- Highly and easily configurable
- Unique form factor
- Plenty of accessories
- Expensive, especially for multiplayer
- Bulky controller
- Single player games can quickly become boring
The Roboni-i targets an audience aged above 12 (although younger kids should still enjoy the basics of it), and given the high price, any sane person would have equally high expectations for it. Fortunately, the kit gave a good first impression -- all the parts felt sturdy and were well cut. The robot turned out to be smaller than we anticipated, which is good since it interacts best indoors with its IR accessories. Don't let the body size fool you, though, as we had to install six AA batteries in it (rechargeables would be a good idea here). Similarly, the base station requires two AA batteries to power its various IR emitters and the chunky remote controller -- which fit nicely in our hands -- takes four.
Functionality and accessories
While the robot's marketed as a programmable device, there's no need to plug it into a computer before its first drive -- great news for jumpy kids. Once switched on, the remote control and the robot will establish connection via RF (not IR -- sweet). The robot's wheels are independently controlled by the two up / down click buttons, making it very easy to travel in a straight line and spin on the spot (by just holding up and down), but impossible to turn while moving -- maybe Robonica should use pressure-sensitive buttons or sliders to allow soft turns. You can trigger a momentary turbo mode by double-tapping the two forward buttons, and the robot builds up turbo stamina as it gets more play time. The controller also displays some handy info -- the default card overlay on it points out battery levels, game score and multiplayer network status. If you leave the robot alone for 20 seconds, it'll start exploring and interacting with the accessories, and the controller will display its corresponding behavior modes and moods -- apparently it's happier if you have the base station turned on.
As with many things in life, the more the merrier for these Roboni-i games, but sadly we only had one unit to play with and the solo games did get lame after a while. If you're lucky enough to find fellow Roboni-i owners then you can network with three robots at any time, which will allow them to shoot at each other during games or explore mode. Here's an example we found on YouTube of the game "SpacePods" -- pretty much just a two-on-two capture-the-flag but with the ability to shoot the opponent's base station to reduce their score:
The Robonica Roboni-i is no doubt an impressive piece of kit -- great hardware with an astonishing number of customizable options, courtesy of its intuitive programming suite. Control is also a breeze but turning can be better. If the seven games aren't enough, advanced users or even schools can make a creative project out of it for new game ideas. This robot is no doubt a good option for parents seeking ways to enhance their children's logic in a fun way, but as the price tag shows, it's hard to get the best out of it for those who may only buy one unit, so hopefully more schools will see the educational value in it and order a few for their youngsters. Some sort of nationwide robot tournaments for these dudes would be totally awesome too, don't you think?