Anki is a robotics company that specializes in creating kids toys with artificial intelligence. I realize this may sound scary to some of you, but as it turns out, they’re actually pretty innovative toys.
The company sent me their latest Anki Overdrive starter kit, along with a few extra cars to try it out and see what all the hype is about. What seemed like a far-out idea on paper turned out to be an innovative idea that combines collectibles, upgrades, and a mobile app to create one of the most fun RC experiences I’ve ever had.
Setting Up for Futuristic Battle
Each Anki Overdrive car can be controlled either by a person or an AI computer. That’s right – just like in racing video games, you can play by yourself against AI-controlled opponents on an RC track.
How is that possible?
Anki Overdrive supercars connect to your smartphone app (available on Android and iOS) and use infrared sensors to read IR encoding patterns embedded in the track using an IR transparent ink. These codes let the cars understand their position relative to the track, how fast they’re moving, and in which direction.
The Starter Kit shown above comes with two robotic supercars (Skull and Ground Shock) 6 curved and 4 straight track pieces, 2 riser pieces, a four-car charging system, and a tire cleaner (which really comes in handy when you have pets who shed everywhere).
Additional cars, trucks, and track extensions amp up the action and allow you to build some really complicated race tracks. I also have the X52 Supertruck and Guardian police car. Each vehicle has different weapon upgrades that can only be seen within the app. Which reminds me…
To get started, you need to download the Anki Overdrive app (which starts at 216 MB and quickly grows) from the App or Play Store, charge up to four cars, and put the track together. Although one phone can control up to four cars, multiple players can download the app to play on their own devices as well.
Exploring Game Modes
When you first start Anki Overdrive, the cars need to go around the track once to map it out and understand it. This happens every time you reconfigure the track and is a necessary (albeit somewhat laborious) step for everything to work correctly.
From there, you’ll compete in Tournament or Open Play mode against computer or human opponents in a variety of match types. Each car has unique weapons and special items and it can quickly feel like a game of Mario Kart launching these at other cars. Although the bulk of the battle happens on-screen, the cars will flash when “hit” by a weapon.
Each time a car is hit, it loses hit points. When its hit points reach zero, the car temporarily stalls.
As you move along, the app tracks progress, wins, and even style with points that can be traded in at the garage for upgraded weapons, special items, speed boosts, and tons of other customization options. So while the physical cars themselves don’t look different, you can quickly beef up a supercar to easily defeat noobish opponents.
This added digital layer provides replay value in Anki Overdrive that’s unsurpassed by other RC racing kits. I found the gaming aspect to be even more impressive than the actual physical track, which is saying a lot.
Overall Anki Overdrive is an ambitious toy-to-life video game that redefines the entire concept. Whereas Disney Infinity, Skylanders, Amiibo, and the like are just rigged statues with chips in them, Anki Overdrive is an actual RC playset that moves in real life to match the digital world.
If you’re a fan of Mario Kart, RC racing, collectible toys, or just high-tech in general, Anki Overdrive is a hit that’s sure to impress. It’s easily the most fun RC kit I’ve ever used.
Final Grade: A
Anki Overdrive Starter Kit Price: $149.99 ($30 off until 1/2/17)
Guardian Supercar – $49.99
X52 Supertruck – $59.99