Back in the late 90’s I got to experience my first ball bearing yo-yo. It was the Yomega Raider, and it was the component that hooked me into yo-yoing. Down in Southern California, I did a few school shows with HPK and Team High Performance, visited the Yomega office, helped run X-Brain driven classes, and even managed a yo-yo store for the Kite Connection. I can tie my yo-yoing background all the way back to a Yomega Brain I purchased in 96 that got me interested, and the Raider that got me hooked in 98. In 2000 I took a break, focusing on college and then my military career. I did a few classes and performances over the years but nothing serious. In early 2007 I got back into it heavy when I saw a kid do a plastic whip. It blew my mind. I asked him if Yomega was still a good brand and he informed me that most Yomega yo-yo’s were not designed for the new level of tricks. Shortly thereafter I heard what happened at Worlds 2007. I won’t go into it beyond saying what Yomega did, the betrayal they displayed at the event and on the forums and boards, was both unprofessional and wrong. There are already countless posts in many forms about what happened, and the dirty politics Yomega pulled. I am not looking to rehash that. What I am trying to do is review yo-yo’s and yoyo products. My goal here is to try to put aside the politics and the universal unhappiness the yo-yoing community has with the Yomega Corporation, and objectively review its new line for exactly what they are: yoyos. Since you can only get these direct from the Yomega website right now, I am going to go quite a bit more in-depth than I have in my previous reviews.
No one can deny the looping power of over cranked Raiders, but as far as advanced 1a and 5a go, Yomega’s products are largely overlooked. The Brain line is very popular with both retailers and kids looking to learn the basics, but only a small percentage of players use Yomega for intermediate and advanced 1a/5a play. Just recently, Yomega released the Lancer II, Maverick, and the long overdue Hot Shot, all looking to find a place in the intermediate to advanced play market.
Packaging is important, and all three new Yomega’s are packaged the same way. You will recognize this type of packaging from the Xodus, the Raider Ex, and all the Duncan Plastic yo-yo’s. It is favorable with retailers since it displays the yo-yo and decreases theft, but as a consumer, getting the package open and the yo-yo out is a real pain. The yoyo is clear to see from both the front and side angle, and while the printed design is a bit over the top, it catches the eye. It looks like a toy you would find in Toys R us or Walmart. On the back is an intro to the yo-yo, the same you would find on the Yomega website and a DVD that boasts 150 tricks. Inside the package is a pair of thick shims, extra string, and an instructional booklet outlining about a few dozen tricks. The tricks the book covers are the common tricks found in basic beginners guides but the difficulty rating of some of the tricks are confusing. It ranks Dog-Bite and Two handed loops on the same difficulty level. It also has a really confusing introduction. The book says in one place that it will cover the: Yo-Yo ABC’s level tricks, Outch’s Crew level tricks, and Team Yomega level tricks, but then later states that it covers bronze, silver and gold level Team Yomega tricks. It is possible that the Bronze, Silver and Gold tricks are in the Team Yomega level section, but there are no real markings as to which Team Yomega level tricks are bronze, silver, or gold.
Onto the yo-yo’s themselves.
Lancer II – Why does this yo-yo flex? A quick scan of the Lancer II’s packaging says that this is the “Xtreme Soft Shock –XS2”….. I don’t know what that means. Inside the folded packaging card, there are two notes about this system. One is that the Soft Shock (XS2) system will reduce vibrations and prevent the yo-yo and axle from breaking. The other note says that the Soft Shock (XS2) System can cause vibrations at high speeds, and that vibrations during play are normal in all yo-yo’s… The yo-yo itself is not terrible looking aesthetically, but not fantastic either. Even with the thick shims in, the gap looks pretty small. The shape looked very similar to me, like I had seen it before. After rifling through my collection, I discovered that the diameter, width, and the curve of the catch zone are almost identical to the YoYoFactory Fast 201. It is so close it is uncanny. The Fast 201 is just a hair bigger in diameter, and the Lancer II is just a hair wider. The biggest visual of the Lancer II is that it flexes. Why? How? I am actually pretty interested in taking this thing apart.
Hot Shot – Man oh man does this want to be a Dark Magic. The Hot Shot makes me wonder how long Yomega has been wanting to do a metal rimmed plastic without violating Dale Bell’s (YoYoJam) patent. YoYoJam has a patent on yo-yo designs involving a yo-yo with a denser outer material then the material the body is made up of. Yomega seems to have skirted this, and applied for its own patent, by keeping the denser rim covered with the same plastic used in the body constriction. This of course is similar to what the YoYoJam Legacy did. I am not a patent attorney, and have no aspirations to be one, but I have to mention the YoYoJam patent in the first impressions of the Hot Shot because of how much it looks like it wants to be made by YoYoJam. It is like those crazy stalker fans that dress up like their targets and post videos of themselves on You Tube (*sob…. Leeeaaaavee the Dark Magic Alone ‘hon ‘own ‘own *sob-sob*). The Hot Shot is almost as big as the Dark Magic when comparing diameter, but when compared to the Legacy, the Hot Shot has the same diameter and width. Like the Lancer II, even with the thick shims installed, the gap looks small.
Maverick – This one looks promising, or at least it did until I looked closer at it. The Maverick is basically the bargain basement metal yo-yo. Yomega retired the Metallic Missile and this is its replacement. At 30 dollars, it has a bead blast finish, and a strangely familiar feel to it. It took me a while to figure it out, but the Maverick is just about the same size as a Bear vs Man if you were to chop about 2mm off the BVM. It has a diameter of a BvM and a width of a G5. The Bead blast finish is by far the most impressive thing about the Maverick. The finish is soft and it feels pretty smooth to the touch. It is not much to look at, and has evidence of machine marks in the inner ring groove area. The expression “You get what you pay for” is pretty valid here, because the Maverick looks like a mass produced yo-yo with very little quality control.
Overview – As far as first impressions go, I am so far unimpressed. I think bringing up quality control is also important because in the three yo-yo’s I purchased, two of them had a knot in the axle. Now I am familiar with Yomega’s policy of double looping the axle for beginners, but having a knot in the axle is different. What is worse is that the knot on the Hot Shot was a third of the way up the string and around the axle. The Hot Shot was unplayable out of package because of this, and would cause any new yo-yoer to do one of two things. A: think it is broken, or B: take the yo-yo apart risking the loss of a bearing or spacer.
All three yo-yo’s have the same response system so I will be covering that in the overview of this section.
Lancer II – This one was the big mystery for me. A big 72 gram (yeesh) mystery. I do not understanding how the flexible body is supposed to be the tonic water for curing vibration and axle snapping (did not know snapping axles was a problem). I wanted to see exactly how everything came together so I did what a curious 10 year old would do; I took it apart. The yo-yo consists of 16 pieces. The shell is two sections that were either glued or sonic welded into place. The body, essentially a rubber gasket, is held by these two sections. After I play tested it, I pulled the rubber out to get a better look. Immediately I knew it would be a chore to get it back in. The rubber is locked in place by trapping a section of the rubber gasket rim, so once it is out it is quite an experience getting it back in. The outer and inner hub interlocks both sides of each rubber body half, and the whole assembly is held together by an inner threaded bolt. To reduce vibration, you are supposed to twist the halves and find a sweet spot. The problem with this is that there are two places on each side that could rotate. The inner rubber body can rotate in the shell, which is what Yomega intended, but the inner hub is just press fitted into the outer hub, and is a point of rotation also. No wonder this thing vibrates more than a teenage girl’s cell phone.
Hot Shot – If you were to imagine shrinking down the metal rings or a Dark Magic and put them inside a clear FHZ, or a gutted Fast 201, you will have a basic idea of what the Hot Shot consists of; 67 grams, multiple color options, and an interesting look. Each half of the yo-yo has the plastic body, a squarish weight ring, and another plastic piece covering the metal ring. The core of each half is set up for a hex nut with a hollow threaded axle. The bearing sits directly on the axle. All in all the Hot Shot is 12 pieces not including the response bowls. Like the Lancer, the section with the weight is not on the outside of the yo-yo, which affects the weight balance. What really bothers me is that the well to the metal ring is exposed. I am worried that case foam dust, dirt, sweat, and who knows what else will work it’s way into the yo-yo between the metal and plastic. It’s not like you can clean in there, and does not look like it is sealed.
Maverick – Not much in tech here other than the bearing and response. The Maverick halves are a bead blasted, solid lathed aluminum. There is a thin inner ring groove that is basically a groove on an otherwise flat surface. The hub area is stepped, to allow for the new Yomega response system. At 65.5 grams it is actually a pretty good weight for an undersized yo-yo. 6 pieces, 8 if you include the response bowls. Now, about the response…
Overview – All three yo-yo’s share the same problem: the response system and bearing assembly. The new Yomega High Performance bearing and response assembly is basically a slap in the face to any yo-yoer that wants to customize their yo-yo’s response. You have a well with a spacer seat. The blue rubber response sits in the well around the spacer seat, and the spacer sits on top of the seat and the response. Yes, you read that correctly, the bearing spacer site ON TOP of the response… Sorry, did you want to try a Kentaro pad or a Silicone ring? Wanted to try out those Vapor Ghost rings? Too bad, you have to use this blue hard rubber response that has mold marks in the area your string hits. This is a major face palm for me. Not only does Yomega force you into a response type, they manufactured the mold marks into the area of the response that the yo-yo actually uses. This tells me two things. A: Yomega does not trust you to customize your “High Performance” yo-yos. B: Yomega does not care enough to make the forced response system in a way that wouldn’t hinder performance.
Adding to this is the asinine bearing size Yomega has adopted. At first glance it looks like a half spec C-Size bearing, but it is not. It has a slightly smaller diameter and inner race. Again, this tells me that Yomega does not want you customizing its yo-yo’s…
Comfort and Throw:
Lancer II – 72 grams. The Lancer II is heavier than any other yo-yo I have tried with the exception of the Big Yo and the Synergy. In your hand the Lancer II is bulky and meaty. The catch area’s curve does not give you enough room to get a good grip on the yo-yo, and because it flexes, you find yourself trying to make it comfortable in your hand. Out of the package the Lancer II is set with thin spacers. This made the yo-yo completely unplayable for any trick needing an unresponsive yo-yo. Even with the thick spacers in, the Lancer II is still tug responsive. On a hard throw, the weight and shock system give you a very stable throw, for about 10 seconds. After that the Lancer II wobbles and vibes like an unevenly Play-Doh filled Mosquito. But that’s okay, right? Yomega said that vibration is normal. Rotating the halves to find a sweet spot is supposed to fix the vibration, but it didn’t. Honestly, the new shock core system that Yomega has been heralding with the Crossfire and Lancer yoyo’s is about as useful as a skateboard with square wheels (Think of the stability!). Forget about grinding. The plastic shell is too grippy to grind for any extended period of time, and there is no inner ring grind here. At 72 grams, the Lancer II is too heavy for 5a. It is clumsy and plays like a potato on a string. If a heavier yo-yo in the 20 dollar range is what you are looking for, get a YoYoJam Legacy. You will have a better yo-yo for the same price, and your yo-yo won’t double as a stress ball.
Hot Shot – From what I have been told, this yo-yo has been revamped more times than the Power Rangers. The final result unfortunately is about as likable as a Back Street Boys polka cover band. As thick and wide as the Hot Shot is, the room in the catch zone is not nearly enough. The gap is way too thin and while it sits in your hand comfortably, it is hard to really get a good grip. I found myself fumbling with it much more than I should have been. Out of the package, the Hot Shot comes with thin shims and is way to responsive for any type of unresponsive play. With thick shims, the gap is still too small to play comfortably. While more playable then the Lancer II, the Hot Shot still suffered from an unacceptable amount of vibe. The way the plastic over the metal sits leaves you with a sharper edge than you should ever have when wanting to do thumb grinds. 5a was not a picnic either. It was like throwing a washing machine with an uneven load. Even my daughter, at the age of three, did not like it. She likes to pick up yo-yo’s out of my case and look at them. She held up the Hot Shot and said “This one is yucky Daddy…” I think that sums up how the Hot Shot feels. Yucky.
Maverick – Not to beat a dead horse, but if Yomega thinks they are helping anyone with these shims they are mistaken. The Maverick is the second most expensive yo-yo Yomega produces (The Rhody-O is not created by Yomega, just distributed by them), and is marketed as the yo-yo in its new line designed for advanced play. The Tagline “Be a Yomega Maverick and enjoy this great yo-yo!” appears not only on the website description, but on the packaging also. Well, technically the website says “Be a Yomega Maverick an enjoy this great yo-yo!” but I am the last one that should go after spelling or grammar errors. Back to the topic at hand.
In the hand the Maverick is pretty comfortable. It is easy to grip and feels remarkably like a cross between the BVM and the M1. If you like just holding a yo-yo, then it is not that bad, but I want to actually play with my yo-yo. After swapping out the shims for the thick pair, the Maverick was (thankfully) unresponsive and not a terrible play. Not a good play mind you, but not terrible. I equate it from going from Cancer to Diabetes; it still sucks, just not as bad. The bead blast is really its only redeeming quality. If it were not for the response system and crappy bearing, I imagine this yo-yo would grind nicely.
The gap is still too thin to really handle more then a few wraps without serious detriment to spin time. Unsurprisingly, the yo-yo had a vibe to it. It is not nearly as bad as the Hotshot or the Lancer II, but not acceptable for a metal yo-yo. There is just no excuse. I understand how a yo-yo with as many pieces as the Lancer and Hot Shot would have vibration problems, but not a yo-yo that has as basic a construction as the Maverick. Normally, I would swap out the bearing and test for vibe with a known good bearing, but I don’t have that option here since I don’t even know where I can get a better quality bearing in this size. This yo-yo is not worth 30 dollars. It feels pretty good while holding it but feels like a car wreck on the string.
I honestly did not want the review to go like this. My secret wish was that I could report that Yomega was stepping in the right direction. I wanted to say that Yomega was making yo-yo’s for the yo-yoing community, making up for it’s past full of bad choices and negative tactics, but I can’t. I can not make excuses for yo-yo’s of subpar quality, poor design, and inferior playability. I hate being negative, but reviewing these yo-yo’s only left me with the conclusion that Yomega is cramming a bad system down the throats of its customers that limits playability and customization. In the Hot Shot and the Maverick, the response and bearing system is really the main detriment to what could otherwise be perfectly decent yo-yos. However, with the way these yo-yo’s were released, I can only assume that Yomega still does not trust or care about the current yo-yo community, and would rather focus on selling overpriced toys with limited playability to the uninitiated beginner.
I am sorry, but the new line is just not up to par with what is out there for the same price. The Lancer II and the Hot Shot hold a 20 price point. That price point is crowded with already established yo-yo’s, like the Stackless PGM, Legacy, and Velocity.
Regarding the Lancer II, I have to thank Yomega for what was a rewarding experience. For the rest of my yo-yoing life, I will never throw a yo-yo that felt as ludicrous and clunky as the Lancer II. My bar has been lowered, and the class average has gone up. Yomega, please, please, please stop trying to solve what your politics have done to the yo-yoing community by blindly pushing out products that ignore current technology. You can not pretend that this is Candy Land and yoyo’s are sugar coated consumables that kids will buy regardless of quality. With the technology and the capability of modern yo-yo’s, you have no excuse for releasing a product marked as “High Performance” and deliver inferior play. You can not expect the yo-yo world to ignore what the products you produce say about how much you care. This new response system is a nightmare. Yomega should know better, and I have faith that someday they will do better, but this line is a step in the wrong direction. The Emperor is naked Yomega, his new robes are not real.
I hate ending on a bad note, so let me try to spin up something positive.
Yomega probably likes baby seal puppies.
If you must, these yoyo’s can be purchased at:
Chris “Dr. Yo-Yo” Allen
Get Your Maverick Here