A dreadnaught hovers overhead and next to me R2-D2 bleeps and shakes. The ship, controlled by the First Order, means trouble and Artoo knows it, as I know it. It starts shaking its head even more and it’s an absolute joy.
It turns out watching a Star Wars movie with a gaggle of Sphero droids is like partaking in Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the selfie generation – it adds to the occassion, splashing some childish joy onto the movie watching experience.
It’s not perfect – there were some niggles along the way to get the droids to watch a movie with you – but when it works, it brings nothing but smiles. Well, and bleeps. Lots of bleeps.
Sphero added the ‘Watch With Me” feature when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in the home back in 2016. It was an update to the BB-8 app – we tried it back then and it was fun, if a little limited. While it was great to watch BB-8 cower when Kylo Ren was on the screen, it didn’t quite click for us.
Since then, a lot has changed. The BB-8 app has been replaced with Droids By Sphero app. This is because the roster of droids available has expanded. You can now get a battle worn BB-8, the evil BB-9E, R2-D2 and the limited edition R2-Q5 – a sinister version of Artoo that is seen in some deleted scenes of Return of the Jedi.
The Watch With Me feature has expanded massively, too, Now you can watch the entire Original Trilogy with your chosen droid, Star Wars: Rogue One, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Episodes I-III are set to come soon, not that anyone should care about that.
Now, as TechRadar’s dedicated droid reviewer (albeit a self-titled title), I have all four of these droids in my house and to celebrate May the 4th, Star Wars Day, I decided to watch The Last Jedi with all four of them.
Now, this didn’t go exactly as planned. For a start, BB-9E didn’t want to play ball, at all. The app just didn’t recognise the droid for the Watch With Me feature. Given his screen time in The Last Jedi is minimal at best – although the stink eye it offers Finn and Rose when exposing them for what they are is hilarious – I wasn’t too bothered. The rest booted up fine.
But then, my grand plan to have all the droids bleeping and booping at the same time, while I watched the movie and pretended they were my apprentices and I was the master, hit a bit of a snag.
It turns out, you can only really have one droid at a time reacting to what is on the screen. There is the option to add as many droids as you want but you can only control one of them at a time when watching the movie; or at least that’s all we seemed to be capable of being able to do.
I didn’t let that stop me and skipped between Artoo, Q5 and BB-8 throughout the duration of the movie, trying to tie each of them in with a part when the good guys are doing something and when the bad guys were.
I also made sure they were there to react anytime Ade Edmondson was on the screen as it still blows my mind a little that Richie from Bottom is in a Star Wars movie.
Regardless of these niggles, as a big Star Wars fan it’s so good to see toys get to a point where they wow as much as the movies they are based on.
The moment when Artoo (my Artoo, not the one in the movie) bleeped and got excited at the first look of Luke Skywalker on screen nearly brought a tear to my eye. I had to think back to the Midi-Chlorian speech by Qui-Gon Jinn to suppress it.
We live in a fantastic time for Star Wars tie-ins. Whether it’s Lego’s Super Star Destroyer that comes in 3,000 pieces, Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges that uses AR to bring you into the franchise or Sphero’s impressive, most impressive droid collection – being a Star Wars fan has never been so much fun.