The Mr. Soccer “robot soccer game” is starting to hit the store shelves, and gift/gadget websites just in time for the Christmas gift buying season. But, it came out in Japan about a year ago, and we were lucky enough to get one for a Christmas present last year.
Just so that it’s totally clear, the Mr. Soccer set that we found under our 2004 Christmas tree was purchased here in Japan, so it may differ slightly from the sets being sold this Christmas in the US and Europe.
It’s also useful to understand that the Mr. Soccer players are not ‘robots’ any more than your Radio Shack R/C car is a ‘robot’. Still, they can be a heck of a lot of fun. You’re not going to learn much about robotics or science from them, but you can enjoy playing Mr. Soccer with your friends, and probably beating the pants off of them.
Our set came with two players, two controls, a printed fold-up soccer field, a healthy supply of bright orange soccer balls and two nets. It also came complete with the necessary batteries, so we didn’t have to make an emergency trip to the local 7/11 convenience store.
We did have to use a Phillips (known in Japan as a ‘plus’) screwdriver to install the batteries, but the procedure was pretty painless.
The players use two drive motors, and an idler ball to keep them balanced. Each drive motor has a ratchet type cam designed into the wheel that connects with the player’s foot to provide the kicking motion. Each time a wheel makes one complete rotation, the cam linkage engages one of the player’s feet causing it to kick.
The remote control has a cute soccer ball design, and the control functions are very simple and intuitive. There’s even a type of ‘shoot’ button that causes the robot to rush forward.
The remote control frequency is set for 27 Mhz. When you first turn it on, the robot player's light will flash on and off until you select the transmission frequency on the remote control. The label on the back indicates that while the concept and design are Japanese, the actual manufacturing was done in China – like a lot of products now a days. There are also holes in the back of the remote control for the internal speaker that provides an interesting touch with a lot of crowd noise.
As promised, here’s a short (1 minute) video featuring Mr. Soccer.
So, would I recommend Mr. Soccer? Yes – if you have a child, or you’re just a child at heart. I suspect that Mr. Soccer could be a ton of fun at an office party or other similar event.