“Robot Wars 2016” – On the Box

Robot Wars number one fan The Mighty Jontosaurus relives the highlights of the epic new series…

It came, it saw, it conquered, and it smashed absolutely everything into a thousand tiny pieces. The new series of Robot Wars was as destructive as I thought it would be, and in the end, history repeated itself when a mighty spinner and a powerful flipper met in the grand final. Reminiscent of the series 3 grand final where Hynodisc and Chaos 2- two of the most iconic machines in Robot Wars in history battled it out, with the latter triumphing, this year’s final saw the fantastic Carbide meet the entertaining Apollo in the final.

Carbide, despite being a new machine, wasn’t quite the rookie it was made out to be. Within Carbide’s team was Sam Smith, a veteran of Robot Wars who designed and built all three Tiberius machines in the original series, and also a former member of Team BodyHammer and Team Terrorhurtz/Killerhurtz. In other words, whilst it was a new machine, it came under the control of some true veteran pedigree. The same could be said of Apollo- although it was captained by a novice team, it is essentially the old ‘Kronic the Wedgehog’ machine’s third form with a white paint-job and some improved armour.

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Carbide makes sparks fly

Surprisingly, though, it was the new machines that dominated the series, producing the most memorable moments in the series, with some of the older machines actually turning out to be very disappointing indeed. The returning ‘veterans’ of the last wars were many- every episode saw four returning machines from the older series of varying degrees of capabilities. Behemoth were back- having featured in every series since the second- and they looked to be very capable, bettering Terrorhurtz- another experienced teamed captained by the legendary Peter Reid- before falling to Carbide, who had a vertical spinning blade that proved to be too strong. Off came Behemoth’s iconic scoop, and there hopes disappeared soon after. Razer fared even worse- it put a few holes in a minibot before promptly driving itself into the pit of oblivion. Dantomkia- the same old machine, but captain by a completely new team- also made it to the heat final before Apollo proved too strong, and Storm 2 looked sluggish compared to the live-wire machine that we saw in the Seventh Wars. Apparently, the team were told they had to lower the gearing on their machine so as to be allowed to compete, which meant that they couldn’t rely on the speed and power to win them battles as they could back in the day. Not a single veteran was in the series grand final, and even the Wildcard entrant- Thor- was a rebuilt machine with only one remaining member of the team driving it.

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House robots – The big boys

For nostalgia purposes, that is a bad thing. But for longevity purposes, it is incredibly promising, as it means the series can continue under the steam of the new competitors, without having to rely on the recognisable faces to earn viewers. In fact, if there is a series 2, the likes of Carbide and Apollo will be recognisable faces due to their success this year. For me, the show worked incredibly well- then again, the format of having combat robots smash each other into tiny pieces is difficult to really get wrong. The house robots…well four of the team at least…were back, although they didn’t seem to be as destructive as I remember. I think this may be down to the fact that the modern robots are simply tougher in general, although it could also be due to the producers of the show under-powering the house robots so that they didn’t just slice a competitor in half in seconds and make for a boring show. I wouldn’t know.

I’m also not sure how I feel about the new arena. It was nice to see the arena flipper back, as well as the Corner Patrol Zones- the zones where the house robots are allowed to dwell- as well as the obligatory pit of oblivion, complete with the pit release button. However, one thing was was lacking was the ability to flip a robot out of the arena. It could still be achieved, and it WAS achieved, with my heart being broken when my beloved Storm II was sent tumbling over the wall, but there was now only a small section of the wall where an OOTA flip was possible. This, in turn, meant that flipping an opponent out of the arena was a tactical feat in itself. Instead of just pushing a robot towards the wall in any corner, and then firing the weapon, roboteers now had to make sure they positioned their rivals in a tactical place to take them out of the action.

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Team Nuts – embracing the spirit of the competition

As always, there were those teams who embraced the spirit of the competition: by building rubbish robots but entering the show completely to have fun and entertain people. The Nuts team, who appeared in week one, had such a poorly constructed robot that you wondered how long it would be until it completely fell apart just by moving. They surprised everyone by how tough their machine was, but in the end, their lack of an effective weapon and exposed wheels (a regular problem in Robot Wars) sent them home in a bin bag.

Gabriel, too, an axel bot which resembled Stinger on steroids, was a ridiculous contraption was was just awkward. It was difficult to beat but it also couldn’t really do much to stop its opponents which was its eventual undoing. But both of those teams took the competition in the right spirit, as did eventual champions Apollo, who decided that once they’d beaten their opponents, the house robots were fair game. Matilda AND Shunt fell foul to its flipper, and quite frankly, we think they would’ve had a go at Sir Killalot if it wasn’t for the fact they never got an opportunity.

Nothing seems to have changed about Robot Wars. Robots won’t get very far if they enter the arena with wooden armour, they need to be invertible or have a very effective self-righting mechanism, they shouldn’t have exposed wheels, and flippers and spinners still completely dominate in terms of success. In the end, though, when it came down to it, a powerfully destructive weapon was let down by being unreliable, and a flipping machine proved too tactically powerful to ever really be in doubt. Sound familiar? Of course it does. It is the age-old, series long battle between Hypnodisc and Chaos 2 all over again! Like I said: history repeats itself. Please don’t let Robot Wars disappear from our screens for another decade, BBC!

We all love a bit of robotic carnage!

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