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Air Hogs Havoc Laser Battle Set

February 2008

Street Price: $69.99 US
Manufacturer: Spin Master
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 8+
Our recommended age range: 8+
Primary use: Indoors
Radio: n/a - infrared
Includes:

  • 2x Assembled helicopters
  • 2x Transmitters with built-in chargers
  • 3x spare tail propellers
  • Tail prop tool
  • Adhesive counterweight stickers
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • 12 AA batteries (total) for the transmitters

Initial Impressions

Like the Apache Havoc, these Laser Battle units come with actual landing skids and somewhat realistic-shaped bodies, this time modelled after the American AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter. I think they look great and if they fly anything like the original or the more recent Apache, this will be a very fun review!

 
 
 

Preparing to Fly

No surprises here -- put batteries in the transmitters, charge the helis, and you're ready to go. If a heli spins in one direction consistently when in flight, you can use trim buttons on the transmitters to correct this.

Testing

The first thing I noticed when I powered on one of these Havocs is that the tail prop starts spinning before the main rotor. Spinmaster says this is the result of "new startup software" (programming) to help the little helis take off successfully from a flat surface. In the past, I've always recommended that you launch micro helis from your hand, because they spin pretty crazy if you try to take off from the ground, and often this just results in a quick crash. The new setup with these Havocs does seem to help, but you have to really give it 100% up throttle to lift away from the ground quickly and stabilize, otherwise it'll still spin quite a lot.

Regardless, once you're in the air, these new Havocs seemed to fly just as well as the original, if not better, and they look great. However, once I started trying a mock battle, I quickly realized that the two helis weren't evenly matched. In the set we got, the blue one had a minor wobble in flight, but it was still very controllable in flight and didn't dart around at all, and lasted 8 minutes on a battery charge. The red one hovered more soothly and moved forward better, but didn't have as much power (couldn't climb straight up as fast) and lated barely over 6 minutes on a charge. The difference in power and runtime gave the blue one a huge advantage in combat, and it easily scored more "kills."

About "kills." It's called a "Laser Battle" set, so you'd expect the little helis to shoot little red lasers at each other, right? Well, that wouldn't be safe for people & pets if you accidentally shot towards an eye, so real lasers are not used. Instead, each craft has an invisible infrared light "cannon" mounted in the front of the canopy that shoots the same type of signal as your transmitter gives off. You activate the gun by pushing one of two buttons on the forward edge of the transmitter, and the transmitter gives off a crackly electronic gun sound to let you know you're shooting. It'd sure be more fun if the helicopter made the sound, but that's okay. The ideal range Spinmaster recommends for shooting is between about 1 and 6 feet. If you score a hit, your opponent's helicopter will go into a tailspin and lose some power, spiralling to the ground. The person controlling the heli that got hit can give full throttle, and if they're fast enough, they can actually recover and not hit the ground.

It all sounds pretty fun, but I really tried to battle with a friend, the differences in performance between the two helis, again, took away a lot of the fun. Also, the somewhat narrow shooting zone for the infrared cannons means you have to line up your shot pretty well to score a good hit, and these helis aren't that precise to control anyhow. Since most of your time in flight is spent correcting and re-correcting your direction, the battle can quickly devolve into non-stop shooting while flailing around hoping to get a lucky hit while you're turning past the direction of your opponent.

 

Conclusion

With these units mass-produced from such lightweight materials and fairly inexpensive construction, you're likely to always find some differences between how the two helis in any set fly, and that's where the biggest flaw in the Havoc Laser Battle system. If you buy a set for a pair of siblings, don't expect to give one heli to oneof them and the other to the other; one will surely soon be crying "unfair!" At best, set a rule that they need to switch them after every battery charge so the advantage of the better unit gets shared between them.

I've also taken the time to look up other owners' impressions, and I've seen an unsettling number of reports of parts breaking, including anything from the tiny on/off switch to the tail motor. The reviews are really mixed, suggesting possible variances in manufacturing quality from lot to lot.

I love the Havoc helis, and I think the very idea of a battle set is truly awesome, but the quirks that showed up when two were flown together really let me down. Given the other feedback from regular buyers I've read on the Internet, I think the Havoc Laser Battle sets are a hit-and-miss affair, where you may be taking a gamble when you buy one. Maybe it'll work out, maybe it won't. As much as I hate to say it, I'm going to have to recommend that the buyer beware.

C-

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