imposing. Cockroach is a good enough figure that, like Metalhead, tragically wastes a lot of play potential. Still, I enjoy the mutants of the modern TMNT line, although they're not quite as fun as those from the classic line. Scroll down for more pics!