Robot Wars – the sport for robots – has returned to our TV screens this year following a painfully long absence. Each week, we've been providing non-technical (and increasingly nonsensical) reviews of the combatants. Here's our rundown of the robotic runners and riders from episode three.
There are a few reasons why Robot Wars, a sport that is ostensibly for robots, is also thoroughly good for humankind. Two of those were evident in the most recent episode. Reason one – this team brought a family together doing something they enjoy, namely building and operating a robot that could quite easily kill the neighbour's dog. Reason two – 15-year-old Alex Brown gets to be the coolest kid in his school this week, putting all those dickheads named Jason and Kyle in the shade. Seriously, those guys are dickheads.
Full disclosure: I thought the sun had set on the great empire of the flipper robot. I know, I know, I was hasty in my judgement. But having fallen in love with Carbide a few weeks ago, it seemed clear that the only way to win at this game was with some form of vicious spinning bar. However, episode three brought together two truly brutal flipper robots and, ultimately, the right one progressed to the grand final.
Perhaps the only criticism I can level at TR2 is its name. That's not a very good name, guys. It doesn't grab me. I had to look it up for this piece, despite watching you decimate the competition in this week's episode. (A little research reveals that the full name is Toon Raider 2, but this was not mentioned and simply raises more questions).
Still, if your weakest point is the name, things clearly aren't too bad. TR2 could flip like no other, and deservedly romped through the qualifier and the round-robin, then made easy work of Dantomkia in the episode final. It was well built, perfectly driven and menacing as fuck. A very worth addition to the grand final and proof that flippers can still fight.
An excellent robot, this, one that was unfortunate to come up against the slightly more excellent TR2. Had Dantomkia competed in week two this team may well have won, and could still make the final as a wildcard (though for me that honour should fall to Thor).
If you were being kind to team captain Shane Swan you would call him a character. That's what my mum did when I watched this episode with her, because she didn't want to call him out for his boasting, posing, or insistence on being pushed into the arena on a trolley like some decadent Roman emperor.
For a reason that escapes me Shane was dressed in civvies, while his three worker drone teammates were all wearing long white lab coats. This was possibly a hierarchy thing, because Shane was the undoubted king of this hill. The drones seemed nice enough when they were allowed to speak, though I harbour fears that the captain beats them mercilessly between contests.
Previously owned and campaigned by bloke who named it after his kids, Dantomkia had an excellent flipper, but was just that bit too vulnerable to dying on the arena floor after a few heavy impacts. That's what caused its two defeats – both against TR2 – and meant it could only ever have been runner-up. A valiant effort, nonetheless.
I must confess to having had high hopes for Big Nipper. It had a lot going for it: a team consisting of an intense dad and his two oddball sons; a seemingly effective weapon that did real damage in the qualifier; and a sleek look that resembled a sexy futuristic mower.
But it didn't really live up to its apparent potential. Big Nipper caused impressive damage in the opening exchanges, but then made a failed switch to a pincer weapon against TR2 after damaging their disc shaft in the qualifier. It beat King B Remix in the round-robin, because King B Remix was rubbish, but did little of note against Dantomkia.
That left it third overall, not enough to make the episode final. In fairness, it would never have stood a chance against TR2. Back to your shed, lads.
KING B REMIX
I could not build a robot. Just could not get it done. I do not have the requisite understanding of electronics to create such a machine, and I would most certainly lose an arm somehow. This places me in stark contrast with the creators of King B Remix, who understand the fuck out of electronics and were thus able to build a functioning robot without losing a single limb.
But what I do understand is that success in Robot Wars requires some form of weapon. Over the past few weeks we have seen spinning bars that could remove organs and flippers that can toss a Ford Fiesta like it was salad.
King B Remix had neither of these things. Indeed, its sole weapon appeared to be a pair of innocuous spikes protruding from its front. I imagine they'd hurt if they struck human flesh, but a fuck-off-massive armour-plated robot probably wouldn't be too fussed by them.
This played out in the arena. King B snuck through the qualifier, largely by staying out of the way. But, come the round-robins, it was entirely unable to compete; it was a boxer lumbering around then ring without landing a single punch, a tennis player with no strings in his racket. Three pretty comprehensive defeats followed.
Natsuko, the team's eccentric robot whisperer, was good value, claiming to speak to King B in Japanese before the bouts. If she could do it all again, you have to imagine she'd tell him to do some fucking damage.
Supernova was a good robot. Not a great one – hence its qualifying round exit – but by no means bad. If these were my children, I would put a consoling arm around them after their defeat and say, "do not be sad, my children, for you have brought not but honour upon our name." And then I'd buy them a beer or a pizza, depending on their age.
Like Glitterbomb, Supernova's exit was more down to King B Remix doing a good job of avoiding the action than their own failings. Their thirst for competition drew them into battle, and damage sustained against TR2 left them crippled and creeping zombie-like into the pit.
After Foxic used a similar tactic to go through last week, we must call upon Wizard Judge Noel Sharkey to intervene in such matters. This is Robot Wars, after all, not a mechanised version of hide and seek. If you don't wish to fight, maybe leave the arena clear for those who do.
Anyway, good effort Supernova. Let's grab that beer/pizza soon.
Heavy Little Miss Sunshine vibes here. Usually kids on Robot Wars piss me off, but April was pretty great, wasn't she? What with her cartoonish hair, mad eyes and intense conversation. She didn't seem fazed at all. A child of this age who likes violent robots can only go on to great things. Hopefully she's milking it for all it's worth at school this week.
Alas, her team's robot wasn't quite of the standard to progress. It wasn't bad by any means, but faced a tough combination: an excellent fighting robot in Dantomkia, and an excellent hiding robot in King B Remix. Though arguably more lethal than the latter, Glitterbomb was flipped into the wall by Dantomkia and was unable to right itself. This was a disappointment; frankly, if you didn't want them to go through you are dead inside.
Cut to the team, with April looking as though she'd required serious coaching to pull herself together for the post-fight interviews. She managed it though, shooting the adults glances that said: "God help you if you can't get us to the second round in the next series."
Here we go. Every week – every bloody week – there is one robot that I simply cannot remember; here is the latest member of that stupid club. Resembling a papier mâché Treasure Island that the kids got bored of before finishing, Or Te was barely part of this battle, an early clash with Supernova dislodging its power link and putting the team out.
It's painful to think that people invested their money and indeed their hopes in this one, but that's the reality. The world is a painful place where dreams, like robots, are often crushed with painful speed. Case in point: I never wanted to write about Robot Wars; I wanted to play saxophone in a jazz band. But that is life, isn't it Or Te? A fucking let down.
Remember what I said earlier about not being able to build a robot? I could build this robot. And that is because this was not a proper robot. It was made from MDF, for Christ's sake. I could take down my Ikea bookshelves and fashion them into a box shape, paint that box green and stick a motor inside. And so apparently I, like the Overdozer lads, could be on Robot Wars – who knew?
In their defence, which they require a great deal of, they seemed like nice guys. Uni mates, see. Just having a laugh and doing it for the experience, so that they can go to house parties and tell girls they were on Robot Wars. Perhaps they will be met with a lot of blank faces and quick departures, but eventually one girl will know what they're on about, and she will be a girl worth destroying their friendship over.
Additional note: one lad wore a Nirvana t-shirt. When I was at uni, a Joy Division t-shirt was the apparel of choice for people who wished to express deep love for a band that split before they were even born. Where does the time go?