A slew of new Star Wars toys have arrived, hot on the heels of the theatrical debut of Star Wars: Episode VII. Ready for the 2015 holiday shopping season, both the BB-8 toy by Sphero and the Millennium Falcon Quad-copter by Air Hogs are sure to please the Star Wars geek on your shopping list.
Both of the toys here run at the more expensive end of the cost spectrum, and each bring a unique experience unlike the other. Are they worth it? I’d say a resounding YES to both! Here is a closer look at each.
BB-8 Toy by Sphero
Like the other app-enabled Sphero SPRK or Sphero 2.0 gadgets before it, the brand new BB-8 toy by Sphero toy uses your smart-device to control movements. This little “droid” (I see what you did there, Sphero) moves around based on a virtual joystick displayed on your phone or tablet.
Like its predecessors, you start off each play session using the orientation LED light to rotate how the unit sits in relationship to you, and then you’re off. What the BB-8 toy adds are Star Wars specific sounds (played from your phone, not the device), and other goodies baked into the application.
You can adjust the volume of the noises using your phone’s volume control, but surely much of the enjoyment of using this iteration of the Sphero toy comes from the blings, bleeps, and blurts that resemble that of the silver screen character it is styled after.
There is a bit of a lag/delay in the movement inputs from the phone to the ball, same as the Sphero SPRK that I spent some time with a few weeks ago. However, once you master these delays, it can be easy to slide around chair legs, over rugs, or just chase after your feline friends. My 8-year old daughter is actually more adept at navigating the little bot than I am!
The only complaint we had was the head popping off, which is a common thread amongst the other reviews I’ve read about the BB-8 toy by Sphero. Though it doesn’t cause any harm (you can “drive” the toy around headless, if you want), a good smack against a wall or couch will dislodge the top plastic dome, which is just downright sad looking. The video above shows how easily it goes right back on, thanks to the magnet.
While it is fun to zoom around the house scaring your pets, dodging obstacles, and smiling ear-to-ear, this is a toy that only held my interst for short periods of time. My daughter was able to spend far more time per session remaining entertained than I was with this unit, though age might play a role there.
Included with the unit is a cool little Star Wars BB-8 themed base, and USB charger cable. There is an app verison for both Android and iOS devices, so you’re covered no matter what type of phone or tablet you possess.
Battery life is adequate, but not amazing (though the stylish charger makes that a fun part of ownership, too). And the unit isn’t cheap – but if someone is a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise, they’ll love getting a BB-8 toy by Sphero gift!
Millennium Falcon Quad-copter by Air Hogs
Priced similar to the Sphero is the Millennium Falcon Quad-copter by Air Hogs flying toy. This allows you to take your Star Wars fanaticiscm to the air, though you should be aware this device is rated for indoor use only. It is produced out of a light-weight foam material, which simply would not be able to handle the cross winds of being outside.
Indoors where it belongs it performs quite admirably, though. I was afraid the unit would wander the room (read: not stay steady) as many devices like this often tend to do. Though it does have a slight tendency to creep, overall the unit hovers quite nicely, allowing for long periods of steady hovering if you want.
Here are two videos, showing take off, and flight/landing (pardon my rough landing- thankfully the unit is quite resilient!).
Younger pilots might struggle a bit with the controls at first, but school age children should be able to eventually master these controls, so long as their hands are big enough to grasp the controller. Perhaps the hardest part of flying the Millennium Falcon, or any device like this, is 3D-flight. Determining the front versus rear of the unit and adjusting your controls to compensate is tricky, but over time becomes easier.
Some of the cooler features of the unit (not shown in my videos, oops!) are the sounds that can occur. There is a mute switch on the controller itself, to mute the speaker on that device. Like the BB-8, the Millennium Falcon has the ability to play noises the evoke the movie, and the unit to which is resembles. But I did find those noises a bit less fun on the Falcon, where the BB-8 noises were cute and enjoyable.
LED lights on the front of the unit (White) and back of the unit (Blue) allow you to easy determine front from back, and also allow low-light or dark room flying which can be quite fun! And because the unit is made from foam, crash landings are unlikely to cause any damage, thanks to the propellers being safely cocooned in the belly of the Millennium Falcon‘s shape.
Flight time isn’t great (roughly 10 to 15 minutes), and charge time takes much longer than that. Though I wish the battery lasted longer, and took less time to recharge, this is pretty reasonable compared to other devices of the same size and price point. It would be nice if there was an interchangeable battery, but to keep the weight down they’ve put the battery directly into the body of the unit, wihout access.
I will complain about the charging here briefly. Though I like that you can use the controller’s 6-AA batteries to recharge the main copter, great for on-the-go fun, I disliked the USB charge cable process. I’d much rather be able to plug the main unit directly into the wall, rather than daisy-chain it off the controller. But I’m sure this simplified things and kept the bigger and heavier electrical bits out of the main unit, further reducing weight. Again, the trade off is that when you are out and about, you can easily recharge off the controller for more play sessions.
Either of these toys would thrill even the smallest Star Wars fanatic. Between the two I’m a bit more smitten with the Millennium Falcon Quad-copter by Air Hogs thanks to the more mature experience it offers me. My daughter liked both, though I got the impression the BB-8 toy by Sphero would be her preferred device of the two.
Like R2-D2 or Yoda, the Millennium Falcon ship is a long-time fan favorite within the Star Wars franchise. And making his debut in the 7th chapter is the BB-8 droid character, who is already receiving praise for being a charismatic new-comer sure to become a long-time favorite.
Are you buying a new Star Wars toy for yourself, a friend, or family member this holiday season? Tell us more below! Thank you for visiting.