Long ago I used to post reviews with some frequency. Mostly movies, but occasionally other media or products as well. That is now making a comeback thanks to my signing up for BzzAgent. It’s a really great setup: Free signup. They send me free stuff. I review it. Does it really get better?
It is worth saying up front that my 2 & 4 year old’s aren’t into Transformers or Rescue Bots, and in general are pretty hesitant to jump into violent or ‘scary’ shows (personal issues and parenting set aside). They don’t like stuff with ‘bad guys’ and I’m not in a hurry to force it on them. They do love video games though. I was hoping that Rescue Bots would fit the bill as a non-violent, no ‘bad guys’ introduction to more ‘action’ oriented games than the puzzle and sports games they’ve been playing.
For those reasons I decided to try the game out myself before giving it to them and I’m glad I did. Because it won’t work for us because I use a Dell projector for our main entertainment system in the house (we have no other TV’s, just computer monitors elsewhere). As it turns out, the infrared remote control for this game just happens to send off signals that match those of a Dell projector, so every time I pressed a button it gives me an overlay error message about not having a USB device plugged in. So this is totally useless for me and my kids. I’m going to give it to some friends who should enjoy it. I’ll make sure to get their feedback and post it here as well.
I did go ahead and use it the best I could though. Reviews and observations follow:
- Overall the games are far more responsive than I expected and solid game play was quite nice on all of the games I played save for one – the fighting game – which gets a little sluggish. It’s a 2.5D-ish hack & slash that brings in “bad guy robots” that you need to beat the crap out of while they barely do anything to you (is this what I’m teaching my 4 year old? no). I know they don’t have the baddies attacking the players too much so it is easy, but I seriously felt like a bully. But overall the games were very nice, intuitive but I think challenging enough for even experienced gamer kids. If you have a kid who plays a lot of advanced PS3/Xbox games, they’ll probably be bored, but this is great as a “my first console” kind of setup, gameplay-wise.
- While it plays most game sounds through the TV/stereo, there is also a speaker built in to the console itself and it is loud with no volume or mute option. If big brother is wanting to play this game while little brother is napping in the next room, you’d best have a pillow handy to muffle the sound.
- The console has to plug in with a wired connection to the TV, but is entirely battery powered (AA batteries). I don’t know how fast it will eat batteries but even with an auto-shutoff, you’re going to go through a lot of batteries if this gets much use at all. I’m guessing this is related to it being a toy targeted at young kids where they are expected to interact with the console directly, so it can’t be plugged into an outlet. Still a pain an additional cost, even if you’re using rechargeables.
For my setup, there was really bad flicker on most images. The console only outputs old-school composite video (the yellow RCA jack kind) and my Sony receiver had to up-convert that to HDMI to pass it to my projector. I don’t know if this was a result of that upconversion, or would be consistent everywhere. But I’m guessing many people will be doing similar up-conversions to modern HDTVs. This was at-best distracting and I think it would be a likely source of headaches if too much time was spent watching it. You can see what it looked like on this video.
- To load up a set of levels you have to put a little figure into the console. Then you press a button on top and it quickly closes some doors on the front, spins the figure around on a carousel, and switches it to the back while showing an empty side to the kids. Basically it makes it look like the figure disappeared and appeared up on the TV. “wow!” Unfortunately, they cut costs and didn’t bother to put the mechanism on both sides of the carousel. So you can only put the figure in on one side. But both sides are made to look practically identical to keep up the illusion. So if some kid has come along and pressed that button on top many times (as kids will likely do) you have a 50/50 shot that the figure won’t go in to the console at all. Apparently I pressed that top button while putting in batteries because it took me a good 5 minutes of wrestling with the thing to realize why the figure wouldn’t snap in to the console. I can only imagine how frustrated kids might get. At the very least it completely blows the illusion when you have to explain it to little kids.
- In general talks about “bad guys” unnecessarily. I thought that was the point of Rescue Bots – helping people, not beating up ‘bad guys’. More games like the ‘asteroids accidentally being pulled in, fend them off with lasers while we shut it down’ would be great. There really isn’t a storyline in the game, so I really don’t think baddies are necessary. Without it (and without my projector problems) I would gladly have let both my 2 & 4 year old play the game. With that though, I’m iffy on my 4 year old and wouldn’t want him playing it with the 2 year old around, so that basically makes it a no-go.
- There’s no way to stop a level one it has been started. You just have to muscle through it to completion or totally reboot the console. So don’t start the wrong level by mistake!
- The “two player” option given at the end of every level is basically just a chance to play it again. I think the idea is that you hand it to your friend to take turns, which is nice, but there’s no competition or cooperation between players that I could see. Not a good or bad thing, just an observation.
Overall the console is really pretty nice. I think a decent value, and great as a ‘my first console’ for kids that are at the point of watching shows with good-guys vs. bad-guys and some minor violence. It isn’t without it’s technical issues, but for the price it isn’t bad at all. I’d recommend it for any family with little fans of Rescue Bots or similar shows that is looking for a cheap video game option this Christmas.