Wheels are so 1999. Tank tracks? Forget it. Fully articulated legs are where it's at in terms of robotics these days - just look at Boston Dynamics and its freakishly clever man-mech.
While you're not going to be able to wrap one of those up little Timmy's birthday present any time soon (unless you're Tim Cook, anyway), MekaMon might be the next best thing.
It's an app-connected walking robot with four legs, that can do virtual battle thanks to augmented reality - and its creators Reach Robotics even have plans to help it teach your kids to code.
If that sounds like your idea of fun (and you're not scared of spiders), read on...
MekaMon is Gundam meets Armored Core, by way of a bird-eating tarantula.
Sorry to any arachnophobes reading that last sentence - but it'll give you an idea of just how big MekaMon really is.
Each one of the quadrupedal bot's legs spans 25cm, and with them all fully extended it stands almost a foot high. It walks with a freakish, spider-like gait, too.
Detachable armour plating, two shoulder-mounted cannons and some military-style decals give it a particularly menacing look, while the wires connecting its joints together create something of a cyborg vibe.
The head glows different colours to indicate its 'mood', flashing red when you dislodge an accessory and glowing blue when ready to connect to your smartphone. It manages to make the 'Mon feel just that teensy bit less threatening - although it will still seriously freak out any pets, toddlers, or generally anxious housemates (we can confirm the latter).
The whole thing is made from plastic, but feels seriously sturdy. The legs have multiple hinges that create a fantastic range of movement, and it can take a tumble or two with no ill effects - flopping on its back is even a pre-programmed animation.
BATTLE MODE… ENGAGE
MekaMon is nothing without a companion app to control it, so whip out your smartphone, hop on the app store and your cute/terrifying spider-bot will be strutting its stuff in no time.
The app sets the scene with some stylish comic scenes, before running you through a movement tutorial (left thumb to move, right thumb to turn - mobile gamers will know what's up) and letting you loose across three modes: Play, Create, and Discover.
Or rather it would be three, but Discover is currently MIA. It'll eventually act as a DLC store for adding extra moves your 'mech, but there's no word as to when it'll roll out. Unfortunately that'll be a recurring theme for any early adopters.
Tap Create, for instance, and you'll be able to make up your own spiffy MekaMon animations, to give the lil' critter a bit more character. It's kinda like stop motion, where you position the robot by hand and tap to save frames of animation.
The legs are a bit more malleable in this mode, but you'll still need to support the weight of the 'bot for some of the trickier poses. It's just as time-consuming as stop motion animation, too, although the app does its best to make things easy for you.
Luckily a whole list of pre-made animations are available to play with if you're not feeling so creative.
CAN'T CODE, WON'T CODE
The one surefire way to convince a parent to splash out on an expensive toy is to suggest it'll be 'educational' - and that's exactly what MekaMon's creators say too. The idea is to teach simple coding, letting kids built basic programs for their 'Mon to follow.
MekaCode is supposed to be as simple as the MekaMotion animation studio, with all of the tricky stuff pre-written behind the scenes and tutorials to hold your hand through the first few trial runs. Only it's not ready to play just yet.
Creators Reach Robotics say it'll arrive in time for Christmas, but with only a handful of sleeps until the big day, they haven't got long to push out an update. We'll be sure to check back in later and see if the functionality has arrived.
AR YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY
So instead of actually, y'know, learning something, it's purely playtime for any early MekaMon owners.
Tap the Play icon on the companion app and you'll be able to skirmish with up to four other 'Mon in the real world, or fight digital versions using augmented reality instead. (A third mode, Meteoroids, will arrive at a later date).
There's also the more simple Freedrive mode, where your spider-bot becomes a walking R/C car.
You can trigger a few pre-programmed gestures, or tweak how quickly it moves by juggling parameters like gait, body height and speed. Bluetooth range isn't fantastic, losing signal when moving into the next room, but it does respond quickly to your onscreen inputs.
The true fun stuff can be found in Skirmish, which first tasks you with trekking around your room to map out the available floor space.
A checkerboard pattern shows where you can play, but the detection isn't amazing, even with the developers using Google ARCore and Apple ARkit smarts to work out what bit is floor and what bit is coffee table.
Think of this mode as a bit like 90's cult classic TV show Robot Wars (no, the Dara O'Brien reboot doesn't count) and you're half-way there, with robots taking virtual pot-shots at each other and reacting accordingly with fun, detailed animations.
You get to pick different weapons and shields, which all have rock-paper-scissors type pros and cons - fire them too quickly and the 'Mon will overheat and power down for a few seconds, leaving you vulnerable.
Leaderboards give you something to aim for, if you're into that kind of thing, but really it's like a modern Scalextric - as long as you're having fun, you can just keep playing.
As a toy, MekaMon v2 is a great combination of robotics and app-based gameplay. The augmented reality skirmishes really do feel like your miniature mechs going at it, thanks mainly to the impressively detailed animations.
Being able to add your own, or download ones made by other users is a sure fire way to keep kids coming back for another game. Just make sure you've got a spare smartphone for them to use, as you won't be getting it back any time soon.
Given the price, it's unlikely you'll actually get two of the things together at once for a real-life battle, but the AR version is a great compromise.
It doesn't quite hit the mark as a teaching tool, though, no matter what the box tells you, and a few app updates probably aren't going to transform it into a way to turn your kids into coding geniuses.
Sorry, children - you'll have to find another way to convince your 'rents to buy you one.