Gearheads: Meet the Toys

OK, let’s enumerate the toys. The manual contains a list giving their basic stats and special behaviors, so I’ll try to make observations not found there.

In approximate order of increasing interestingness:

Ziggy, the cockroach: the fastest and lightest of the toys, capable of crossing the screen with the least winding, provided it doesn’t run into anything. Which is likely, because it tends to veer wildly left and right. If it gets bumped, it flips over on its back until it gets bumped again. Still, when it’s available, it can be the easiest way to sneak in a few extra points. The real fun comes in when the opponent is using Ziggy as well, because you tend to get large clusters of supine bugs that way, and it turns into a sort of tug-of-war (push-of-war?) with both players trying to push it past the goal line — toys don’t have to cross the line under their own power to score. Even toys that have completely wound down stay on the screen for several seconds, and score you points if they’re pushed through the goal.

Big Al, the bulldozer: The polar opposite of Ziggy. Powerful, heavy, slow, takes a whole lot of winding, moves completely straight. Once set on its path, it cannot be diverted. It can only be slowed down, preferably by another Big Al. This can produce more push-of-war situations, with both sides sinking their winding time into putting more pushing power into a single row of Big Als. Such things seldom go anywhere; eventually they just wind down and vanish. So the best way to deal with it is to cut out early and set off some fast stuff elsewhere.

Disasteroid, the gold mecha-anime-looking robot: Slow, heavy, moves straight, and has the ability to blast other toys directly in front of it, destroying them instantly. The only toy that’s immune is Big Al, which is the game’s most blatant and artificial rock-paper-scissors-ism. The blaster takes a good long while to recharge, though, so once you’ve sacrificed one toy to it, you’re safe. When two Disasteroids face each other, one of them will be destroyed — I think the one with more energy remaining wins, but I’m not sure of this.

Walking Timebomb, the walking timebomb: Moves straight ahead fairly quickly, and as such can be used as a point-scorer. More importantly, if it runs out of energy, it explodes, destroying everything within a radius except Disasteroids, which are therefore the best defense against them. This is the one toy you have a strong incentive to underwind, although figuring out exactly how much to wind it is tricky, so I haven’t used it much. Fortunately, the computer isn’t very good at using them either, and tends to throw them out in clusters that blow each other up before they reach your guys.

Zap-Bot, the wacky-looking robot with electrical plugs for hands: Another offensive unit, but in a different way. When it runs into a toy, it zaps it, draining its energy and slowing it while it zaps. What’s more, it moves diagonally, allowing it to sneak up on things like Disasteroid that focus on what’s directly in front of them. Its big weaknesses are that it’s hard to aim and that it’s undiscriminating about what it zaps — if you release two Zap-Bots from the same spot, and the one in front pauses to zap something, the one in back can run into the one in front and start zapping it. So the main use I’ve gotten out of them is just taking advantage of the diagonal movement to wiggle them past blockers for points.

Deadhead, the skull: Very slow-moving, and requires maximal winding to get it across the screen under its own power, but that doesn’t matter, because its purpose is primarily defensive. When any toy bumps into it, it pauses to scream, scaring the toy into reversing direction. Note that “any toy” includes toys moving in the same direction that bump it from behind, so Deadhead imposes some pretty severe limits on the person who launches it. They’ll even scare other Deadheads, and can get tangled together in a perpetual scream. They wander a little, so it’s important to keep them separated. Probably the best way to use them is to wind them just enough to scare one thing before they wind down, although this can be difficult to control. Still, turning the opponent’s toys around is a very powerful move, especially for fast-moving types that can recross the screen and score you a point before the opponent reacts.

Krush Kringle, the Christmas-themed professional wrestler and single weirdest toy idea in the game: Moves slowly, periodically thumping the ground to make toys within a certain radius reverse direction. Two Krushes side by side will repeatedly reverse each other, forming a sort of vortex that other slow-moving toys can’t escape. There’s a timing element here that’s difficult to use effectively, but also difficult to combat — with the right timing, you can get a Disasteroid in to kill it between thumps, but you risk giving your opponent a free Disasteroid that way.

Orbit, the flying saucer: Just as lightweight as Ziggy, but a little slower and needs a little more winding. Orbit moves straight forward until it hits an obstacle, at which point it tries to navigate around it. It’s the only toy that knows how to do that. Effectively unblockable, the only good defenses against it are Disasteroid and Deadhead.

Presto, the magician: Moves forward at a moderate speed, but periodically teleports to a different lane, apparently at random. Can get stuck for a while between teleports, but is ultimately not very blockable. Not the fastest way to score points, but sometimes the only real option you have.

Kangaruffian, the boxing kangaroo: Moves diagonally, like Zap-Bot. When it hits something, it punches it. If it’s something light, like a Ziggy, it can send it flying backward with enough speed to get it past the finish line and score you points. But it’ll add some momentum even to the heavy things, and can be used to break a Big Al stalemate. I haven’t been using them much, and have only recently started to appreciate how useful they are.

Clucketta, the hen: Basically a toy factory. Flies forward in bursts, passing over other toys, then settles down for a while to lay an egg, then repeats. The egg hatches into a Small Fry, a little chick that rushes forward. The really impressive thing about Clucketta is the way it can come to dominate the board. Because they don’t move forward very often, you can wind up with a whole bunch of them together for a long time, clogging up the board and getting in the way of everything else. I suppose this is what the Walking Timebombs are for.

Handy, the glove: Rushes forward straight, faster than anything else except Ziggy. When it runs into any toy other than another Handy, it attempts to lock onto it and start winding it. This can bring depleted toys back to life, or give extra power to insufficiently-wound ones — if you summon a blocker in a hurry, you can put a Handy behind it to extend its life. The big weakness is that it will wind your opponent’s toys too. If it weren’t for that, it would make an ideal point-scorer, moving both fast and straight, but you don’t dare put it own in an empty lane where the opponent can co-opt it. Its best use, then, is to follow behind the similarly straight-moving Disasteroids and Big Als, like a Heavy/Medic pair. And once you have that, why not launch some more Handys in their wake, letting the guy in front keep the lane safe for point-scoring?

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