While the Porgs have certainly dominated the marketing/merchandising for The Last Jedi, that doesn't mean the adorable BB-8 isn't getting the attention he deserves. Remote controlled versions of the droid is nothing new, but Spin Master's Hero Droid version may be the best out there you can buy. Read my full review to find out why!
Since he first made his appearance in The Force Awakens teaser trailer, fans have been enamored with the spherical droid. His quirky antics brought a lot of humor to the film, and his overall design was instantly intriguing. It made sense that he was slapped all over the merchandising for the first film, and a couple years later is still pretty iconic within the new era of Star Wars.
Several different kinds of BB-8 toys have launched, with a few remote controlled options (Sphero’s being the most notable) designed to give you the movie experience of having the droid to yourself. While those were fun, they can’t compare to what Spin Master has done with their Hero Droid BB-8.
First of all, this thing is significantly larger than any other RC option out there. Sitting at approximately 16 inches tall (19 with the antennas), it’s just about 9-10 inches smaller than its on screen counterpart. While it’s not “life” size, it definitely catches your attention, and dominates your playtime.
Bigger makes it look better, for sure, with all the finer details of the droid able to stand out. Though it’s molded from plastic, it certainly doesn’t look that way. The paint job an general attention to details make it look screen accurate and not at all like a toy. Moreso, its larger scale makes it, understandably, heavier and this added weight makes it move more smoothly on most any surface.
One of the biggest issues with the Sphero (and other) models is how it tends to slip around on various surfaces. If you hit the wrong spot in your house on the carpet or floor, it's simply not going to roll. Spin Master’s Hero Droid doesn’t have this problem thanks to its heftier scale. Throughout my time with it, it traversed my household with nary a hiccup. From carpet to tile and even the concrete/grass from the backyard, I rarely saw it lose traction.
The Hero Droid operates in one of three modes: standard RC, Follow-Me, and Voice Controlled. The RC option is likely what you’ll end up using the most (at least I did) as it gives you the most control over it and where it goes. The following mode is kinda fun to play around with, especially for the kids.
The concept is simple, the BB-8 will use it’s built-in sensors to track/follow the controller (which has a clip on it so you can hang on your belt or pockets), meaning BB-8 will attempt to keep up with whoever’s holding it. Get too far ahead of it, and it’ll bloop in frustration, but will get all excited when it finds you again. It’s great in that this mode really makes it feel like you have your own droid following you around, but it is a novelty that eventually wears off, especially if you’re not out in the open.
Voice controls is another neat function, where you can use as set of predetermined commands (many of which are lines from the movie) to control BB-8. These can be used to call him towards you, or engage in some “conversation.” For instance, he begins to shudder and sound afraid if you mention Kylo Ren. You can also put him in guard mode (alerting you to others walking in the room) and sleep mode via voice commands.
If you’re not actively playing with him, but still want some sort of presence, the voice function works really well. As I mentioned, however, for the most control, you’ll likely be using the remote more often than not.
Hero Droid BB-8 comes in (essentially) three parts, including the spherical body, the domed head, and the remote control for it all. The head and body require their own separate charging before you begin, with the ports to do so cleverly hidden. The body can plug right into the wall, while the head uses a USB charger instead. The controller simply uses regular batteries you’ll have to swap out periodically.
Because of all this charging (about 45 minutes for the main body), there’s a little more setup involved before getting down to play time. After that, however, there’s not much else that needs to be done. It’s very easy to take out of the box and start using, with minimal instructions needed to get started. The head pops onto the body using some strong magnets, and since it’s powered separately, it works independently of the body, completing the overall effect of BB-8 being “alive.”
The head will lean forward as it moves, spin around and light up when you hit the action button on the controller (it will perform random preset motions). This is a neat aspect to the toy, making it feel like it’s coming right out of the movies to interact with you. The magnet, however, makes it easier for the head to pop off occasionally if you accidentally run into things.
The controls aren’t the most intuitive at first, and like any remote controlled device, there’s a bit of a learning curve. As such, my BB-8 ran into a few things when I was first figuring it out, which sent it’s head bouncing off, hilariously with a set a sad sounding beeps and blips. Reattaching isn’t that hard, but it’s definitely something to look out for, especially considering it IS still plastic and could break if it happens on the wrong surface.
That said, the droid itself is pretty tough. I have a newborn in the house who was fascinated/terrified of the BB-8. If you’ve ever been around infants, there’s no test of durability better than letting them play with a thing...My unit survived, none the worse for wear.
The only issue I had overall in terms of quality and design, is the controller. The remote you use to move BB-8 around is about the only thing in the box that feels like a toy. It feels too light and plasticy in your hands, almost as if it’ll break if you move the joysticks too much. I haven’t had any issues with its performance, but that feeling of it potentially falling apart on you doesn’t go away either.
Other than that, I wish the battery would last a bit longer. Under continuous play, I found I had to recharge it within a short period of time (30-45 minutes). While that’s not terrible, it wasn’t what I was hoping for either. Considering all the things it can do, however, and it’s size it seems par for the course. I mean, the Sphero only gets you an hour of play for almost three hours’ worth of charging.