It’s kinda funny…back when I was dumping all that time and energy into my article talking about the upcoming Flip Fighters (and Battle Rollers) I ended up finding all 4 of them like, the very night I wrapped up the article. It was a few more days before I really busted into ’em, but I’ve sat around and…*ahem* played with them…several times now. Curious about these gimmicky rehashes of existing character cars? Look no further!
First let’s take a look at the overall build and structure of the Flip Fighters. Unfortunately, these are not diecast, which means these vehicles are almost completely made of plastic. The switch makes the cars feel less like finely crafted models, but it also serves a practical purpose – more metal = more force it takes to flip and more flip force = less consistent (possibly more dangerous) outcomes. So I get it. Mattel doesn’t want to start launching big metal things into the air near little kids. Nonetheless, they come off as feeling a little cheap. For a real comparison, grab one of the Star Wars All-Terrain Character Cars. They’re both around 1:43 scale, but notice how much heavier and higher quality the All-Terrain feels.
Next let’s take a quick look at the detail and artwork. Part of me is frustrated that Hot Wheels is reusing designs for these, but I guess they want kids to look up at the shelves and recognize them. Spider-Man and Hulk are spitting images of their smaller counterparts…which means Spidey is pretty cool looking and the Hulk is on the bland side. Iron Man…is weird. He’s like a Picaso version of one of his old selves…or something. I guess it’s just something about the eye placement or how the head/helmet is represented…I don’t know. And finally we have Black Panther, sporting an all-new design which is also being given to his new Character car, while our old look is handed down to Killmonger.
I got no real problem with the designs in and of themselves, but when you start scaling something up, you’re going to need to capitalize on the enlargement and add in some extra detail; that’s why Hulk looks so damn boring and why all those corners and angles hold up decently well on Spidey. Now I will concede some degree of ornamentation or elaborate construction on the basis of what these cars do: they flip over. You don’t want a bunch of weak pieces breaking off every time a car flips. You don’t want a bunch of intricately painted details suffering a big scratch. So I kinda get it. These things need to be durable…but that also doesn’t mean they have to be boring and/or straight up carbon copies of what came before.
Alrighty, so let’s go ahead and get on to the meat and potatoes of the Flipsters (er, yes, I called them “Flipsters” but I liked it so I’m leaving it in): how do dey werk?
Each Flip Fighter is equipped with a hinged arm on the bottom. The hinge sits roughly behind the front wheels. When extended towards the front, the arm is almost right at the front of the vehicle. When back, it reaches right about the rear axle. In its resting position, the arm is in the forward position. By turning it towards the back, you’re basically winding a spring, and then a small plastic “hook” catches the arm and locks it into its rear position. I haven’t exactly figured out what disengages the hook. Part of me thinks that it’s simply loose enough to “shake loose” as the car roll, but after some cursory experimentation, it seems like the release is connected to the back wheels, possibly after around 7 to 10 rotations. The good news is that hook reliably catches the arm and doesn’t seem to randomly disengage while handling the vehicle, i.e. it’s not all fragile and delicate like a set mousetrap. Whatever the case, the little hook lets loose, the arm flies forward thereby hitting the floor and causing the car to fly both upwards and forwards. I suppose that the ultimate ideal is for the car to flip a full 360°, land upright, and then continue on another few inches or so.
If you give a damn about your toys, I would strongly suggest not using these around concrete, asphalt, or any other rough, hard surface….unless you just totally don’t give a damn about the paint jobs. I’ve played with these 4 cars…a lot…over a stretch of my kitchen floor and the results are about what you’d expect: eh, it’s alright. I guess one bright spot is that all 4 cars roll fine “normally,” so if you just wanted to roll them around sans gimmick they’re well-balanced and roll in a fairly straight line. But let’s get back to those dang flips…
Iron Man: To me, this is the silliest looking car of the lot. I can’t decided if it’s supposed to be some mutation of the original Iron Man character car or if it’s aiming for an all-new design. Either way, he’s the most consistent flipper of the bunch. Or I guess I should say he’s the most consistent lander, hell they all flip. What I mean is that he actually lands upright about 50% of the time. Now this doesn’t mean he’s necessarily facing the right direction or that he keeps going, just that he “survives” the flip. The number of times where the car actually flipped and continues forward were few and far between. Still, out of all of them, Iron Man executed the gimmick “the prettiest” of them all.
Spider-Man: Just from looking at the vehicles, I would assume Spidey to be the most aerodynamic and the most suited to all this flipping business. Spidey had the tendency to want to rotate not only its x-axis (the flip) but also along its y-axis – it wanted to twist and spin in the air (like a bullet?) as it flipped. This led to a remarkable number of trials where he landed directly on his side and continued to slide forward. I mean damn, it was uncanny how many times this went down. To be fair there were a couple of crazy disasters and Spidey did get in a couple of flawless landings, but not enough to push Iron Man’s consistency.
The Hulk: I don’t know if it’s the shape of this guy or the weight distribution or whatever, but man, he was one wild critter out of the gate. Maybe he had a problem doing a full 360° (or overshooting) but there was no way to predict what part of this car was gonna hit the ground first.
Black Panther: This one is fairly streamlined and at first I had high hopes…but no. Black Panther’s “schtick” was to land on its “face” (windshield/hood) and skid onward a few more inches. It actually moves pretty straight after landing, though the friction brings it to a quick halt.
Now these are by no means an exhaustive, experimental analysis of the cars, just some generalizations I made after a few dozen trips up and down my kitchen. I’d be interested to know if you observed similar (or different) behaviors. I did try a few other things though…like I tried rolling them backwards, which of course did nothing, further reinforcing the fact that the “flip” is initiated by forward motion. I tried rolling them gently; sometimes they didn’t flip at all but when they did there wasn’t really any forward momentum left to keep the vehicle active. I also tried rolling them really hard. If you’ve ever tried rolling a little toy car really hard you know accuracy quickly goes out the window the harder you push. Many times these would flip too early and even they tended to go all over the place.
And there you have it: Hot Wheels’ Flip Fighters. Do they work? Meh, sortta…Hot Wheels needs to tinker with the formula before going wild with these guys. They probably aren’t worth the $7.99 price tag but honestly, I bet these will quietly fade away. And then again, something like that could just make ’em all the more valuable!