Anki Over­drive’s app-steered ro­bot race cars get a Fast & Furious boost

The new Fast & Furious Edi­tion adds some ex­tra per­son­al­ity to the fun con­nected toy set.

Macworld (USA) - - Macuser - BY AN­DREW HAYWARD

The coolest con­nected toys of 2015 are back for round two this fall. Sphero has just rolled out ( go.mac­— sorry—the sim­i­lar BB-9E and the even grander R2-D2 (fol­low-ups to its de­light­ful app-con­trolled BB-8 [ go.mac­ bb-8]). And now Anki is back with a new edi­tion of Anki Over­drive—this time with the block­buster Fast & Furious film li­cense at­tached.

It’s such an ob­vi­ous fit, pair­ing the ex­plo­sive ac­tion of the smash movie series with Anki’s speedy con­nected cars, and the fa­mil­iar rides from this year’s The Fate

of the Furious fit in per­fectly with Over­drive’s ex­ist­ing su­per­cars. By and large, the ad­di­tion of movie brand­ing doesn’t re­sult in mas­sive changes to the two-year-old ex­pe­ri­ence, but it brings a lit­tle more per­son­al­ity and pop to the still-fun ex­pe­ri­ence.


At its core, the Fast & Furious Edi­tion ( go. mac­; $169.99 MSRP; same price on Ama­zon, go.mac­ is very sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal Anki Over­drive, and the starter kit pro­vides much the same kind of core ex­pe­ri­ence as be­fore. It’s an all-in-one bun­dle that lets you build a num­ber of dif­fer­ent race tracks, race and bat­tle with friends or against com­put­er­con­trolled op­po­nents, and use your iphone, ipad, An­droid de­vice, or Ama­zon tablet to con­trol the ac­tion. And all of this stuff is com­pat­i­ble with all of the old track and cars, too.

In­side the bun­dle, you’ll find 10 pieces of track (four straight pieces and six curves) and two cars, as well as a charg­ing sta­tion and a sticky-sur­face tire cleaner to help the lit­tle vehicles main­tain trac­tion and stay on track. And there’s some­thing else to help with that: snap-on guardrails for the out­side edge of the curved pieces. That was one of my big­gest gripes from the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, as Anki pre­vi­ously only sold them separately.

Get­ting set up is a breeze: the ul­tra-thin plas­tic track pieces snap to­gether ef­fort­lessly with a mag­netic click, and you can build eight dif­fer­ent de­signs from the seg­ments found within. It even has a cou­ple of ris­ers so you can have a chunk of the course loop over an­other part.

Once your course is con­structed and the cars are charged up—that takes less than 10 min­utes, giv­ing the cars about 20 min­utes of drive time—you’ll turn to the

app for the rest.

From the app, you’ll choose what kind of event to play, whether you’re com­plet­ing mis­sions in the Cam­paign or just fac­ing off against lo­cal friends and fam­ily mem­bers with their own de­vices. And then you’ll use your iphone or ipad to drive your car: the Anki vehicles are semi­au­to­mated, so they’ll lightly ac­cel­er­ate and take turns on their own, but you can tilt your phone or tablet to shift lanes, speed up and brake as de­sired, and even fire off vir­tual weapons to slow down or spin out foes.

It’s very much like Su­per Mario Kart, al­beit with real toys fir­ing off and re­act­ing to un­seen dig­i­tal at­tacks (the vis­ual ex­plo­sion seen in the open­ing im­age isn’t real). Some events make rac­ing the top pri­or­ity, while oth­ers are fo­cused on who can land a cer­tain num­ber of at­tacks first—there’s some va­ri­ety in the mix.


What does the Fast & Furious fran­chise bring to the ta­ble? Well, the cars are the most ob­vi­ous ad­di­tion: Do­minic Toretto’s Ice Charger and Luke Hobbs’ In­ter­na­tional MXT are pretty sim­i­lar to the rides seen in The Fate of the Furious, al­beit with a more of a car­toon­ish touch to match Anki’s oth­er­wise be­spoke toy vehicles. It would’ve been great to see some of the other flashy rides from ear­lier films, es­pe­cially from back when the series still fo­cused on brightly col­ored tuner cars, but these will do the trick for now.

All of the track pieces have a Fast & Furious logo along the edge, but one straight piece has some­thing more: a spe­cial “Power Zone” area. If you drive over that first while other cars are nearby, you’ll “hack” them—which means they’ll slow down sig­nif­i­cantly, giv­ing you a chance to speed ahead. Like­wise, the other cars can do the same to you, even if they’re com­puter-con­trolled, so it adds a

new strate­gic el­e­ment to the ex­pe­ri­ence. You might have a rea­son to hit the brakes and stay back for a sec­ond, lest a ri­val driver force you into it in­stead.

Fur­ther­more, the new Anki Over­drive: Fast & Furious Edi­tion app ( go.mac­world. com/ffea) is fully movie-themed, with hand-drawn ren­di­tions of fa­mil­iar char­ac­ters like Dom, Letty, and Tej, all with voice clips that ei­ther come from the real ac­tors or very con­vinc­ing sound-alikes. You’ll face them along­side other generic op­po­nents in the Cam­paign mode, which finds you rac­ing or bat­tling it out with weapons as you pro­gres­sively un­lock new mis­sions and in-app car up­grades alike.

And if you have one of Anki’s larger Su­pertruck vehicles ( go.mac­ vehi; $59.99 a piece; same price on Ama­zon, go.mac­, the Takeover play mode is a pretty per­fect fit for the movie fran­chise: it finds you bat­tling other cars to try and take con­trol of the semi truck and win the match. I didn’t have a Su­pertruck to try it out, un­for­tu­nately, but it might be worth the ex­tra cash to add one if you and your fam­ily be­come deeply in­vested in Anki Over­drive—and/or want to reen­act some movie scenes in your liv­ing room.


Deeply in­vested is a key phrase here, be­cause like the main set, Anki Over­drive:

Fast & Furious Edi­tion can be ex­ten­sively ex­panded with ad­di­tional track pieces, ex­tra cars and trucks, and even spe­cial stunt pieces. But it’s all pretty pricey: two ex­tra straight or curved pieces will cost you $20 per pack, while the plus-sign-shaped Col­li­sion Kit piece is $30 on its own. Anki also has enor­mous ( go.mac­ enor) add-on bun­dles rang­ing up to $380, and that doesn’t in­clude a starter kit.

Adding more track opens up a lot more pos­si­bil­i­ties for course de­signs, and lets you cre­ate sprawl­ing, in­ven­tive play­grounds for your cars to zip around—but as I dis­cov­ered the last time around, the cars seem less able to stay on the track as it en­com­passes more and more pieces. The Launch Kit ( go.mac­; $30) in par­tic­u­lar, in which the cars at­tempt to vault over a fairly small gap, is the worst ad­di­tion of all. I couldn’t get the Fast & Furious cars to do any­thing but fall over the edge and try to drive un­der the other piece of track.

More isn’t nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter with Anki Over­drive, as ap­peal­ing as that might sound.

Even if you stick with the starter kit, there are still re­cur­ring an­noy­ances. Cars that find their way off-track—even with the new guardrails—rarely find their way back, and they can’t do any­thing if they’re stuck up against a rail, spin­ning their wheels end­lessly while on an or­ange mag­netic

Over­all, luck­ily, the con­cept of Anki Over­drive is just far too cool to be ru­ined by those lit­tle, al­beit re­cur­ring hitches.

con­nec­tor, or man­age to flip up­side down. You’ll still spend a lit­tle too much time babysit­ting the cars, which can be squir­relly at times and of­ten get spun around and start driv­ing the wrong way. They’ll even­tu­ally auto-cor­rect and turn around, but you’ll lose some progress in the race. All told, these an­noy­ances pile up as I’m fre­quently forced to get up and re­po­si­tion cars to keep the race go­ing. On the other hand, my four-year-old son—who first loved Anki Over­drive when he was two, and still calls them only by the name “car mats”—thinks it’s hi­lar­i­ous. So your mileage may vary.


Over­all, luck­ily, the con­cept of Anki Over­drive is just far too cool to be ru­ined by those lit­tle, al­beit re­cur­ring hitches. It’s slot cars for a new gen­er­a­tion, with lit­tle bat­tery-pow­ered sports cars that zip and zoom at your com­mand, us­ing your smart­phone and an ex­tend­able track that you can cus­tom­ize to your heart’s de­light. Sure, the add-on el­e­ments are costly and in­con­sis­tent, but you don’t need them. Even at $20 more than last time, the $170 starter kit still feels well-priced for how much you get, and for how ex­ten­sive the app ex­pe­ri­ence is.

The Fast & Furious con­tri­bu­tions aren’t dra­matic; su­per-fans who have all eight films in their home col­lec­tion don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to rush out and buy this solely for the li­cense, but it’s re­ally only a pos­i­tive com­po­nent. It adds a lit­tle more char­ac­ter and ex­cite­ment to the fun, while the fa­mil­iar cars and the new Power Zone are nice ad­di­tions. I’d rec­om­mend this ver­sion over the vanilla Anki set, un­less you specif­i­cally dis­like the films.

And if you al­ready have Anki Over­drive and you’re still ac­tively en­joy­ing it, or ea­ger to give the ex­pe­ri­ence a shot in the arm, then it might be worth adding the Fast & Furious Edi­tion. It’ll be a pricey up­grade, es­sen­tially, but the ex­tra track and cars of­fer a lot more op­tions, the guardrails are a wel­come bonus, and the new app ex­pe­ri­ence serves up enough new chal­lenges to po­ten­tially jus­tify the in­vest­ment.

The Fast & Furious Edi­tion may not be a brand-new Anki Over­drive, but with the right li­cense and a cou­ple of tweaks, it feels fresh enough to war­rant an­other look this hol­i­day sea­son. ■

Two starter kits plus a few ex­tra pieces, and the track’s so large it won’t fit in the photo.

You might rec­og­nize these peo­ple.

The Fast & Furious cars (mid­dle) fit in well enough with Anki’s own cre­ations.

It takes mere mo­ments to set up a quick track like this.

The box has ev­ery­thing you need ex­cept for an iphone or ipad.

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