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For Fathers Day this year I gave my Husband a couple of presents from the kids, I like to get him something practical which helps him get jobs done around the house and I also like to give him something a bit silly. This years silly present was a Bigtrak Junior, it cost me £28.00 from my Littlewoods Catalogue, this is a bit of a high price as you can buy them from Toys R Us or EBay for around £15.00, but I had some rewards money outstanding and I wanted to use it up before closing my account with them so it actually cost me nothing.
Bigtrak Junior is the new version of the Bigtrak from the 80's, but smaller as the name implies. Bigtrak Junior is a programmable space rover, you can programme with 16 different manoeuvres.
Once the Bigtrak is out of the box you need to attach the labels following the diagram inside the user manual, the labels are very easy to pull from the backing and apply easily with out curling or tearing, younger children would need supervision with this part so as the labels end up in the right places.
Next you need to insert batteries, Bigtrak takes 3 AA batteries. To install the batteries you need to unscrew the panel on the bottom and insert them correctly. I used some relatively cheap Panasonic batteries and that gave my husband and daughter a couple of hours play before Bigtrak started to run down. I would suggest using some good quality batteries.
The user manual has lots of suggested sequences to try; it is a good idea to follow these sequences as it gives you a good idea of what Bigtrak Junior can do.
The Bigtrak Junior comes with five moon craters for you to set out and then try and manoeuvre between, this can be quite a bit of fun as it takes a while to work out exactly how far Bigtrak needs to go and when it needs to turn, my husband and daughter swapped the moon craters for small dinosaurs and they had fun working out how far to go to knock a dinosaur over without Bigtrak getting stuck on the prone dinosaur.
The Bigtrak junior comes with what is described as an active port; this is for plugging in official Bigtrak accessories. The only Bigtrak Junior accessory I have seen is a rocket launcher that when attached can be programmed to shoot small foam rockets (alas not real rockets, which would be so much more fun). Only official accessories should be plugged in this port as it supplies power as well as instructions to the attached item and may damage things like headphones or Mp3 players.
My opinion of this toy is that it is a bit of a gimmick, I can't see it having much of an appeal to modern kids when it is competing against programmable robots and dinosaurs.
In conclusion I think this is a well made retro style toy that brought a massive smile to my husbands face as it was another one of the toys he did not get when he was a kid. I am sure the rocket launcher will be going on his Christmas list this year, and Zeon Tech if you happen to read this review my husband would really love to have a trailer for his Bigtrak Junior but I can't find one anywhere.
I happily give the Bigtrak Junior 4 out of 5 stars; it loses one for being smaller than I thought it would be and for being battery hungry.
Thank you for reading x
The early 1980's might not have been the greatest of times for hair cuts, clothes or home furnishings, but one thing we had back then were great gadgets - it was the time when the first consoles, vcr's and console games were first appearing. As a child back then it's fair to say that our expectations were pretty low, a phone the size of a brick was a thing of wonder, Pong could keep us entertained for literally hours and probably every kid aspired to owning a BigTrak. If you aren't quite as old as I me, I will have to explain that a Bigtrak, as per the advert from waybackwhen at the end of this review, was a programmable six wheeled vehicle. I never actually got to see one in the flesh, but, future geek that I was even then, I wanted one. Badly. Unfortunately when you are a kid you can't always have what you want - as I recall I got a Simple Simon game instead - so when I saw that the Bigtrak had been relaunched I knew we had to get one.
The Bigtrak of the new millenium now comes in two sizes. Rather than buying the bigger toy I decided to get the Bigtrak Junior as a family Christmas day toy. It's priced at a fairly reasonable £14.99 and is 20cm long by 13cm wide (by my measurements) compared to its big brother which is a rather larger 35cm, and is an exact replica of the 80's toy with the same functions, in miniature. So would it live up to expectations and, more importantly would modern kids like it as well? Christmas day saw the Bigtrak emerge from it's box in all its retro glory, and it's been played with by adults and children alike on a regular basis ever since.
When first out of the box you need to attach stickers to the Bigtrak, and insert 3 AA batteries. Once this is done, and the 6 moon craters that come with the junior set out, the Bigtrak is good to go. The toy is programmed, just like the original, via the keyboard on its top. Getting the Bigtrak to move around will require some simple programming - hence the age 8 guideline, though I've found my 5 year old is more than capable of inputting commands to the Bigtrak with a little guidance. You can put in up to 16 commands at once which will make the machine move forwards, backwards, rotate or fire a phaser. There's a "test" button to get you started, but really the joy of the toy is getting it to follow your commands.
They've made the controls easy, so distance forwards is measured in length of the toy - if you press the forward button and "5" it will move forward by five lengths of the toy; you can input up to 99 lengths forward or backward. To get it to rotate you press the left and right arrows and then minutes of a clock - so to do a 360 rotation you input 60. This is actually simpler to do than explain, and further eased by the use of a x2 button, and by the manual which explains everything with pictures of the buttons you need in a clear and logical manner. That's not to say you have to spend hours learning how to use it and, anyway, there's a "test" button to press which sets the Bigtrak off by itself and show you what it can do with the right instructions. Once you have input everything you press "go" and hope for the best. We've found the Bigtrak follows commands flawlessly, though it struggles to turn on carpet as opposed to a veneer surface. On the Bigtrak junior only the middle wheels are actually motorised (I have no idea if this is the case with its more expensive and bigger brother), so it doesn't cope that well with rough surfaces and sometimes it doesn't rotate quite as expected.
That said it's great fun trying to get it to negotiate a course of moon craters (the craters themselves are pretty poor quality to be honest but do the job), or to carry an object to another family member - you can actually buy an add on can holder and rocket launcher. The Bigtrak makes very 1980's computer noises (think Vic20 if you are old enough) at the start and end of the manoeuvres, not too loudly on the scale of modern toys. All in all it's a great exercise in nostalgia that seems to appeal to modern kids too. It's not the most robust of toys, though it does seem to be fairly well built on the scale of plastic toys and it certainly stands up to play pretty well. The keyboard is quite small but easy to use and I like the fact that they've kept the Bigtrak's eighties looks and not tried to change it. It doesn't travel at a huge speed but trundles along - for the price you can't complain really, we have had hours of fun with it. I like the fact that it turns itself into sleep mode if you stop playing with it - there is also an on/off button under the unit. The toy doesn't seem to drain batteries too badly at all.
Overall the Bigtrak does not disappoint at all, it's still a great toy with great play value that should appeal to adults like me who didn't have one, and a whole new generation of kids who may be more used to using software than simple programming but, if they are anything like my daughters (blame it on being the offspring of an IT bod), will quite enjoy working out how to input basic commands. Recommended - it's just a shame I didn't have one in 1981...
Link to the original advert: