Robot Combat

BattleBots Season 1 Review: Episode 2

BattleBots season 1 episode 2 review feature image
credit: battlebots facebook

Reviewing the second episode of BattleBots season 1

After a strong opening episode, BattleBots is back in full force for robot massacre party numero dos. This week brings with it the dawn of a new era, where humans and robots fight side by side against other humans and other robots for eternal glory. In that respect, I suppose the dawn of this era isn’t so different from last week’s era, but who’s counting?

Episode two picks up right where its predecessor left off: with two gangly guys and a spry young girl spewing half-baked robot puns hot off the teleprompter screen. In all seriousness, though, the show actually picked a duo of mostly-competent hosts. Chris Rose – most known for his marathon-like appearance on the Best Damn Sports Show Period – does about as good a job you could expect someone who was probably told what a battle bot was three weeks before taping. Then there’s Kenny Florian – a former MMA fighter who we assume knows about robot fighting because of all the human fighting he’s done. They’re no Madden and Michaels, but they get the job done. And as Chris aptly points out, “the applause is for the bots, guys, not for us.” Chuckle.

But enough about the background noise, this week is all about the fighter bots and the builders that fight them.

They came here to win, folks. And they ain’t going home without that nut (their words, not mine).

Before we get to the first bout of episode 2, let’s take a quick look back at what transpired last week.

Bout 1: IceWave vs. Razorback.
Winner: IceWave. KO.
Hot Take: Not even close.

Bout 2: Wrecks vs. Plan X
Winner: Plan X. Decision.
Hot Take: Hopefully this is the first and last two-legged dino-bot we will ever see.

Bout 3: Warhead vs. Bite Force
Winner: Bite Force. Decision.
Hot Take: USA! USA! USA!

Bout 4: Nightmare vs. Warrior Clan
Winner: Warrior Clan. KO.
Hot Take: More minibot destruction, please.

Those hot takes are even funnier when taken out of context! We have four winners moving on to the Round of 16, and four more spots waiting today. Let’s take a look at the first fight, shall we?

Bout 1: Overhaul vs. Lock-Jaw

Lock-Jaw Captain: Donald Hutson

BattleBots lockjaw_team

Donald is quickly talked up as the best bot driver in the field – which, I swear to God has been said about every driver up to this point. Nevertheless, he has a serious amount of experience in the arena and even a pair of heavyweight BattleBot championships under his belt. That’s right, Donald has two nuts and isn’t afraid to brag about them (can I just say how fortunate it is for us writers they decided on a giant metal nut as the trophy? K thanks).A display of BattleBots golden nut trophies

He’s built drones, dinobots, and top secret machines for various government agencies that if he mentioned would get him a long stay in a windowless room. But today, Donald’s bot is Lock-Jaw, one of two clampbots facing off in this first bout. And while I’ve always said, “two clampbots don’t make a right,” this matchup might prove me wrong. Mr. Jaw is a brand new state of the art menace with one thing on it’s gear-turning mind: destruction. And possibly robot sex. But mostly destruction.

Overhaul Captain: Charles Guan (or: leader of the young nerds from MIT)

BattleBots overhaul_team

If there ever were an underdog it would be four developmentally awkward students from the world’s most developmentally awkward university pitting their robot against one of the titans in the sport. Don’t tell that to Charles Guan though. He’s a masters student in the robotics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and with a title like that he better know a thing or two about fighting robots. The truth is, he knows three.

Their robot is Overhaul, who according to the pre-match judges has a substantial hill to climb when it comes to Lock-Jaw. And honestly, at first glance I can’t really blame them. Even looking at two rotating 3D pictures of the opposing machines gives a decisive advantage to Lock-Jaw. Overhaul has a pair of wedged scoops on either side of a center flipping mechanism, but there’s something about how it’s put together that makes it look inferior. Lock-Jaw, on the other hand, looks solid, versatile, and seasoned in the art of robot war.

Will David slay Goliath?

Let’s Battle Some Bots!

Upset city baby! With a high-pitched squeal from team MIT, Overhaul makes the first big move in the otherwise dull opening moments with a textbook flip of Lock-Jaw. Early on, Overhaul appears to be up to the task of competing with the big boys, zipping around the arena and making it difficult for Lock-Jaw to get underneath it to do any damage.

After being tossed around the arena like a child’s toy over the first minute of action, Lock-Jaw finally gets a hold of Overhaul. The jaws that give the bot its name have claw-like blades that – in addition to giving me crab claw cravings – make for efficient clamping mechanisms. Donald’s strategy with LJ is to try and flip Overhaul, but can’t quite gain the leverage.

After a mostly one-sided affair that has Overhaul in the winning circle, Lock-Jaw makes one final effort to sway the judges as it slams Overhaul into the screws sending it toppling end-over-end. The buzzer sounds with the helpless bot flailing on it’s back, with nothing but their chances at an upset swirling down the drain to ponder. Were the first 160 seconds of the match enough to hold on to a decision?

Late hit! After the buzzer sounds Lock-Jaw goes in for one more below the belt shot at a decapitated Overhaul. It’s clear by the reaction of the MIT crew they are not happy by the wily veteran’s extracurricular activity. A bash of the plexiglass and four awkward scowls round out an admittedly dull first fight.

Cold blooded! The fiery redhead from team awkward totally stone-walls Donald’s attempt to shake hands and make nice. I guess that late hit crossed the line. Kids these days have no respect for their elders, I tell ya. “Isn’t this guy a veteran?!”

Winner: Lock-Jaw – Split Decision
Hot Take: When’s the last time a good sport won anything?

Bout 2: Bronco vs. Witch Doctor

Witch Doctor Captain: Andrea Suarez

BattleBots Witch Doctor Team

Holy Mad Hatter Batman! Andrea Suarez is BattleBots newcomer who may just be crazy enough to take the entire competition. She is a biomedical engineer with a propensity for robotics and destruction. Andrea certainly isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, and is one of an encouraging number of female builders who are strong enough to muster unwavering competitive spirit in a largely male-driven hobby. And she rocks an awesome Alice Cooper inspired top hat. Just in case you didn’t think I was going to bring it back to that off-color Mad Hatter comment.

Witch Doctor is her brainchild: a multibot with a devastating vertical drum spinner and a tiny flame-throwing sidekick bot named Shaman. The strategy here is to use the useless-but-spectacular 6-foot torch from Shaman as a distraction while Witch Doctor lurks around for the kill. We’ve seen minibots before, and they often provide fodder for comic relief rather than any substantial advantage to the driver, but let’s see how this one plays out. I’ll reserve judgement and eye rolling until after the fight.

Bronco Captains: Alexander Rose and Reason Bradley

BattleBots bronco_team

“This team is all business,” is pretty much all the pre-fight commentary we are going to get on the ensemble representing Bronco. I guess they assume everyone already knows them (for good reason). This duo is one of the most well known roboteers, competing in the earlier version of BattleBots as well as Robot Wars. Even after the shows ended they’ve competed in the robot fighting circuits with different bots.

They’re well known for their powerful hydraulic flippers that apparently have the ability to launch a robot into the arena ceiling. That might sound like hyperbole, but I’m crossing my fingers for a flying Shaman in the near future. This massive stainless steel beast literally gyrates 3-4 feet off the ground when it violently flips its flipper.

*rubs hands together and licks chops*

Let’s Battle Some Bots!

Flip city! Just around 4 seconds into the match Witch Doctor gets tossed end over end at the hand of Bronco’s flipper. I’ll be honest, up until this point I didn’t connect the dots on how Bronco got its name. Consider me schooled.

I knew minibot would give us some in-match hilarity. Shaman manages to wedge himself underneath bronco’s bulky frame and proceeds to shoot a fiery burst into its…uh…nether regions. That’s a hot tamale! Early action is frantic, and all signs to this one being over before it really gets started.

There it is, folks! Over before it began, indeed. Bronco maneuvers a match-ending one-two punch sending Witch Doctor toppling over the side railing, into the screws and out of commission. Pesky Shaman continues to zip around shooting massive flames towards Bronco on his victory lap, but the effort is futile as the countdown reaches zero.

While we didn’t get to see any flying minibots, we did get one or two satisfying flips at the hand of the world’s most menacing hydraulic flipper.

Winner: Bronco – KO
Hot Take: At least the hats were cool.

Bout 3: Counter Revolution vs. Tombstone

Tombstone Captain: Ray Billings

BattleBots tombstone_team

Uh oh. Looks like we’ve got the bad boy of BattleBots on our hands. Although, I personally have a hard time giving bad boy status to someone who self-proclaims it. Nevertheless, Ray is a former prison guard turned engineering technician who built Tombstone with one thing in mind: utter robot disfiguration. If the slow motion sizzle reel of its massive horizontal spinner destroying various household items is any indication, that’s exactly what we are in for.

There isn’t anything particularly exotic about Tombstone. It’s a metal box on some rubber tires with a vicious two-pronged spinner made of a solid chunk of steel. Anything that decides to meander into its path gets pulverized into a fine powder in a matter of seconds. The strategy is simple: bull rush and destroy.

Counter Revolution Captain: Curt Myers

BattleBots counter revolutions_team

The concept behind Counter Revolution is a lot more interesting in theory than practical in the ring. It utilizes two vertical spinners that rotate in opposite directions, creating a balanced center of gravity that counteracts one of spinner bots most notorious problems: gyroscopic precision. A single spinner creates a massive amount of inertia on one side of the bot, creating an off-center of balance and an unstable machine. Curt things he has solved this problem by having two opposing spinners, resulting in an inherently solid machine.

Unfortunately, as weapons the spinners do little to make your mouth water. They spin void of anything resembling malice or intimidation, making this bot vulnerable to…well…everything. Especially to robots who enjoy making mincemeat of bowling balls, clay pots and patio furniture.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!

Uhhhhh. There’s really nothing else to say. But I’ll try anyway.

Counter Revolution looks lost, confused, and utterly terrified as Tombstone’s high-velocity spinner quickly closed in and tore open a massive hole in its side. I mean a MASSIVE hole.

The first blow was enough to completely incapacitate Counter Rev, and with it’s two vertical spinners having spun their last spin, Tombstone uses the remaining seconds of the match to toy with the corpsebot before delivering a hilarious and brutal kill shot. “Should we do one more?” Bad boy Ray Billing asks just before sending Counter Revolution to an early grave.

Winner: Tombstone – Decisive KO
Hot Take: Counter Revolution’s tombstone now reads: why did we even show up?

Bout 4: Complete Control vs. Ghost Raptor

Complete Control Captain: Derek Young

BattleBots complete control_team

Well, you certainly wouldn’t want to call him Derek “Old.” An OG robot competitor who hung up his soldering iron fifteen years ago is back in the game hoping to relive the glory days of his former life. Many are skeptical that he can compete in a competition with so many seasoned veterans and pro builders when he’s been removed from the arena for so long. Derek is out to prove them wrong with Complete Control, a scoop slash flipper slash clamp bot with high hopes of returning its driver to robot fighting glory.

Ghost Raptor Captain: Chuck Pitzer

BattleBots ghostraptor_team

Watch out everyone, this guy lifts weights and drives a crotch rocket! Chuck Pitster is a mechanical engineer at a prestigious robotics and technology company who isn’t pulling any punches in this bot competition. He’s got his eyes on the nut and his metallic buddy Ghost Raptor just might be the robot to get it for him. With 20 years of builder experience and a sizable chip on his shoulder, Chuck could be a force to reckon with.

Ghost Raptor is a technological wonder, boasting an on-board tracking device that automatically hones in on the opposing bots location in the arena. While I’m still lost on the practical capacity of such a device, I’m curious to see how this information will assist Chuck once the battle begins. GR has a two-pronged spinner that angles down to the nose of the robot. The design is angular and sleek – by far one of the more attractive machines in the field. It might not be so pretty by the end of this match, however.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!

In a display of eccentric arrogance and psychological warfare, Derek Young places a large birthday present in the jaws of Complete Control with a cheeky note for Ghost Raptor written on it. The present remains there as the match gets underway. “Weird” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

What’s in the boooox?? Before the fight started, our hosts warned us Derek Young might resort to some less-than-sportsmanlike tactics to get a win, and I’m thinking they knew what they were talking about. Ghost Raptors rips into the birthday present to reveal a net that quickly tangles its blade. A hilarious move that can’t possibly be legal! It’s the first time I actually LOL’d all season.

The ref stops the fight! And we have our first legitimate controversy of this tournament. Apparently entanglement is against the rules, but not according to Mr. Young, who claims he was sure to comb the BattleBots manifesto for such a rule. The stripes get together to make a determination.

While they deliberate, the show takes a quick break to take a look at some of the other fights less deserving of full TV coverage…

Stinger (Matt and Wendy Maxham) vs. Capt. Shrederator (Brian Nave)

Winner: Stinger – KO
Hot Take: Shrederator rips and zips around the arena but is ultimately done in by the bulldozer scoop and low-profile of Stinger.

Overdrive (Christian Carlberg) vs. Chomp (Zoe Stephenson)

Winner: Overdrive – KO
Hot Take: Flames aplenty didn’t save Chomp from being blasted into the screws and out of the tournament.

Radioactive (Kane Aston) vs. Sweet Revenge (Nola Garcia)

Winner: Radioactive – Decision
Hot Take: A team of Catholic school girls wasn’t enough to elevate Sweet Revenge above nagging mechanical issues.

Hypershock (Will Bales) vs. Mohawk (Will Bales father)

Winner: Hypershock – KO
Hot Take: A family affair that ended quickly with a short of Mohawk’s engine.

Back to the ruling on the net tactics used by shiesty robot builder Derek Young.

We’ve got a rematch, folks! Due to a grey area in the updated rules book, the powers that be decided to cop out and not make a decision at all. Looks like we are getting back into the ring – this time with a little bit of animosity and revenge sprinkled on top.

Let’s Battle Some Bots…Again!

Complete Control comes out quick and has an unfortunate run-in with a seam in the battle floor. The bot is so low to the ground it actually wedged its front scoop into a slightly raised section of the floor, sending it flying up in the air. Where’s your net now, bro?

Continuing with the tradition in this fight of robots destroying themselves, Ghost Raptor loses one of it’s spinner prongs with a vicious attack on Complete Control, who was pretty much just sitting in the middle of the arena like an asshole.

After 90 seconds of two semi-crippled bots comically flailing around the ring, Complete Control finally gets a hold of Ghost Raptor and tosses him into the side wall. The first signs of life for the robot who is pretty lame without its cheap net-in-box trick.

With Ghost Raptor’s angled spinner, and with Complete Control moving slowly from the early run-in with the ground, this fight appears to be going the distance without much more happening. Have they ever ended a fight early due to boredom?

Winner: Ghost Raptor – Decision
Hot Take: I like turtles.

Loads of human drama in Episode 2, as well as more heavyweight legends making their debut, wrap up the Qualifier Matches.

We’ll be back next week for a review of Episode 3 – the Round of 16!


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