Thursday, 21 March 2013

Cowabunga !

I was never a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or TMNT, when it appeared back in the day. The timing was all wrong, and I was into other stuff. It does however speak volumes about the popularity of the franchise that despite my indifference, the imagery and names of the characters still managed to seep into my consciousness and take root. Perhaps because of this, I admit I was intrigued when LEGO announced that they were releasing a number of sets to tie in with a new TMNT TV series, and I subsequently picked up one of them - Set 79100 Kraang Lab Escape - soon after release so I could give the theme the once-over.

The box is festooned with purple on all sides; while it's probably not to everybody's taste, I love the vibrant purple and lime green TMNT branding. As expected, the front of the box (above) features an action shot of everything that's on offer in the set, while the back of the box (below - click to enlarge) highlights some of the set's play features plus a 4-panel comic strip illustrating how pizza can be used in place of a banana skin to initiate a daring lab escape.....

The contents of the box are accessed via a single thumb tab on the back, or else by slipping a knife around the edges of one of the end flaps. The box contains a couple of small, unnumbered bags and a folded instruction booklet; thankfully there's no DSS. The instruction booklet is small and perfectly formed at only 32 pages, with a front cover (below) that's almost identical to the front of the box. In addition to the building instructions themselves the booklet contains a 2-page inventory of parts, a page outlining the play features of the set, a reprise of the comic book panels which appear on the back of the box, and advertising for the other sets in the TMNT theme, the LEGO club, and the LEGO TMNT website which can be found at

Moving on to the minifigures, I suspect that for most purchasers the star of the show is going to be fun-loving Michelangelo. Mikey (below), famed among other things for popularising the exclamation "Cowabunga !", loves videogames, skateboarding, winding up the other turtles, and pizza. In place of the standard minifigure head he sports a modified elongated head complete with a moulded (rather than printed) orange mask. His torso and leg prints are simple but effective, and his shell is an excellent new part which hangs around the peg on the top of the torso where the head attaches and covers the back of the torso and the upper part of the legs. Interestingly, there's also a simple shell print on the back of the torso itself, presumably just in case there's anybody out there who would rather not use the new shell piece. Overall, I think they've done an excellent job with this minifigure - it's instantly recognisable but still unmistakeably LEGO. This version of Michelangelo is unique to the set, although a version with a different facial expression does appear in another of the TMNT sets.

The Kraang are actually a hostile alien species rather than a specific character. They're multi-tentacled brain-creatures who are up to no good, and you can see an image of the source material below.
Image (c) Turtlepedia
All in all, I think the designers have done a decent job creating the LEGO version (below). Angry expression ? Yep. Tentacles ? Yep - six of them. Visible brain sulci ? You bet. The Kraang 'figure' is fashioned from material which is harder than rubber but still somewhat soft and flexible; you can bend the tentacles, but they will (within reason) bounce back to their original shape. The Kraang are usually to be found inside an exo-suit, apparently, and at present the only place you'll find a 'naked' LEGO Kraang is in this set.

The final figure is a Foot Soldier. This fairly plain, simple minifigure, which has a back-printed torso but unprinted legs, appears in 4 of the first wave of TMNT sets. All black apart from some discrete detailing, I can imagine an army of these guys being quite menacing, but to be honest the minifigure itself isn't particularly exciting.

Small set or not, we're still provided with a number of rare and/or interesting parts, some of which you can see in the picture below (click to enlarge). The unprinted dark pink minifigure head, upon which the Kraang sits, is unique to this set. There's also a sprinkling of uncommon dark purple pieces in the set including the 2 x 2 tile with a stud in the centre, which is new for 2013 and only available in one other set at present, and the 1 x 2 plate, which has only previously made an appearance in 4 other sets. The flat silver claw clip was only previously available in one 2012 Hero Factory set, while the flat silver octagonal element is new for 2013 and appears in a total of 7 sets so far. The trans clear half cylinder is unique to this set, and the round 1 x 1 tile with gauge print, the 3 mm reddish brown rigid hose and the trans clear half sphere canopy have only appeared in 4, 4 and 5 sets respectively including this one.

At only 90 pieces the set is a predictably quick build - it took me barely 5 minutes. Minifigures aside, there are two main elements to the set - the Kraang's Mech Walker and the Laser-Shield Prison holding Michelangelo captive. The Mech Walker (below) is actually pretty neat; it's supported on four curved legs, the upper part rotates though 360 degrees and it features an opening canopy and a pair of flick-fire missiles.

The Laser-Shield Prison can be seen below. Conveniently attached to the side of it are Michelangelo's signature nunchuks, and if you look carefully, you can see that our hero is standing on a light bley 2 x 4 tile; press down on the back of it and Mikey literally breaks out of his puny cell.

All elements of the set can be seen below (click to enlarge). I think the idea is that Mikey flings his pizza in the general direction of the Foot Solider who treads on it, slips over and hits the lever, which releases Mikey from the prison. He's then free to grab his nunchuks and give the Kraang a bit of a pasting.....

Normally I'd wrap up with a few general impressions at this point, but today there's more.... I've frequently bemoaned the demise of alternate builds on these pages; readers of more advanced years will no doubt fondly remember LEGO's tendency to festoon set boxes of old with images of alternative models that could be built with the pieces contained within. This practice died out years ago, and while we do obviously have the Creator 3-in-1 sets which provide parts and instructions to build 3 different sets, and also some Technic sets which provide details of an alternate build online, that's pretty much it. Except for some reason, LEGO have bucked the trend with the TMNT sets, producing five sets of instructions for alternate models made from the pieces of five of the first wave of TMNTsets. For this set the alternate build is an air boat (below) and you can download the instructions here.

You can see a picture of the alternate build below. OK, so it's a pretty modest effort, employing only perhaps half of the available pieces, but I still want to commend LEGO for having made the effort - it's appreciated and hopefully this initiative will be extended to other themes.

At £9.99 / $12.99 for 90 pieces and 2 minifigures plus the Kraang, this set is reasonable value for money. It must have been quite a challenge to come up with a viable play set for the kids at this price point with so few pieces to play with, but the designer(s) have done a decent job, rustling up a nifty little walker for the Kraang, a prison for Mikey, and of course the figures themselves. Of course, most AFOLs will probably pick up this set for the minifigures alone, but even on this basis 3 TMNT characters plus a bunch of spare parts is an OK deal.

So not earth-shattering, then, but still a respectable little set which has just about done enough to earn the LEGO TMNT theme another shot at my wallet.... If you're in the UK you can get the set here; at time of writing it's 2p under RRP (!) with free shipping. Folks in the US can get the set here; you'll pay $12.97, with free shipping over $25.


  1. I am in exactly the same position, I had no intention of buying any TMNT sets, but after picking up this little model I am hooked and have since purchased three more sets and am about to enter the TMNT vignette contest over at FBTB.

    I fear this will be just the first among a plethora of themes this year which will draw me in.

    1. Agreed - I was also minded to give the Lone Ranger sets a miss, but they're a whole lot better than I expected... It's going to be another expensive year I think !