“This could easily become the next big thing.”
Anki Overdrive is like a crossover between Scalextric and Mario Kart, bringing real-life, powered-up racing to your living room. Using your smart phone or tablet as a controller, you can race around your own custom-built racetracks, firing virtual EMPs and blasting turbo boosters in an epic race for glory. It sounds pretty exciting, and it was something that I had to try out for myself. When the guys over at Anki HQ agreed to send me a starter kit, I couldn’t wait to get my race on!
The Anki Overdrive kit is arguably one of the best big kids toys you can get your hands on right now. It’s not really one for the kids at a price tag of £150 (at the time of writing), and the need for an up-to-date, Bluetooth 4.0 compatible device to play it with largely rules them out as well. It is by no means a low-budget option, largely due to all of the fancy technical stuff going on beneath the surface. But, whilst the kids play Skylanders Superchargers on the Xbox this Christmas, you will know that you have a far cooler racing game just waiting for you to play with it in the other room.
If you choose to put your hard earned pocket money towards Anki Overdrive, you will have a lot to look forward to. The Starter Kit sets you up with all of the track you need to get started, and two cars to race with. Unlike its predecessor, the equally exciting Anki Drive, the new kit comes with several separate sections of track as opposed to a roll-out mat to race on. This allows for more customisation and greater variety in the races you can have. It is also super easy to assemble with magnetic connections as opposed to the comparable Scalextric tracks with those awkward plastic sliding locks. Setup, as a result, is a breeze. Just set your cars charging whilst you build your arena and you’ll be good to go in no time!
The app to play the game is available for free on compatible Android and IOS devices (which are listed on the Anki website), but currently it does not seem to be on offer on Windows Phone or Kindle stores. It is also fairly large, at just under 500mb to download, and can only run on the most up-to-date devices as previously mentioned. This does limit the potential player base somewhat, and almost drives up the cost of being able to own this already pricey bit of kit. If you can play with your device then it’s no problem, but if you cannot then you might find yourself turning your back on an otherwise exciting new toy.
Once you have everything ready to rock and roll, playing the game is pretty easy to get on with as well. The cars will do a tracking lap to learn the course you have set out, transmitting this data to your device. If you have a friend at the ready as well, you simply need to connect up and you are set to choose your race style and go. If you are playing alone, the second competitor will race you via a very clever AI, which is the reason behind much of the package’s cost base. In either case, it is easy to get to connected, set up an event and start racing within minutes.
As I noted in my introduction, this racing experience is far more advanced than the simple setup of classic Scalextric cars. Rather than racing in basic circles around your track, you are in control. Not only that, but you also have virtual power-ups and weapons at your disposal to give you that extra edge. When the folks at Anki talk about bring video games to your living room, they don’t mean via a console; this is the real thing. Using you smart device to both drive and utilise your power-ups, which are unique to each car and include things such as EMPs, rockets and boosters, the standard race is a 15 lap showdown. Never in this time does the game slow down though, and it is just as awesome and exciting as it sounds on paper.
In terms of controlling the cars during the race, the app you use is understandably not as strong an input device as your classic gaming controller, but in terms of ease of use and finding your way around it, it does everything is should and does it well. It is easy enough to see what is what, and doesn’t take long to get to grips with. The only thing it lacks is the fine tuned control a controller would offer, otherwise it has things down, even as far as feedback goes. The advantage of the app of course is that people who are not natural gamers do not need further accessories in order to join in on the fun. That is, of course, as long as they have a compatible device for it.
Once you take into account the amount of work, both on the physical and technical sides, that has gone into creating Anki Overdrive, it becomes easy to break down the pricing of the product. It also becomes far easier to appreciate its value for money, despite it appearing to have a high price tag on the face of things. When you get round to actually playing with it, you also soon realise just how little that price tag matters given the hours of competitive, exciting and generally exhilarating fun the game has to offer. From the awe at its AI’s technical ability to the simple fact that one of your favourite childhood toys as evolved into such an inspired piece of kit, there is little to turn your nose up at with Anki Overdrive. In fact, it is fair to say this is one of the best big kid’s toys on the market, provided you have the right devices to get it going. This could easily become the next big thing.
- The perfect example of how to bring video games back from the solace of the modern console and PC arenas to the family environment of the living room.
- Easy to assemble and customise with magnetic track pieces which can fit together in multiple orientations.
- Can be played both with friends or alone against a well-built AI opponent.
- Futuristic-feeling technology is at Anki Overdrive’s core, from infrared sensing of the track layout, to the AI, to the app used to play and its features.
- The next level for Scalextric fans, incorporating video game-style power-ups into the races in a seamless and highly enjoyable manner.
- Easy to learn how to play, with a simple but effective app control system that allows even non-gamers to join in on the fun.
- A high price tag may put off much of the potential market.
- The necessary app to play the game requires a very up-to-date smart device to use, which may be off-putting for those who do not have the tech to get it.
- Not really suited to children who might desire the game, largely due to both of the above points.
- The app control system is not quite as intuitive as a games controller for racing.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.