Robot combat. For anyone who grew up through the seventies, those two words put together in that order brings up just one image: Rock’em Sock’em Robots (which are still available, btw!). Well, with Battle Wheels, take the old RSR, add some R/S, sprinkle with some samurai warrior design, and Bob’s your uncle! Actually, Bob is my father-in-law, but that’s beside the point.
Full review after the break.
First, the caveat: I was sent these toys as a review sample, gratis. The Geekdad policy is that we cannot keep review samples worth more than $100, and they can only be accepted no-strings-attached. Believe me or not, I will be objective in this review.
There’s nothing particularly ground-shaking about Battle Wheels, but they are a simple concept, executed well, providing fun for the kids. Each unit is basically a two-wheeled R/C car – but the wheels are side-by-side, like a Segway, with smaller front and rear non-powered wheels to keep it upright. The remote has two thumb-sticks, each controlling one wheel. The sophistication of the controls is low – both sticks forward to move forward, both back to go back, and so forth. With these basic controls, you send them into combat.
The units are designed to look like stylized robot warriors with detachable shoulder-armor, and come with a shield and two weapons each, which can be interchagned. Everything flies off ablatively in combat, but the ultimate goal is to land a shot on the big button on each robot’s chest, which will make the head spring off (ala Rock’em Sock’em).
The Nags: The downsides to these toys are a few. First, will someone please slap the toy industry as a whole upside their collective heads about packaging? It took the three of us almost 30 minutes to get the units out of their packaging and ready for play.
Second, the little screw-driver they included with the test units for opening up the battery compartments was too small for the task, and almost ended up stripping one of the screws; why couldn’t they have little pop-off battery hatch doors instead? Third (and last), the batteries included with the test units were cheap off-brands, and lost enough charge after about 45 minutes of play that the toys started to play sluggishly, making it hard to get the kind of impacts needed to achieve the head-pop; plan to invest in rechargeables to go with these.
The Kids: Once we got going with these, my boys had a blast with them. Every kid with an R/C car ends up doing demolition derby with them, and that’s exactly the kind of fun these imparted. For the purposes of play-testing with my boys, we set up a tournament where each lost piece (weapon, armor, or shield) was worth a point, 3 points to win a game. Knocking off the head was an automatic win. By the time we gave up (due to the battery issue above), we’d played for a solid hour – an eternity in our short attention-span household.
"Let me esplain. No. Let me sum up:" When I try to evaluate some new toy or gadget to decide whether it is worth the money or not, I use the economy-of-scale of going to the movies. I’m always content to pay around $10 for two hours of entertainment at the movies. With that as my guide, I expect two hours of entertainment out of every $10 spent on toys or gadget. In the play testing we did with the Battle Wheels (MSRP $30 per robot), I had three boys engaged for an hour (3 kid-hours, worth $15), and I can reasonably expect them to get the toys out again many times in the future for similar play. With the caveats above, I can honestly say that these are toys that will provide a good time for your kids at a equitable price. If, after that, you are interested in purchasing one or more, clicking the link below will take you to Amazon through my Associates account where you can find them. Enjoy! Buy Battle Wheel Warriors by Johnny Lightning Remote Controlled Vulcan Red