Battlebots made its return to ABC last night for its second revival season. This season features a larger bracket and more teams competing, but is largely the same show that premiered on Comedy Central back in 2000.
We covered the premiere of the first revival series last year, and always planned to eventually cover the show on a weekly basis. This season, The Young Folks music editor Ryan Gibbs and staff writer Joey Daniewicz will be giving their impressions of each episode in our new feature Battlebots Chat. These will be a little more informal than our regular reviews – after all we think it’s a little complicated to review something that we both consider to be a competitive sport as opposed to a game show or a reality television program.
If you want the history on Battlebots and robot combat in general, SB Nation ran an oral history on the show that is well worth your time to read. You can also read more about this season’s competitors over on the show’s official site. You can also read a bit about the robots that battled in this week’s episode on the show’s website.
This week’s matches:
Bronco (winner) vs. Blacksmith
Death Roll vs. Captain Shrederator (winner)
Beta (winner) vs. Lucky
Photon Storm vs. Minotaur (winner)
The Disk O’ Inferno vs. Chomp (winner)
Hypershock (winner) vs. UltraViolent
Complete Control (winner) vs. Bombshell
Obwalden Overlord vs. Warhead (winner)
Dark matches (for which only highlights were televised):
SubZero vs. Icewave (winner)
Ultimo Destructo vs. The Ringmaster (winner)
Overdrive vs. Escape Velocity (winner)
Black Ice vs Tombstone (winner)
Bite Force (winner) vs. Mohawk
Chrome Fly (winner) vs. Bucktooth Burl
Splatter vs. Warrior Clan (winner)
Stinger: The Killer Bee (winner) vs. Nightmare
Ryan Gibbs: First off, Joey, what were your thoughts on the matches in the season premiere?
Joey Daniewicz: They were, uh, fine. A lot of them were just kinda embarrassing.
Ryan: How so?
Joey: A lot of matches where you just had bots clumsily trying to whack each other. I even felt embarrassed for something as elegant as Beta every time it took about three hours to line up before it used its scary hammer. Chomp won a match. That says most of it. A drone took off and crashed for no reason without doing anything. Advanced robotic technology managed to be even more stupid and useless than Warhead.
Ryan: Oh. we haven’t even gotten to our problems with drones yet. Drones should not be in Battlebots. They kind of go against the whole ethos of it
Joey: I’ll feel a lot better about this season of BattleBots once we siphon out a bit more of the stupid shit.
Ryan: One of the things I was most impressed by was that this premiere episode had the first ever justification for flamethrowers being allowed in Battlebots.
Joey: Well, not for them being allowed, but for them being at all wise to utilize.
Ryan: I still think they’re more for show and don’t really serve much of a purpose (and they’re often much less effective than they usually are), but there was one match where it actually turned out to be the main draw of the battle.
Ryan: Before we get into the matches one by one, wanna talk about the matches that didn’t get shown in full, just highlights?
Joey: What happened other than Nightmare losing, again?
Ryan: a lot of big names from last season fought and they didn’t get shown
Joey : Oh, right! Icewave! I know Icewave won, but it looks like somehow its hella deadly spinner just might not be sustainable.
Ryan: That happens a lot where a bot has a really cool, deadly weapon and a design that isn’t stable. For instance our old pal Nightmare
Joey: No Country For Old Bots, Nightmare.
Ryan: There were two or three kinda boring fights that they could have switched out for robots everyone wanted to see, like Tombstone
Joey: And with how FEW full fights they give us, that’s a LOT
Ryan: we got eight in two hours
Joey: Absolutely horrible. Did you notice how long they took between the clock running out on a fight and the decision being announced? Interminable. An entire commercial break just to tell us that yeah, Complete Control won. Thanks, guys.
Ryan: Yeah, we had to sit through commercials for something that threatens to team up Pitbull with REO Speedwagon (seriously look that up) just to state either the obvious or a decision I wasn’t invested in.
Ryan: What were your thoughts on the Bronco/Blacksmith fight?
Joey: Usually it’s good to make sure that if a hammer is vital to your design, it’s not gonna fall off after some impact. I always kind of want to see Inertia Labs, the kings of flip-bots, get taken down, dunno what it will be, but it wasn’t gonna be by something like Blacksmith. Maybe I’m still mad Hazard has one loss.
Ryan: It was kind of obvious just from the shape of Blacksmith that was going to get flipped around the box real good. And that’s exactly what happened.
Joey: We need Biohazard to make a comeback. Or at least the idea, and then they can do all this flashy shit and blast “Get Low” while showing highlights.
Joey: Death Roll is one of those designs I look at and just go….no. I’m like, are you trying…….to win?
Ryan: Battlebots has a history of designs that look visually interesting but just aren’t effective at all. Death Roll is one of them
Joey: And I said this to you, but vertical spinners are just almost universally a no-go. With one pretty notable exception.
Ryan: Which one?
Joey: Early favorite Minotaur, of course.
Ryan: Yeah, but Death Roll’s weapon is a little different. Had a bit of a rotating saw vibe than a drum
Joey: A spinner is a spinner is a spinner.
Ryan: There’s plenty of effective vertical weapons. Backlash, Nightmare’s smaller counterpart from way back when, for instance.
Joey: Sure, but Backlash never beat Ziggo and was just always second-tier game to me. Minotaur looks like it could buck that.
Ryan: I have no idea how far Captain Shrederator is going to go, but full body spinners are a tried and true concept and it got some nasty hits in on Death Roll. Shrederator pretty much ripped the thing apart!
Joey: Shrederator could go far! Maybe. Hard to say with stuff like Icewave glitching up.
Ryan: They really hyped this match up, didn’t they?
Joey: Oh, goodness yes. “This guy has been waiting fourteen years to unleash his bot, what a fighter.” I was just kind of embarrassed watching it. That hammer looked dangerous but, the announcers were all, “I THINK HE’LL HIT GET HIM THIS TIME”, then *whooshing noise*
Ryan: Beta reminded a lot of the builder’s last robot, Killerhurtz. It was intended all along to be a replacement for that robot, so guess that’s intentional. The hammer was cool, and it got some nice blows but it took forever to line up a hit. I think it will do pretty well though. I guess we’ll have to see what comes next for it
Ryan: This was another really hyped match and I thought it really lived up to it!!
Joey: Hell yeah. Minotaur rules. New frontrunner.
Ryan: Thoughts on that weapon?
Joey: The only way to make a vertical spinner win: make it go so fast that it gets loud as hell.
Ryan: And also low to the ground
Joey: It seems designed to not get messed up by making the hit, too, which is a problem for lots of spinners.
Ryan: Like Nightmare
Joey: But also those who succeed, like Tombstone!
Ryan: Yeah, Tombstone’s taken some harsh recoil blows. The spinning drum that Minotaur has seems like it reduces that. I only remember one other robot doing really well with a spinning drum in the original run, El Diablo, which made it all the way to the middleweight finals. Minotaur is definitely a robot I have an eye on.
Ryan: This fight was pretty boring? Wasn’t really rooting for either one of these robots to win really
Joey: Screw that fight, man. How is Chomp going through. How.
Ryan: It won’t. The hammer is definitely a design upgrade, but the robot itself is too high up!
Joey: IT. IS. SO. TALL. WHY.
Ryan: Disko Inferno is kind of a weird robot. Could have been okay if its weapon didn’t immediately fail. That team has a history of getting great results out of awkward designs considering their success with Dr. Inferno Jr., a two-time lightweight champion.
Joey: Seemed like an okay robot, yeah. I could imagine it getting a wild card.
Ryan: But once that disk went out the fight just became a boring lumbering mess that wasn’t fun at all to watch
Joey: Just ramming stuff together.
Ryan: Again that match got on and not Tombstone or a cooler new robot like The Ringmaster
Joey: Because it was close, probably.
Ryan: Even so it didn’t really make for riveting television. Both of the drivers seem cool though.
Ryan: i wasn’t expecting this one to be anything special and it turned out to be probably my favorite match of the night
Joey: That was pretty fantastic. Hypershock is the name of the winner, right? Fun stuff. Dunno how far that can go. But yeah.
Ryan: This is was night and day to the Chomp/Disko Inferno fight. I know it kind of sucks from a building standpoint to have your robot’s bottom give way and its motors ripped out by the other robot, but it makes for some great TV.
Joey: Hell yeah. Hopefully the return of Son of Whyachi next week gives us such a moment.
Ryan: This was the one with the drone
Joey: It was so offensive and so vindicating both at the same time. A flying flamethrower multibot just crashing like a useless piece of shit.
Ryan: it was everything I hate all at once
Joey: Attention any botmakers reading this, here is what to do if you are considering making a multibot setup:
Ryan: I mean, Bombshell’s “interchangable” weapons seemed interesting, but drone + flamethrower = terrible ideaI thought that having something flying with a weapon would give it an unfair advantage. And it did nothing and sadly crashed into a corner
Joey: I have no idea how something flying would be an advantage at all unless it was like a kamikaze idea.
Ryan: This match also had, like I mentioned before, the first ever use of a flamethrower that was both effective and not cheap
Joey: Oh, right, Complete Control was also in this match.
Ryan: Usually flamethrowers in Battlebots don’t really do much damage even though you’d think they’d be a total gamechanger.
Joey: And Complete Control did something other than just kinda be like “HAY GAIZ LOOK WUT I GOT!!!”
Ryan: Yeah, Complete Control just cooked the inside of Bombshell
Joey: Complete Control has spent a decade coming to grips (HA) with the fact that it doesn’t actually have a weapon.Finally figured it out.
Ryan: The first actually effective, cool use of a flamethrower. Although come to think of it, it’s more of a blowtorch, but that’s beside the point. I like Complete Control and always have, even with the dumb stunt the team pulled last year. Hope this isn’t its only win
Joey: Yeah, I’ve always liked it, but until now it’s just kinda been like “heyyyy I gotchuuuuu heehehehehe” with no real damage being done to the other bot.
Ryan: Now it has something to do when it scoops up the other bot I’m not saying this changes my opinion on flame weapons – I still think they’re a cheap pop – but at least we know they can be effective and well used.
Ryan: Be honest, this was your favorite fight of the night, Joey
Joey: Oh golly yes. The future of robotics.That shield was so useful.
Ryan: Am I detecting sarcasm? On the internet?
Joey: Not at all. I was engrossed by these two titans who surely would have met in the finals had the path allowed it.
Ryan: Let’s drop the charade, this was terrible
Joey: I don’t know if I hate Warhead more or less now. Its weird diagonal disc thing was one of the most useless weapons I have ever seen.
Ryan: And it changed it for a weapon where it just lightly gnaws on opponents
Joey: And breathes fire. Beautiful, useless fire.
Ryan: Yeah, remember where I said I still think flamethrowers are a cheap pop? Right here.
Joey: Just remember how Warhead won: Not with fire, not with teeth, but by pushing its opponent over so it lost its balance.
Ryan: And what a weird and bad opponent it was Remember Animotion? The company that Homer Simpson invested in that immediately went bankrupt? The control of the Obwalden Overlord reminded me of that.
Joey: Ha! It would have been nice of the weapons could have been, you know, used. But they use half of it on a shield.
Ryan: A useless shield to boot
Joey: It was almost like a wink, that they knew this was dumb and bad.
Ryan: This was the wrong sport for them to try some sort of motion controlled humanoid robot. Obwalden Overlord seemed more like a tech demo at CES than a Battlebot
Joey: Get that Kinect shit out of here.
Ryan: I don’t know how far Warhead will go, but I like the new design even less. Somehow.
Joey: Seems doomed. We can only hope.
Ryan: There’s literally a robot that competed this week – Photon Storm – that is highly reminiscent of Razer, the Warhead team’s older, better, cooler, more effective robot. I bet they weren’t happy when they saw it
Joey: At least they stopped talking about the damn thing like it was a legend of legends.
Ryan: Overall, what did you think of this episode and which robots are you rooting for in the next round?
Joey: This episode was balls and I’ll be happier when we have fewer bots that are terrible. I’m glad we’re having 32 bots in a bracket, though! Fantastic. I’m most excited about Minotaur and next week’s treat: Son of Whyachi
Ryan: Yes! I’m really happy Son of Whyachi is coming back. The team also has Warrior Clan in too, but everyone who loved this show back in the day is waiting for Whyachi I like most of the robots that won tonight. Bronco is awesome, I’d like to see more of what Beta can do and Hypershock surprised me, but it was all about Minotaur in the end
Joey: I’m excited for Minotaur to meet a worthy opponent.
Ryan: Yeah, same here. Final thoughts?
Joey: Excited to cut the riff raff.
Ryan: Yeah, as always this will get more interesting once the competitors thin out
Next week: We’ll be seeing the return of the much-loved Son of Whyachi, plus matches featuring returning competitors like Mega Tento. Before then, we have a request from our commentors. Joey indicated to me yesterday that he was largely unfamiliar with Robot Wars, the British equivalent to Battlebots that also received some American airtime on BBC America. If you can post in our comments what you think are representative fights from Robot Wars for Joey to check out, it might change his ambivalent opinion on the show. The clips don’t neccesarily have to include legendary bots like Razer, Chaos 2 and/or Hypnodisc, but that would certainly help.