At the same time that Gear Diary was approached to review the Johnny Lightning Battle Wheels, we were also invited to review the V_Bot. What is the V_Bot? Well, here is a clipping from the email describing it:
“V_Bot, the new high-tech hero, transforms from a sleek street vehicle into a giant robot loaded with action moves. This revolutionary RC toy captures kids’ imaginations with a giant robot that they can control, transform and drive. V_Bot even has a plug-in for an MP3 player.”
Yep, you read that clipping right! V_Bot is a robot that can really transform into an RC car. When I read that, I thought to myself, this auto transforming robot sounds totally cool! And I very much wanted to test drive it.
I got my wish and a big box measuring 20 x 18 x 12 arrived at the Gear Diary New York City satellite office. My initial thought upon seeing this box. . . “That’s a big box!” I stared in awe when I opened the shipping box. The V_Bot looks so much more awesome in person. And did I mention big?! The pictures really don’t convey how big this robot is. The thing that caught my immediate attention was the “try me” button on the lower front of the V_Bot’s packaging. I admit that I pressed the button several times while the V_Bot’s packaging was still sitting in it’s shipping box with the flaps open.
The “try me” button activates a demo of the V_Bot’s arm and head movements accompanied by lights and sound. The demo is totally cool and attention grabbing. I am sure that there will be many kids and adults pressing the “try me” button of the V_Bot’s on store shelves.
The V_Bot and control radio were securely fixed into the packaging with wire ties and heavy duty plastic inserts. It took me a while to figure out how to remove everything; removal required a pair of wire cutters and a screwdriver.
The one thing that struck me as odd, was that the V_Bot packaging says on it “Requires 6 – C & 1 – 9V batteries, not included.” My curious mind wondered what then was powering the V_Bot for the “try me” button? Turns out that the “try me” button is part of a battery pack that is attached to a connector in the battery compartment of V_Bot’s right leg.
The instructions say to disconnect the battery pack and discard it. I, being so curious, took a break from setting up the V_Bot and opened up the battery pack. Inside the battery pack is four “AA” batteries. That is nice, a set of “AA” batteries that can be used in something else.
Once I got the V_Bot free of the cardboard tray of the packaging and the “try me” battery pack disconnected. I found another obstacle, the wings/doors of the V_Bot are held in place with a sturdy plastic clip that is screwed into the hood.
I followed the instructions and removed the two screws that bolted the plastic clip into the V_Bot. After that, I carefully pried at the clips holding the wings, bending the clips until they unhooked from the wings. During this process, I was a bit afraid of breaking something, but the clips came off easily.
I figured that it would be best to put the removed screws back and tighten them.
Then the round cover gets snapped into place on the back of the V_Bot. This round plastic piece covers the mp3 player tray and audio socket on the V_Bot when not using the V_Bot as a mp3 player speaker.
To complete the setup of the V_Bot, there is the installation of the six “C” batteries. The battery compartments are in the calf of each leg.
Three batteries go into each leg of the V_Bot; the compartment covers are held in place with two screws each.
Once the batteries are installed, you power up the V_Bot with the on/off switch on the side of the right leg.
The appearance of the V_Bot is very impressive. At 15 inches tall and my estimate of approximately 8 pounds, V_Bot is a big robot.
In car mode, which looks sorta like a low riding SUV pimped out with a body kit, the painted finish of the car panels appears to have a metallic look; this looks very nice and feels slick. Car mode also sports some cool looking big chrome wheels wrapped with low profile tires. There are working head lights as well as blinking green LED lights in the rear wheels.
For controlling the V_Bot, there is a RC radio controller. It looks pretty much standard with the typical control sticks for forward/reverse and left/right and the standard RC telescoping antenna that screws into the top of the controller.
The controller takes one 9-volt battery and does not require a screwdriver to open the battery compartment. Kinda of strange, as all the RC toys I have reviewed so far this year had a screw on the battery door of the controller.
To make the V_Bot transform and do moves, there are two rows of action buttons. On the top row are four programmed action buttons. The first three buttons labeled A/B/C are factory programmed moves. The “C”, button has the V_Bot perform the action moves without sound and the A/B buttons include sound with the actions. The fourth button “T”, is the transform button. Pressing any of the three programmed action buttons while the V_Bot is in car mode, will make him transform and perform the programmed moves. The “T” button also serves as a cancel button for the action moves.
The second row of six buttons are specific individual moves of the V_Bot in robot mode only, and are as follows:
1. Moon-walk with arm swing.
2. Both arms straight up and move forward.
3. Turn and left arm chop.
4. Turn with left arm bent near ear and right arm out.
5. One arm up and one arm down.
6. Right arm rise upward and turn (360 degree spin).
The movement in robot mode is provided by rubber wheels set into the V_Bot’s feet. Pushing the forward/reverse and left/right sticks will have V_Bot roll in the corrisponding direction. The rolling works very well on smooth solid surfaces and V_Bot moves about at a good pace, not too slow and not too fast. V_Bot moves around very stable without fear of tipping over. During testing of the V_Bot, carpeting was not the friend of V_Bot. The weight of V_Bot in both robot and car mode has him sinking into the pile of the carpet and just spinning wheels, like a real car stuck in mud. In car mode, V_Bot operates just like a normal RC car moving forward/reverse and left/right.
It is awesome that V_Bot is able to transform at the push of a button. Just like other transforming toys on the market, there are parts on V_Bot designed to separate, move, and turn to accomplish the transforming. Pretty much like a movie animatronic puppet, the V_Bot transformation sequence is smooth and fun to watch.
As a mp3 player speaker, V_Bot really shines. On the back of V_Bot under the removable cover is the mp3 player tray with a standard 3.5 audio jack, which will allow for almost all mp3 players to plug in. Included with V_Bot is a short 3.5 audio patch cable to connect the mp3 player. Also included is a velcro strap to secure the mp3 player on the tray.
The only mp3 player I currently have with a 3.5 headphone jack is my Creative Muvo 100, so I used that for testing the music playing. The first noticeable thing was that V_Bot seems to have an internal amp, which meant not having to crank up the volume on the mp3 player to maximum. I had the volume less than half way and the music sounded very good. Also having the mp3 player plugged in will automatically mute the V_Bot robot sound effects.
One thing to note is that the V_Bot only functions as the speaker out for the mp3 player. Song selection is still done via the controls on the mp3 player. Since the controls on the mp3 player maybe covered by the tray edge and velcro strap, use of the playlist or random tracks modes of the mp3 player will work best.
When the mp3 player is disconnected, the patch cable and velcro strap stores inside the tray very nicely.
While the music is playing through the speaker in V_Bot, you can operate the controller and have V_Bot dance to your music by using a combination of the action buttons and control sticks. You can also move V_Bot around normally with the control sticks and even transform into car mode all while pumping out the tunes; this is very fun. Sometimes the servo motors on V_Bot will drown out the music. But, still very fun. It is the mp3 player capability that I think will have some adults wanting to buy the V_Bot.
While I was trying out my mp3 player on the V_Bot, I made some videos of V_Bot grooving to the tunes and here they are:
This first video has V_Bot with my favorite robot song, “Mr. Roboto” by Styx. In the video, you can see V_Bot transforming between robot and car modes.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoepnr1NG8w[/youtube]
This second video shows off V_Bot’s dancing abilities. Choice of music is “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVJyGR-3YdI[/youtube]
And the third video showing more of V_Bot’s dancing is to the song “I Love You Cause I Have To” by Dogs Die in Hot Cars.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrSOzEEoabQ[/youtube]
For power, standard alkaline batteries do not seem to last very long while operating all of V_Bot’s functions. A fresh set of alkaline batteries would allow me to operate both robot and car modes. After a couple of days of playing with the V_Bot on and off, the batteries weakened to the point where I was unable to drive V_Bot in car mode. Weak batteries will be indicated by sluggish movement forward, reverse and the inability to make turns in car mode. Odd thing is, that there is still enough power on the same batteries to operate the transformation sequence and move V_Bot around in robot mode and play mp3’s. The weight of V_Bot may have something to do with the batteries getting weak quickly and being unable to give enough power for car mode. When fresh batteries are installed, V_Bot’s car mode is very zippy. I think picking up a set of rechargeable alkaline “C” batteries would be a good idea as regular batteries could be used up rather quickly.
There was one little problem that I encountered with the V_Bot review sample, the alignment of one of the robot wings (vehicle roof sections) is such that upon transforming into car mode, the roof section does not close into place all the way. I figured out that I needed to re-aligning after reading the instruction manual. This required carefully pulling off the wing and snapping it back into its socket. It took me a few tries of re-aligning before the piece would close properly, but it is working as it should now.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, my nephew Jack came over to visit. I let him try out the V_Bot; it was no surprise to him, as he had seen the commerical many times on TV. The surprise to Jack, was how big and cool looking the V_Bot was up close in person. Jack who is six years old, got a quick grasp on the radio controls buttons and directional sticks. The transform button got a really good workout. Even though, V_Bot was limited to the confines of the kitchen tile, Jack still had lots of fun moving V_Bot around the small space and quickly forgot the disappointment of being able to play with V_Bot in the larger space of the living room. A hint of how much Jack liked the V_Bot: he wanted to bring the robot home with him.
Overall, I really like the V_Bot, especially for the ability to function as a mp3 player speaker and it gets my vote for one of the coolest toys out this Fall.
The Johnny Lightning’s V_Bot is available online from the LearningCurveShop.com, Amazon.com, Toysrus.com, and .
What I Like: Cool transforming between robot and car modes. Mp3 player speaker with decent volume.
What Needs Improvement: Longer battery life to drive the car mode.