Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006


October 22, 2007 • Reviews

Johnny Lightning’s Battle Wheels Review

When Gear Diary was approached to review the new Johnny Lightning Battle Wheels, I was going pass on reviewing them. I never really was interested in robotic combat. However, Judie convinced me to accept and do the review. And, I actually had fun, thanks Judie!

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What are Battle Wheels? Battle Wheels are 6-3/4 inch tall. Radio-controlled combat robots. There are currently four models to choose from, Bashmon, Kagu-Tsuchi, Tyr, and Vul (each are sold separately).

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I received Tyr and Vul for the review. Tyr is the blue one and Vul is the red one. All Battle Wheels come assembled and ready to play out of the box after having batteries installed. Each Battle Wheels requires four AA batteries and one 9-volt battery for the radio controller. Batteries are not included.

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Battle Wheels sets contain a motor unit, a robot torso with blast off head, armor shoulder pads, wheel blades, and a shield. There are two weapons included: a ball and chain mace and a dual purpose lance/sword.

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Above and below, Battle Wheels disassembled and showing all the individual parts.

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The Battle Wheels robot torso is fully articulated like an action figure for attack or defensive poses. Below is Tyr holding his primary weapon as a lance and ready for battle.

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Tyr without his weapons and shield:

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Tyr doing a boxing pose:

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Vul in a defensive stance.

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The construction of the Battle Wheels is all plastic and rubber for the wheels. The robot head, armor shoulder pads, and weapons are a softer flexible plastic. The wheel blades and motor unit are of a more rigid plastic. Overall, the plastics used appears to be very durable. At the start, I was a bit worried about sending the Battle Wheels crashing against each other. But, my worries were unfounded when both Battle Wheels survived the battles I pitted them in.

Battle Wheels are radio-controlled robots. Each warrior comes with a controller that operates on a separate frequency channel that is preset at the factory. Both Tyr and Vul operate on 27 MHz. But Tyr is channel B and Vul is on channel A. The controllers have a four-position switch: off, A, B, and C. The way the frequencies are set up on the controllers, there can be up to six warriors at one time.

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Since the Battle Wheels run on two big wheels, each with their own independent motor, the controller functions differently from a standard RC car controller. To move forward, both sticks are pushed up. To move backward, both sticks are pushed down. To turn left, only the right stick is pushed up. To turn right, only the left stick is pushed up. Finally, to do the 360-degree smash spin, the left stick is pushed up and the right stick is pushed down. Confused? I have clipped the operation section from the instruction’s sheet for a clearer visual of how the controller works:

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If you are used to a standard RC car controller, it will take some practice to get used to the setup of the Battle Wheels controls.

For battles the goal to scoring the win is by striking the button on the chest of your opponents Battle Wheels.

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When this button is pressed from a strike, it releases the head of the Battle Wheels warrior causing it to blast off.

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Of course during battle, the armor shoulder pads and wheel blades can get knocked off. In the following video frame capture, one of Vul’s armor shoulder pads got knocked off.

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In the next video frame capture, Vul scored a hit on the strike button, blasting Tyr’s head off.

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To provide practice in controlling, each Battle Wheels comes with a bonus cardboard practice target. This target is printed onto the bottom of the box and it needs to be cut out. Additional print your own practice targets are available from the Battle Wheels web site in the downloads section.

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To extend playability, when you have more than one Battle Wheels, you can customize them by interchanging parts. The robot torso is removable from the motor unit.

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Here, I snapped Vul’s torso onto Tyr’s motor unit and swapped the wheel blades. I also gave Vul, Tyr’s chrome shield and ball and chain mace.

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Continuing on with customizing trials, I put Tyr’s torso on Vul’s motor unit. Placed Vul’s head on Tyr’s body. Then I mounted both shields on the arms and placed lance/sword in each hand. In addition, I think this pose makes for an awesome defensive stance.

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I then tried Vul’s torso on Tyr’s motor unit and Tyr’s head on Vul’s body.

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The interchanging of parts works well for the torso’s, wheel blades, shields, and weapons. But I was unable to swap the armor shoulder pads between Vul and Tyr. Vul’s body is a bit smaller so the shoulder pads from one did not fit on the other. Vul’s head worked ok on Tyr’s torso. But, Tyr’s head was tight in the socket of Vul’s torso and prevented the blast off head feature from working. So, there would be some experimenting to see what combination works with the different Battle Wheels.

Also, included with each Battle Wheels is a battle game power up code for the online Battle Game at the Battle Wheels web site. The code is printed on the box, so make sure to get the code before tossing whats left of the box out.

The following screen capture shows three of the Battle Wheels in the virtual Battle Arena. The Battle Wheels I was in control of is at the foreground of the screen, the one with the golden body and red head.

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The power up code screen is where the codes from the boxes is entered.

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The online battle game is fun to play. The game pits you in battle against three other computer AI Battle Wheels. The game has potential for multi-player online gaming, and I hope that a gaming console version is developed in the near future.

My nephew Jack came to visit and that was an opportunity to get a six old kids opinion on the Battle Wheels. I first showed him one of the Battle Wheels, Tyr. Jack was very excited, which is a good sign that he is interested. At first, he kept asking if the robot transformed. I had to explain to him that the robot does not transform. I told him that you control the robot with the remote to make it move. I showed Jack how the control sticks worked and he was steering the robot around in no time. I then introduced the other Battle Wheels; Vul. Jack immediately wanted to try controlling Vul. I showed Jack what the Battle Wheels are about by driving Tyr into Vul. I explained to him that the winner is the first to knock off the opponents head. After a while of crashing the Battle Wheels into each other, all the while Jack was having a great time with a big smile on his face and lots of laughing, Jack came up with a new set of rules. He noticed how the armor shoulder pads and wheel blades would come off, and declared that to win, the opponent had to knock off those pieces in addition to the head.

Later, my brother in-law, my sister and I took turns playing with Jack with the Battle Wheels. We all had fun. During the battles, I noticed how well the robot held up to the roughness of play with a six-year-old kid. This is important, as there can be a lot of disappointment if a toy will not last for more than a day. There was one thing that was observed, the Battle Wheels have limited radio range and could not reach to the other side of the living room. This is because the robots themselves do not have external antennas. There really does not appear to be any place to put an external antenna on a Battle Wheels. At least not something, that would not break off during play. Nevertheless, I think the lack of range is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that players will have to move around staying close to the action. In addition, so many kids are being far too sedentary these days, so having to move around while controlling the Battle Wheels is a good thing. To sum it up, the Battle Wheels were a big hit with Jack; he enjoyed playing with them and was very happy to help try them out for the review.

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Overall, I found the Battle Wheels to be a lot of fun. It is very cool that the toy designers combined RC robots with action figures, this is one action figure toy that you don’t have to shake while talking in a funny voice. OK, you don’t have to shake it during play, but you can still talk in a funny voice during play. I imagine that kids who receive a lone Battle Wheels would still have fun using the robot to play with their other action figures. The real fun is when you get a couple of Battle Wheels going with a partner or more. There is an awesome coolness in the group play with battling robots. I am glad that I accepted to review the Battle Wheels, having tried them out, I am now a convert to battling robots.

The Johnny Lightning’s Battle Wheels are available online from the Learning Curve Shop,, Toys R Us, Target, and Walmart.
MSRP: $29.99
What I Like: Durability and customization options with interchangeable parts. Cool looking robot action figure designs. The interaction and quality time from playing with the Battle Wheels.
What Needs Improvement: Make torso sizes the same so can swap armor shoulder pads between Vul and Tyr. If possible, more range for the radio control.

6 Responses to “Johnny Lightning’s Battle Wheels Review”

  1. Gravatar Icon 1 TeenGirlSquad Oct 23rd, 2007 at 12:19 am Battling robots kick butt! Thanks for this review, now I’ve found just one more thing I want but don’t need!I’d be interested in seeing an update on these toys after you’ve played with them for a while – durability is a big thing to me, and it seems like only time will tell on something like this that sees constant abuse (by design, of course).
  2. Gravatar Icon 2 Allen Hong Oct 30th, 2007 at 7:05 pmHi TeenGirlSquad, you’re welcome and thank you for the comment. Yeah, a durability update is a good idea. So far some of the paint has chipped off and the chrome pieces are showing wear marks from rubbing against the wheels. I think that is ok, battle vehicles typically have that happen to the finishes. It shows how much abuse the Battle Wheels are taking and still coming back for more so far.
  3. Gravatar Icon 3 Dec 19th, 2007 at 9:03 pmI have 5 year old boys, are the Battle Wheels too much for them? I am delighted with the toys but don’t want to frustrate them…
  4. Gravatar Icon 4 Allen Hong Dec 21st, 2007 at 8:03 amHi Susan. I think it depends on how much prior experience your boys have with radio control toys. Over the last two years, my nephew Jack would play with my WowWee Robosapien robots every time he came over to visit. There was a little bit of training him how to use the directional sticks, but Jack was able to learn quickly. I think he adapted his knowledge of the Robosapien controllers. In my opinion the Battle Wheels are good as a quality time toy for parent and child. It is really special to watch Jack and his parents (my brother in-law and sister) playing with the Battle Wheels. Susan, I say if your boys are very interested in robots and RC toys already and you are ok with spending some quality time, to get two of the robots. If the learning curve is too much, you could always store the robots for later. And having a secondary toy on stand by should help in that event.

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