We're in love...with a droid. No, really. Meet the Hero Droid BB-8 from Spin Master. As you probably know, this is an Astromech droid first seen in Star Wars: the Force Awakens as Poe Dameron's droid, entrusted with a map and who ends up with Rey fighting with the resistance.
This is one of the most technologically advanced, elegant responsive and well-made Star Wars toys we've seen, and that's saying a lot. More than that, though, this far surpasses most other robotic toys we've seen because it's designed, to put the play front and center. But the play goes way beyond simply making the droid move around, though it does that beautifully.
Set up is easy, but you'll want to pay attention to the directions. You need to charge both the head and body units separately using the included cables. Once they're both charged up, turn them on. Be sure that the head, body and controller (which takes three triple-A batteries) are all set to the same frequency. (Yes, there are three, so if you're lucky enough you could have three of these running independently together.)
Probably the first thing you'll notice is that this is a big toy. It's about 18-inches tall, which means that for many kids it will be in the same scale to humans as it is in the movies. BB8 has three modes: RC Mode lets you move forward back, right left, go in circles and so forth. Use the controller with the switch in the left position.
In Voice Command mode, you can talk to him and get reactions. Set the controller switch to the center position and wait for the white light to come on. That means BB8 is listening. Among the commands you can say are: Come Here. How Are You? Droid Please. Stand Guard, Stormtroopers! And more.
The third--and we think coolest--mode is Follow Me. Put the controller switch in the right position and walk BB8 will follow you.
Just like in the movies, BB8 has moods, and he may from time to time display moods, which include bold, sad, sassy, happy, scared and curious. BB8 also has a sleep mode to save on power, which kicks in about 3-5 minutes of no interaction.
Now, all this incredible fun is going to set you back a little. BB8 has a suggested retail price of $229. However, this is one of those instances where we think the price is justified. The level of animation and interaction and the sense of life that kids will experience with this is truly amazing. We have to give Spin Master a lot of credit for putting in all the technology necessary to make the interaction so seamless and engaging. Not every toy company is willing to take that kind of a risk. But in this case, we think the risk more than paid off.
The real magic of this toy exists in the fact that the toy has so much personality built in that the imaginary relationship between the child (though we're guessing many of the purchasers would not strictly speaking be spoken of as children) and the droid becomes the central experience. This is the first time we've seen the interaction between human and droid so beautifully expressed in a toy.
For adults, it's impressive to run the droid through its paces, but we think even they will love the way the personality has been built in to the toy.
In fact, everyone at TTPM is completely smitten with this BB8.
BB8 is recommended for kids ages 8 and up.
Some adult assistance for younger children may be required for set up prior to play.
Anyone who loves this character and is fascinated by extraordinary application of robotics will want this toy.
You'll want to run BB8 on a primarily smooth surface, which, by the way, is not at all like the surface of Jakku. But never mind. Your home is probably a lot more comfortable than the rebel camp. In RC mode you can also press the center button on the controller to create some random animations. If you're moving BB8 in circles, you'll want a fair amount of open space.
BB8's head is attached to the body by a magnet. You'll want to feel it snap securely in place with BB8 standing up straight. (This can take a few tries to get right, but once you get the hang of it, it's really easy.) Be careful when you're driving him, as if you run into obstacles, especially at higher speeds, it's easy to knock the headpiece off. Put another way: give BB8 lots of room to play.
Be sure the controller and the pieces are set to the same frequency.
BB8 includes a plug-in charging cord for the body and a USB charging cord for the head unit. It's recommended that you charge both pieces completely prior to play, which can take a couple of hours.
3 AAA batteries required
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