Ladies and gentlemen, may we present to you — in this corner, the ancient and noble sport of pugilism. In the opposite corner, tiny robots with fists. The winner and still champion – kids everywhere, who got to enjoy vicarious violence in bright, primary colors, thanks to Rock’em Sock’em Robots.
If you had ever dreamed of being master of a robot that you could use to fight other robots, 1966 was your year. That’s when Marx introduced Rock’em Sock’em Robots to the public; needless to say, the public was thrilled. Inside a small boxing ring (roped off lest the fight spill on to innocent spectators), stood two blocky, primitive robots: the Blue Bomber and the Red Rocker. Red and Blue were controlled by levers outside of the ring, operated by their human masters — something akin to extremely unskilled puppetry. You picked a robot, you grabbed the corresponding lever and plastic melee ensued. Each operator could slide his robot around a small area while separate buttons controlled jabs, punches, upper cuts and hooks. Well, the robots’ repertoire was limited to awkward jabs but a child’s imagination could provide the rest. In fact, that imagination had to work overtime as the robots’ arms often locked into position and the boxing match looked more a jerky interpretive dance. The fight ended when one robot managed to punch the other on its chin, which would cause the head to pop up on a long toothed neck.
Hours of fun, you say? Truer words were never spoken. With the rallying cry, “Knock his block off!”, kids squared off on opposite corners of the small plastic ring and poured all their strategy and dexterity into the robots. But since this was a fairly simple toy and not, say, a champion chess match, things often deteriorated to shows of brute physical force. Many a lever and button were broken during the more heated fights and countless robot boxers met a violent end at the frustrated hands of their own masters.
Rock’em Sock’em Robots was popular well into the 1970s, before going down for the count. Then, a glorious comeback occurred in 2000, with a remake of the classic (albeit, a bit smaller) by Mattel Toys, and a virtual version called Rock’em Sock’em Robots Arena for the Playstation and GameBoy Advanced systems.
If you have fond memories of knocking the blocks off of many an opponent in your youth, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your recollections with us in our comments section.