For this new season of Battlebots, The Young Folks’ music editor Ryan Gibbs and staff writer Joey Daniewicz will be giving their impressions of each episode in our recurring feature Battlebots Chat. These will be a little more informal than our regular television, film and music reviews – after all we think it’s a little complicated to give a rating to something that we both consider to be a competitive sport as opposed to a game show or a reality television program.
Battlebots is a robot combat program that aired on Comedy Central for four seasons between 2000 and 2002 and then on ABC for two more in 2015 and 2016. The show has its roots in a series of underground competitions in the 1990s, and two Pay-Per-View contests in 1999. After Comedy Central cancelled the show, the robot combat sport mostly moved to RoboGames and other similar untelevised tournaments.
This is our first article in two years – following the show’s cancellation by ABC and its pick-up by the Discoery Channel this year. The show also has a new format; Instead of being a tournament all the way through like it has been since the 1990s, Battlebots now has a “regular season” of fights followed by a post-season tournament, like other competitve sport leagues.
If you want the history on Battlebots and robot combat in general, SB Nation ran an oral history on the show’s first run in the late 1990s and early 2000s 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. Also worth reading is Battlebots Update, which, like us, provides analysis of each Battlebots episode.
You can watch this week’s episode of Battlebots over on Discovery Channel’s website.
Ryan Gibbs: So what are your thoughts about the new format?
Joey Daniewicz: It felt like we got more mileage out of it, didn’t it?
Ryan: I think we saw Top 16 contenders in most of these fights
Joey: Not to mention I think we got more fights per minute than before? Maybe? Felt like it, anyway.
Ryan: Definitely. We absolutely got more fights in an hour than ABC gave us.
Joey: So yeah, I’m down. I think it’s clear that’s what they’re doing. And as the title card indicates, they’re kind of interested in giving us what we want.
Ryan: It’s also sounds like we’re getting a longer season if this “regular season + playoffs” thing indicates anything
Fight One: Bite Force (W) vs. Blacksmith
Blacksmith: Entered by Team Half-Fast Astronaut of Edison, New Jersey and built by Al Kindle. Kindle previously entered Enforcer in season 2 in 2000. Blacksmith’s main weapon is a hammer with a flamethrower inside the head. Last season, Blacksmith went 1-2 and lost in the round of 32
Bite Force: Entered by APTYX Designs of Mountain View, California and built by Paul Ventimiglia. Bite Force’s current weapon set-u[ is a vertical spinning bar. The robot is best known for winning Season 6 (or season 1 of the ABC run) of Battlebots, upsetting the favored Tombstone in the championship. Last season, Bite Force went 2-1 and lost to Chomp in the round of 16.
Joey: Bite Force isn’t an amazing bot, but they clearly know what they’re doing.
Ryan: They’re well driven and they can get the hits in, but I’m not sure if I like their weapon. I don’t think I’ve ever liked any of the weapons they’ve had
Joey: Isn’t their weapon the same as last time? Pretty sure it was.
Ryan: I believe it is. As for Blacksmith, the big thing that robot has going for it is endurance.
Joey: And not much else.
Ryan: You don’t really like hammer bots do you?
Joey: I mean, I like them better than flamethrower bots.
Ryan: And this was both!
Joey: I think hammer bots are good in theory but I’ve never seen one built in a way where it felt like the hammer actually did a ton of damage. Maybe there are counterexamples. This is not one of them.
Ryan: Their flamethrower was never good in the last season. They should maybe just cut their losses and remove it. This match was fine, but every other one this episode was better
Joey: Yup. Bite Force just better player’d ’em.
Fight Two: Free Shipping vs. DUCK! (W) vs. Mecha Rampage
Free Shipping: Entered by Team Special Delivery of Oakland, California and built by Gary Gin. Gin is a robot combat veteran who is highly respected for his skilled driving and is best known for two robots: The first is the Big B, a wedge robot which reached the lightweight finals in season 4 in 2001, losing to Ziggo. The second is Original Sin, widely considered to be one of the best robots to emerge after the Comedy Central Battlebots was canceled, having won the RoboGames tournament five times. Free Shipping is a lifter robot whose primary weapon is a forklift and two front-mounted flamethrowers.
DUCK!: Entered by Team Black & Blue of Hillsborough, California and built by Hal Rucker. The robot is similar to his RoboGames entry Whoops!, which messed up Ray Billings’ Tombstone counterpart Last Rites real good last year. Rucker competed in the last season of Battlebots with The Ringmaster, a full-body spinner. DUCK!’s primary weapon is a lifting plow with a spike designed like a duck’s beak on the front.
Mecha Rampage: Entered by C2 Robotics of San Luis Obispo, California and built by Christian Carlberg. Carlberg is one of the legends of Battlebots, having built and driven two iconic robots from the Comedy Central show: Minion, which won the superheavyweight championship at the second 1999 pay-per-view and on season 1; and Overkill, which was the runner-up in the heavyweight class in season 4. Carlberg also entered OverDrive into both seasons of the ABC revival series. Mecha-Rampage has a low-to-the-ground design with a horizontal spinning blade as its main weapon.
Ryan: I was not expecting this one to be as brutal as it was
Joey: This was crazy. Mecha Rampage showed he could do some pretty serious damage, but also that he could light on fire.
Ryan: Mecha Rampage looked like something kids could play on at the DZ Discovery Zone in 1992
Joey: I was skeptical for sure!
Ryan: Mecha Rampage does have bona fides, it’s the new robot of Christian Carlberg, who built Minion and Overkill in the old series
Joey: He’s a champion!
Ryan: Twice over!
Joey: All time top ten, maybe.
Ryan: And not a robot that really sticks out as being one. It’s not as memorable as Hazard or Diesector or Vlad the Impaler or Biohazard. Mecha Rampage has the same feel to it. Especially because it got its ass handed to it in this fight.
Joey: It might have come out on top in a one on one? Maybe? I think Duck! owes a lot of its success to MR’s efforts.
Ryan: Yeah because I’ve been hyping up Free Shipping to you for weeks. It’s the new robot of Gary Gin. His other bot is Original Sin, one of the big three of Robogames and one of the few robots that can consistently tame Tombstone/Last Rites. As for, Free Shipping it didn’t do too shabby in this, even if it lost part of the forklift
Joey: A strong second, I’d say.
Ryan: I know you weren’t feeling the forklift when this got started
Joey: I’ve never seen a bot use something like that. I was more curious. My kingdom for
it only being a forklift, though.
Joey:That’s a little different! This was like a HUGE tall thing
Ryan: Granted yes, this was more of a genuine, Home Depot lookin’ forklift
Joey: Whereas Vlad’s was like…..a wedge/spear type situation. Forklift not working? He can just frickin’ stab you. Impale you, perhaps.
Ryan: The forklift here would have been a lot cooler if it didn’t get snapped off. Okay, and so the third robot in this was Duck.
Joey: Is the official name Duck!?
Ryan: It’s DUCK! – All caps, exclamation point. Like it’s a mid-2000s indie band.
Joey: Hell yes. I officially like DUCK! I am on the DUCK! wagon.
Ryan: came right out of nowhere to do really good in this thing
Joey: Also, you’ve heard me say it, but while I’m intrigued by Free Shipping’s background, I really cannot abide by the flamethrower.
Ryan: I mean, it looks like it was built specifically to take down Tombstone
Joey: If the answer to Tombstone is flames I don’t like the future.
Ryan: But Joey, the flamethrowers did something for once in this match. Mecha Rampage burned to the ground
Joey: He did. I think what Free Shipping needs is a drone.
Ryan: Are there any drones in this anymore? Has everyone learned their lesson?
Joey: Didn’t someone successfully employ them once by using it as a kamikaze?
Ryan: I don’t remember anything about the drones affecting the game than the time Hypershock took one out of the sky with a rake.
Joey: Ha! Classic.
Ryan: You know, Hexbug is coming out with a Hypershock toy and it has the rake.
Joey: My goodness. It was like a straight up rakin’ leaves rake, Right.
Ryan: Sure was. I think the Hypershock guy may have literally bought it for $10 at a Home Depot or something….Oh, I’m off track. Anyway this rumble was good
Joey: Good rumble. QUACK QUACK
Ryan: And you don’t like rumbles, do you?
Joey: Nah. I live for one on one stuff. Two people set on destroying each other. Better format all around. But this was fun!
Ryan: I liked the ones in the old Comedy Central show that had too many robots in the ring at once
Joey: Those were nice because they were used so sparingly. That was some real Hunger Games stuff. Some Dragon Ball Super Tournament of Power stuff.
Ryan: It felt like this one had some substance to it!
Joey: It did, but mostly it was just fun.
Fight three: Huge (W) vs. Sub-Zero
Huge: Entered by Team Huge of South Windsor, Connecticut and built by Jonathan Schultz. Schultz and his team are new to Battlebots. Huge lives up to its name as one of the larger robots in the competition, with its main weapon being a spinning vertical blade.
SubZero: Entered by Team Hammertime of Malvern, Pennsylvania and built by Jerry Clarkin. SubZero competed in four untelevised charity invitationals held by Battlebots after the Comedy Central show was canceled, as well as the second season of the ABC revival. Famously, it beat Icewave by tossing it out of the arena in 2009. SubZero’s primary weapon is launching arm, but for this fight against Huge, it also went out with a blocking apparatus.
Joey: More like, Yuge.
Ryan: Ok so Sub Zero was a big ol’ piece of garbage in this fight
Joey: Garbo. But he had probably the worst primary weapon you could possibly have against a robot like this?
Ryan: it looked like had a theremin strapped to its front
Joey: So, like, what does Huge do against a really LOW robot?
Ryan: like Duck?
Ryan: Uh, dunno hope?
Ryan: Huge is a weird robot. it is indeed a large boy like it’s name implies, but it’s too high up for most robots in this tournament and its wheels look like they are make of plasticisine. Those wheels like like you could roll them up and mold Wallace and Gromit out of them. Wheels aren’t supposed to bend
Joey: Ha, you just don’t understand Ryan, Huge has got this. Also, its spinner should probably go the other way? Maybe? Isn’t it much better if a vertical spinner goes up and not down?
Ryan: I’ve only heard of the spinning going another way once: Back in the old school Battlebots, where they were afraid Nightmare’s spinner spun too fast and ordered the driver to spin it the other way or it’d be taken out of the tournament.
Joey: Yup. Then after the decision, it went down instead of up.
Ryan: did that happen here too?
Joey: No clue!
Ryan: Because it still spun very fast. It was a good blade. Huge is a weird robot and I don’t know about it going forward. But it was better than Sub Zero which I really can’t say much nice about.
Joey: Nightmare has been allowed to go up and not down since, so I think this was the team’s decision? If so, I’d like to know exactly why.
Ryan: Yeah, I bet the Battlebots Reddit will have the answer when they inevitably find this article
Joey: I will be exposed.
Fight four: Bombshell vs. Lockjaw (W)
Bombshell: Entered by Chaos Corps of Atlanta, Georgia and built by Michael Jeffries. Last season, Bombshell made it all the way to the finals following a shocking upset win against Minotaur. However, it was shredded by Tombstone in the final match. The robot once feautred an array of interchangable weapons, but this time around its only weapon is a vertical spinning disc.
Lockjaw: Entered by Mutant Robots of San Diego, California and built by Donald Hutson. Hutson is another legend of Battlebots, famous for his spectacular driving and keen eye for design. His best known robot, Diesector, won two Battlebots heavyweight championships, in seasons 2 and 5 of the Comedy Central show. He previously entered Lockjaw, a robot with a similar aethestic to Diesector, in both of the ABC seasons. Its current weapons set-up includes a vertical spinning disc and two lifter arms.
Joey: Uh. Yeah. That sure happened.
Ryan: this one should have been over sooner, but I guess I understand why Donald Hutson decided to do more of it?
Joey: Imagine if the Bombshell guy again requested to keep going. You only get one!
Ryan: Bombshell didn’t really do much with that second chance either. It was fast, I’ll give it that
Joey: Absolutely nothing. Lockjaw looks pretty good. Wonder how deep in bracket it’ll go.
Ryan: but he was going up against a guy who’s done this longer than anyone and is one of the best drivers of these things ever
Ryan: I’d love to see Lockjaw go far! It’s probably the favorite of the technical people
Joey: But yeah, pretty straightforward fight.
Main event: Tombstone (W) vs. Minotaur
Tombstone: Entered by Hardcore Robotics of Placerville, California and built by Ray Billings. Where do we even start with Tombstone? Billings made a name for himself with Last Rites, a three-time RoboGames champion that is similar in size and weapon to Tombstone. A larger, earlier iteration Tombstone itself also competed in that event. Both robots were extremely successful, destructive and feared. Despite his fame and success on the indie circuit, Billings and Tombstone really started turning heads on a national level with the first ABC season, when they steamrolled over their competition to get to the finals, where Tombstone lost to Bite Force. In the 2016 season, Tombstone did even better and won the whole tournament. Tombstone comes into the Discovery Channel season with the best record of any robot in the reboot, with only one loss in the two previous seasons. Tombstone’s weapon is a category five hurricane strapped right to the robot, how about that?
Minotaur: Entered by RioBotz of Rio de Janiero, Brazil, built by Marco Antonio Meggiolaro and driven by Daniel Frietas. RioBotz has entered a variety of highly admired and successful drum spinners into RoboGames over the years, with Minotaur being their latest. The team entered in the robot into the 2016 season of Battlebots and immediatley started tearing up their competition (quite literally) thanks the combination of Frietas’ fantastic, quick and aggressive driving and Minotaur’s powerful weapon. It looked to be heading on a collision course to a final against Tombstone, but it lost in the semifinals to Bombshell. Minotaur’s weapon is a very loud spinning drum.
Ryan: They hyped this match pretty hard. With good reason! Everyone wanted to see it
Joey: I called it! I got it right!
Ryan: You did
Joey: Yeah, this should’ve been the finals two years ago.
Ryan: instead of Bombshell getting real lucky
Joey: It never felt like Minotaur was particularly in this fight, and Tombstone looked very good at taking its own damage.
Ryan: Minotaur did pretty well for a hot second, and then didn’t. Those collisions were nice TV, though.
Joey: THE FLOOR
Ryan: Yeah, Minotaur lost to the floor! The collisions between their weapons actually took nice, big chunks out of the floor, and Minotaur got stuck on one and got counted out.
Joey: Not the way I wanted that to end, although he was probably going to lose no matter what unless he somehow made Tombstone backfire hard enough on itself.
Joey: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Minotaur lose its weapon before.
Ryan: No, I don’t think even in the Bombshell fight. And how about Tombstone chopping up the floor? What did you think they did to clean this fight up?
Joey: I have no idea. That shit is crazy.
Ryan: Like, last year when Wrecks carved a gash in the floor, they just left it there the whole tournament. This is a lot more substantial
Joey: It ended a fight!
Ryan: did they have to resurface the thing? I guess we’ll find out next week!
Ryan: So overall thoughts about this episode?
Joey: Good episode. Will be fun to see how this goes. This was an improvement.
Ryan: Definitely, I think this new format played out well. Any fights you’re particularly interested in seeing? Icewave overheating? Son of Wyachi doing a thing?
Joey: Those are definitely two that come to mind! Will be fun for Icewave to be seeded negative five before bustering out.
Ryan: remember when we started this and we were hyped for Icewave lol
Joey: Hahahaaaaw. They’ll show us. One day.
Joey: Maybe they could! We’ve seen some weird stuff happen before.
Ryan: Overall what are you looking forward to the most for next week and going on?
Joey: Oh. I dunno! Seems like they might serve up some marquee fights each time. They’re not just sending the best bots against the scrubs early on.
Ryan: Yeah there’s no reason to with this new setup. We’re going to get matches that could be finals calibur every show.
Joey: This reminded me of what they do in sports, actually. At the beginning of the regular season, they’ll usually open with finals or semifinal rematches.
Ryan: I’m honestly looking forward to seeing what the Chomp team did this year. They impressed me a lot last time
Joey: Didn’t Chomp just have a profile over on Gizmodo?
Ryan: Sure did! It was good Also I am obsessed with finding out about how that Cheeseburger robot does. Like that thing is either gonna be real stupid or surprisingly good with no inbetween
Joey: It’s gonna win.