Some people design, build, and operate robots to battle other homemade robots; others sit down at Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots and start flailing away with their fists.  While the early show Battlebots featured the former type of mechanized combat, the Syfy Channel show Robot Combat League definitely skews towards the latter.

Hosted by WWE star Chris Jericho, Robot Combat League is a pretty straightforward mechanical battle.  Twelve two-person teams (usually one athletic person and one scientific person) are given a huge robot designed for walking and punching.  The teams practice with their robot (the scientific person sits and operates the legs, while the more athletic one wears a device on their shoulders and arms that controls the robot's upper torso).  All the teams compete in a Power-Up Challenge, and the best and worst robots then battle -- with the loser going home.  The last team/robot standing wins a trophy and $100,000.
While the idea of human-controlled giant robots slugging it sounds like the ideal playday, that's where the appeal of Robot Combat League begins and ends.  The robots are assigned randomly, which might be a problem except that the robots are apparently only cosmetically different.  We don't know if a particular robot is stronger, faster, or tougher than its counterparts, and the teams don't get to modify their warriors.  As for the combat itself, it almost feels like a parody of boxing: Judges evaluate three two-minute rounds (with 20 minutes in-between rounds for repairs), a "knockout" happens if a robot becomes unresponsive (metal bars keep the robots upright, so no falls happen), and there are sparks and hydraulic fluids everywhere.  But since the robots aren't modified, they just punch and block; there are no saws, flamethrowers, or other distinguishing weapons.
These ultimate remote-controlled toys might make a great attraction in a rich person's arcade, but the Robot Combat League is a disappointing, uncreative mess.  I'll stick with board and card games with robots, or even watch sports with humans, before tuning in to this again.

Overall grade: F
Reviewed by James Lynch

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