Can play solo or two player
High tech, “learning” robot cars
Controlling it can be tricky
Charging doesn’t last
Cars spin off track
Need phone to operate
We purchased the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
Most kids love anything electronic, fast-moving, battling, and that incorporates a phone while playing. My boys—I have four from age 14 down to 8 years old—also love cars, so when I came across the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit, I knew they would be ideal test subjects for this toy. The cars aren’t just cars either; they’re “supercar robots,” and while you ostensibly are racing the two vehicles around the track, there are also virtual, high-tech elements that add to the complexity and fun of this activity. Read on to find out if this robotic racecar and video game hybrid is a win or if it crashes and burns.
Entertainment Value: Speed meets gaming
When I told my boys that I was getting a race car set to try out, they were intrigued but not as excited as I expected. That changed when I opened the box. “You didn’t say it was Overdrive,” said my 12-year-old boy. “I did this at my friend’s house. It’s super cool—give me your phone.” I did, and before I could ask which friend and why he needed my phone, my son had set everything up, got the “supercars” charging, downloaded the Anki Overdrive app, and was perusing the various attributes of our cars as well as new ones he would soon be asking me to buy him for Christmas.
Once the cars were ready to drive, we had a blast racing them. However, we had to keep putting the cars back on the charging stations as they seemed to drain quicker than the promised 15 to 20 minutes of racing.
The cars also tend to spin out and/or come off the track frequently, which often means the race needs to be restarted. These inconveniences didn’t seem to bother my boys much, but I found it frustrating—as did my littlest. My 14-year-old son actually had the opposite reaction: “Mom, that’s exactly what happens in real races.” So, rather than a flaw in the game, he found the spinouts and restarts to be just part of the challenge. Still, it can get annoying.
The concept of this game—combining a real car race set with the virtual gaming world—is clever and very appealing for kids.
This is a popular game. More than 19 million phones have downloaded the app, and there are over 6.5 million Anki devices in use. However, the company has recently ceased product development and are no longer manufacturing new rotors. The current products are still supported to allow for continued use and enjoyment.
Design: Clever if a bit clunky
The concept of this game—combining a real car race set with the virtual gaming world—is clever and very appealing for kids. My older boys got hooked on racking up points, which accumulate with each race. Points can be used to add to each car's features, which included a variety of virtual weapons. Essentially the more you race, the better your cars can become. The ability to unlock new levels and features was a big hit with my boys.
The starter kit includes 2 robotic supercars, 6 curved track pieces, 4 straight track pieces, 2 riser pieces, 1 4-car charging system, and 1 tire cleaner. Racers need a compatible iOS or Android Wifi enabled mobile device (check compatibility on the Anki website) to operate the cars. It’s convenient to use your phone or tablet, but it's a drawback if your child doesn’t have their own. We used my phone and my boys’ phones, which become our controllers to start or stop races, increase or decrease speed, stop, use weapons, and change lanes. The rest of the driving is done via artificial intelligence (AI) tech, which “learns” the racecourse through trial runs before each race.
Anki’s sophisticated programming has created “self-aware robot” supercars that are equipped with cutting-edge technology, such as optical sensors, a dedicated 50MHz CPU, and two high-performance motors for optimal maneuvering within one-millimeter accuracy. Each supercar is equipped with AI and advanced battle strategy, enabling them to remember the track shape and learn the tactics you use. Essentially, the idea is that the better you play, the better they become as well.
I like that you can play solo (racing against an AI opponent that controls the other car) or dual player with each person controlling a car. It’s fun to be able to customize each car with virtual weapons and build-outs. You can also compete in various modes such as Battle, Race, Time Trial, and King of the Hill.
One of my sons had this game set up in about two minutes, including assembling the track with eight different configurations, including options for jumps. The six pieces are magnetic; putting them together was a snap. Expansion tracks or additional supercars can be purchased to augment the game.
Next, he downloaded the Anki Overdrive app on our phones and quickly figured out how to play. As it mimicked the same structure of play and earned upgrades that popular video games employ, it was second nature for him. The only thing that took time was charging the cars. The instructions say a full charge takes 10 minutes, although it took a little longer for us. A green light shows up on the charger to let you know when the cars are ready.
Age Range: 8 to 15
The manufacturer’s recommended age range is 8 to 15 years old. My 8-year-old enjoys this game, but he gets frustrated when the cars have a glitch. My older boys intuitively understood the various levels and weapons components. They also like that they can use it by themselves or with each other. Also, I’ve never needed to help them navigate the game.
Battery Life: Too short
After charging for about 10 minutes, the cars should operate for 15 to 20 minutes. We found that we had less time (about 10 minutes of play) before we needed to charge again. Battery duration varies with gameplay. Faster speeds and more acceleration drains the battery quicker. The more charges a battery accumulates, the shorter its life becomes.
The Anki Overdrive Starter Kit retails for around $100. It includes two robotic cars, a charger, and a race track. The most expensive part of this game seems to be the development of the underlying app technology, which enables the real-world “AI learning” race cars to integrate with the virtual world app. Other remote control race car set products are priced similarly (from about $60 to $100 on up), but they don’t offer video gaming options, making this product unique.
Anki Overdrive Starter Kit vs. Tracer Racers R/C High-Speed Remote Control Speedway Glow Track Set
Both of these sets offer remote control, high-speed racing car driving, and delight in any kid who gravitates toward fast, extreme sport style toys. The Tracer Racer set features a Ford Mustang car, a glow in the dark race track, and a built-in skill jump for $58. The car can go up to an impressive 500 miles per hour. I also like that you don’t need to use a phone to operate it. However, if your child is drawn to the “AI learning” supercar idea and playing along with a phone or tablet, they will enjoy the Anki Overdrive product.
This toy is a big maybe.
Anki Overdrive Starter Kit is a winning concept—combining speed, racecars, “battling,” AI tech, and video game elements into one game. The drawback is that play is interrupted by cars that go off track or lose battery power quickly. For kids that love fast cars and gaming, this product will be a hit. Keep in mind, the company is no longer developing this product; the available cars may become obsolete soon.
- Product Name Anki
- Product Brand Overdrive Starter Kit
- MPN 000-00031
- Price $149.99
- Weight 10.1 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 23.9 x 5.3 x 12 in.
- Battery Life 15 to 20 minutes of play after 10 minutes of charging
- What's Included 2 robotic supercars, 6 curved track pieces, 4 straight track pieces, 2 riser pieces, 1 4-car charging system, 1 tire cleaner
- Warranty 1-year limited warranty