Anki takes the racing track from Hot Wheels into the next generation.
A couple of years ago, a co-worker of mine introduced me to a super cute robot named Cozmo. Cozmo is the flagship product of Anki, a company that seeks to make artificial intelligence available to everyone. With Cozmo, you can learn how to interact with AI as well as write new code and programs for the tiny robot. Even though I’ve not had the opportunity to work with Cozmo for very long, I was impressed with how clean his system was and how well the AI worked. Because of my fascination with Cozmo, my interest was peaked when Anki released the Overdrive Battle Racing System.
Overdrive was actually released in February 2015 at Toy Fair and then in April of this year, it was announced that a special Fast and the Furious edition would be released in the fall — just in time for the holiday shopping season. I happened to get my hands on a set when it became available hours of fun ensued upon its arrival. Anki Overdrive is an advanced racing track that allows you to race against AI-powered supercars. The racing system comes packaged with a multi-configuration racetrack and two self-aware A.I. powered race cars. As a racer, you will control the vehicles wirelessly on a smartphone or tablet. The cool thing about the Fast & the Furious edition is that the characters from the film series apart of the game. You have the option of either racing with or racing against the Toretto crew from the movies. Each character has their own set of moves and it can make the game very interesting.
Anki made this kit very user-friendly and provided a fool-proof option for racetrack assembly. The main kit comes with 3 straight pieces, 6 curved pieces, the power zone, 2 elevation pieces, 12 guardrails, a multi-car charger, and 2 supercars. You can expand your track by purchasing expansion kits and you can also add supercars to your racing garage. I started out with the main kit, one expansion kit, and a third car — the Nuke.
I have to be honest here. Sitting down to put this together reminded me of Christmas morning. I carefully unwrapped each piece of the kit and took an inventory of parts to make sure nothing was missing. Then I meticulously followed the instructions so that I could play as quickly as possible. The cars have to be charged before you can race. So, I recommend getting them unpackaged and on the charger first. Once they are plugged in, you can assemble the racetrack. Each race track section is magnetic and they snap together in a smooth, fluid movement. The guardrails are a little more difficult as they have to carefully slide onto the ends of the track pieces. They are a bit of a tight fit and if you’re not careful, they can snag the track.
Once the track is set, you can download the app and get the cars connected to it. The app will ask you to put them on the charger if they aren’t already there and will then automatically identify the cars you have to race with. The process was very quick and painless. I believe that a beginner could easily get this kit set-up in under 10 minutes. By the time I finished the track assembly and app set-up, the cars were charged and ready to race.
The first couple of races you do are just so you can learn how to use the cars. As you progress through the game on the app, the AI of the opposing car gets more and more difficult to defeat. When you first start, you select the car you want to race with and place it on the track. The app will then select the opposing car based on the character that is in the game. Because I had three cars available, the app switched between them frequently. I had an immensely fun time watching the cars zoom around the track without any guides or slots to follow. They were all incredibly responsive to my app commands and surprisingly enough, they each had their own personalities, too. The app game actually had a storyline progression and it was just a lot of fun to play. Aside from just driving the car around the track, you end up in vicious head-to-head battles with your opponent — complete with weapons. I lost track of time and after several rounds of the game and one track design change, I decided to call it quits for that gaming session.
When I was a kid, my brother and I used to play with hot wheels for hours on a single map that we would roll out onto the floor. We would play for hours using it. It was very entertaining and playing with the ANKI Overdrive set reminded me of that feeling I had when I was a kid rolling cars around that piece of vinyl. It’s sort of a cross between a video game and a Hot Wheels playset. I think that anyone of any age would have fun with this kit. It’s really enjoyable and it gives you that kid-on-Christmas-morning type feeling.
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