Gadgets

We’ve Played Scalextric Of The Future

I have several hundred pounds-worth of Scalextric stored in the attic of my parent's house. 

It includes kit from the seventies, passed down from uncle to cousin to my eager hands - metre upon metre of plastic asphalt, painted crowds and a garage of cars including a Jaguar JX220, a Mini and assorted rally cars.

And Anki Overdrive has just made all of it totally obsolete.

'Battle and race robotic super cars' sounds too good to be true - and it is, in part. The starter kit sees you given sections of light, magnetic track that snaps together into a neat oval in around a minute.

The cars aren't fire-breathing droids: you get two of them, slightly larger than Korgi/Hotwheels models of old. There are no projectiles, no lasers, just plastic wheels and magnets. Things kick off when you connect up to Overdrive's controller - your smartphone.

We're racing as the blue car, against an 'easy' opponent

This is where Overdrive makes Scalextric slot cars look like the 60-year-old toys that they are: connecting to the partner app turns the racer into a video game, allowing you to not only control a car, but have an AI system drive an opponent car. By completing a single "scanned lap" of any track you've designed (there are heaps of expansion packs), the AI will race you without any guidance required. There are no slots, but rather 'lanes' that the cars know to slide between, leaving enough room for four racers to jostle side-by-side. It's incredible.

You start a career, challenging drivers of increasing difficulty, levelling up with experience points gained through racing, and collecting weapons. These, employed in races, let you shut down other nearby cars in a variety of strategies - which in turn see your car powered down or booted off the track. You can try your skills against automated AI or other friends with the app with additional (ridiculously named) cars.

Yes - this is a product aimed squarely at kids. But the racing element keys into the same entertainment factor that Mario Kart has targeted for years - and no one bats an eyelid if a 20-something buys that.

At £149.99, this isn't a toy - it's a gadget. It's a video game with a real-life extension.

Borrow a child. Get one "for a friend". It's bloody brilliant.

WRITTEN BY DAVID CORNISH, FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER: @D_CORNISH