The really great toys always have an element of danger to them: think the “shoot and shells” flying bullets from Mattel in the 60’s or any spring loaded pellet “gun” kids used to be able to buy. Now that the young’uns are protected from themselves, it’s rare to find a toy that can still create what, as Archer from the same-named animated TV show would say, a “Danger Zone” to play in.
But Air Hogs Battle Tracker does. At first glance it’s two distinct toys. Looking again, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered — if by ordered you mean a “pretend” violent encounter worthy of a James Bond film. Let’s break it down first:
Saw Blade Heli remote controlled helicopter: you’ve seen these before, as they rely on an infrared red signal coming from the remote to control what they’re going to do. That means about 10 feet of distance for accurate control — working better in general inside than outside due to ambient light. And as others in the past have done, that remote also doubles as the battery charger for the helicopter’s motor. Stick 6 “AA” batteries in the remote’s battery compartment, connect the helicopter’s charging input to the remote’s charging socket and wait for a charge — the amount of time waiting depends on how much flying time you want (wait for the red/green LEDs to start blinking and you’re good to go). Then disengage the ‘chopper and stand it on a smooth surface and prepare to lift off. Actually you had better “trim” it first so it flies well (something you should do to any flying R/C before going hell-bent against any kind of opponent).
Automated Robot Turret: this guy looks exactly as it should — twin “missile” firing arms below a “radar” tracking dish. The turret rotates so that the “missiles” can fire at the helicopter when it comes close enough. It tracks automatically if you set it up that way. Otherwise pop the controller out the back and manually work the way it moves and fires. That motion-tracking tech is being used instead of radar is still impressive (and heck, pretty obvious).
Now in the best tradition of “get you in the eye,” the Battle Tracker Automated Robot Turret uses spring-loaded “missiles” (aka foam darts) — 6 in each arm. The helicopter isn’t defenseless by the way — it carries 7 “disc” missiles that can be fired one after the other remotely (extra discs are contained in a slotted area of the remote, but you’re a wuss if you need more than 7 on a mission).
Now why did I say “get you in the eye?” Because you can deactivate the auto mode of the Battle Tracker Automated Robot Turret and manually fire on the helicopter yourself (someone else operating it, duh). That means being up close and personal. And while a disc is less likely to cause injury than that of a “missile,” Murphy’s law always reins supreme. So you want to wear glasses or have the brim of a hat to catch the disc if necessary before it meets your eyeballs.
As to why the helicopter would fire on the Battle Tracker Automated Robot Turret in the first place, a few well placed “hits” on the radar screen can shut it down. Obviously this will cause less physical damage than were the helicopter to be hit as then it sort of wobbles/drops from the sky (Air Hogs tend to be pretty durable though), but you can always imagine it going up in a fireball….rather than just taking it back up again.
Okay, boring talk needs exciting action (to paraphrase the Hulk). I’ve batteries loaded in both the helicopter’s remote and the turret, and the chopper’s fueled up. Both are loaded for bear with their respective armaments and I’ve already watched the turret go through its “auto” mode and listened to the robotic voice and seen what it can do..which is a quick demonstration of it tracking about and then “firing” missiles (sound effects only).
So I put the turret in its “auto” mode on the floor of my gym as there’s plenty of room around for maneuvering — and it’ll help keep me from losing those “missiles” and discs. I stand at the other end and place the helicopter on the floor also. So here’s where the flying ability comes in.
The helicopter’s remote is similar in type to those you’ll find for most R/C choppers — of course some differences will exist and not all choppers have a “fire” button. I engage the rotors of the helicopter and slowly raise it up. I raise the tail’s position relative to the front and move slowly forward, angling slightly to approach the turret from its right side rather than head-on. Doesn’t matter, though. As I get within what seems a few feet (figuring I have to be close to fire the discs), the turret starts tracking the movement to aim at the helicopter straight on. This is bad, really bad. Before I can accomplish a maneuver to get me out of harm’s way, a slew of “missiles” come my way. I try to “wiggle” out of the way — missing a few — but getting wonked by at least 2. Down I go. I want a redo!
I reload the turret and set up the helicopter at the other end again. This time I am going in fast — or will try to anyway. As I get in range and the turret starts tracking me, I bank left even as I fire off 2 discs one after the other. Both miss. I rise up a few feet and reorient myself out of range — that means I’m too far to shoot at it though. So I go for the long ball and zip back towards where I began, then quickly spin around and fly in low — firing my remaining discs as fast as I can. And then bank off even as “missiles” come my way. Hey, the turret has stopped — I hit it. Hooray for me!
A few days later I had my friend Steve — a longtime participant in the crazy stuff I do– be the one controlling the turret. After I get wacked time and time again, we switch and I do a better job as the helicopter “killer” than I do as the turret taker-outer.
Bottom line: For $99 retail, the Air Hogs Battle Tracker gives you a full scale R/C helicopter to play with, and a no-holds reflex-straining fighting game to lose at (or win at, depending on how good your reflexes are). So unleash your inner fighter pilot (or missile defense technician) and have some fun.
- Turret has both auto and manual operational modes
- R/C helicopter can take a fall
- Batteries, lots and lots needed
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.