Enter the B.I.O-Bugs, or more specifically, the XS.02 B.I.O-Stomper, who for ease of use I will henceforth refer to as either Stomper, Stompo, or DJ Thrillin' Villain.
The B.I.O-Bugs first emerged in the early 2000s, in a time where smart electronics were all the rage, and we were convinced that our toys were becoming more intelligent than we were. The Bugs came in four different varieties; the Stomper with its long limbs to help it traverse uneven terrain, the stocky Destroyer capable of tanking damage, the Acceleraider and its quick movement speed, and the Predator, clearly favoured by its marketing team, and the resident asshole of the group.
Using a transmitter control, you would be able to give the Bug commands, or leave it to its own devices as it autonomously explored its new surroundings. The more it meandered about the place like an obtuse Roomba, the more it would learn. Though I doubt this went as far as knowing when to stop before careening off the edge of a table, it was still a pretty nifty concept, especially if you could use it as a means of terrifying your technology-adverse grandmother.
As you can see, the transmitter looks more fun than a lot of actual toys currently on the market.
The real treat of the B.I.O-Bugs, however, is in their interactivity. Should they encounter another bug of the same species, they'll exchange information, sometimes travelling together for a short while or engaging in playful combat. But as soon as they come across an enemy bug, shit gets real.
They'll size each other up, working out the threat level of the assailant. If they're outmatched, they'll flee to live another buggy day. But if they think they have a chance, they'll duke it out. A winner is determined either when one bug is able to clamber atop of their competitor, when one of them retreats in disgrace, or when your little kid sister picks one up and runs away with it.
When a Bug is bested, it'll send out a distress signal. If a friendly species is in the area, it may jump into the fray, eager to shiv any rival in this ongoing turf war.
Honestly, just explaining it gets me hyped, let alone actually seeing it in action. Fortunately, a brave Bug rancher named Cheats32123 has uploaded rare footage of B.I.O. Combat and lived to tell the tale.
Well... There you go. It's a little more awkward than I had envisaged. It vaguely resembles when you and your friends get drunk and start taking swings at one another. Inevitably, one of you ends up wedged under the cupboard, and an enormous hand scoops you up to reposition you for the next round. All it needs is the part afterwards where you laugh it off and buy another jug.
According to a 2001 press release, B.I.O-Bugs were set to launch at a RRP of $39.99. Through use of an arbitrary inflation calculator, I've determined that that would be roughly $55 in today's market, and frankly, I think that's an absolute bargain. I would be happy to fork over $70+ for such an elaborate toy, especially since back then I wasn't even spending my own money.
Seriously, it can't be understated just how much potential the B.I.O-Bugs had. The transmitter was capable of a multitude of commands including training and feeding modes, or even sending out a signal for the Bug to follow. That feeding mode, incidentally, was to make sure that your B.I.O-Bug didn't starve, because dammit, kids need to learn about responsibility.
Amusingly, the Bugs would 'feed' off any infrared source, so in theory, changing the channel with the TV remote may attract the interest of the Bugs, causing an infestation of hungry insects. Again, your poor grandmother's day would be ruined. I can just visualise the image of her frantically kicking the toys aside in what could be her last stand.
The major issue, of course, is that I was the only fucker who had a B.I.O-Bug. This meant that Stomper had nobody to communicate with, nobody to engage in fisticuffs with, nobody to love, dammit. Had he been involved in a robust Bug community, who knows what kind of possibilities we would have experienced. In my mind, he would have participated in an underground Bugfighting ring; a hardened warrior with a thirst only for blood and infrared technology.
Instead, I think I used him for all of thirty minutes before I turned him off and put him in the closet for twenty years, much like I did with my Tamagotchi, my Furby, and my bastard son Charles.
But now, he has a final shot at redemption. I've loaded him up with four AA batteries, set up a target for him to murder, and given him a pep talk that would inspire armies.
Go forth, DJ Thrillin' Villain. For the kingdom of TONY!!
Oh for fuck's sake. All we need now is for Neil Patrick Harris to declare that 'it's afraid'.