Luke recently had a birthday, and was lucky enough to be sent an Anki Overdrive Starter Set to review to see whether it would make a great gift for an 11 year old. He has been keen to get one since he saw them advertised at Christmas, so I was interested to see how he would get on with it. I have reviewed it from my own point of view, as chief picker of birthday gifts in the household, but have also added a video containing Luke's review, in his own words. If you are thinking of buying this product for a child you know, it is very interesting to see what a child really thought of it! The Anki Overdrive Starter Set is available from the website and retails at £149.
The first thing I noticed when we opened the box was the clever packaging. So often, when you buy a product, particularly a toy, it is bound to some flimsy cardboard with about 50 cable ties that take four hours to remove and you are usually left with a floppy, half-hearted effort that is not going to keep anything together. So it was refreshing to find a sturdy, well organised box that will be perfect for keeping the set safe and together for many years to come.
Inside, the set contains everything you need to begin racing the two cars provided: 6 curved and 4 straight pieces of track, 2 risers, a charging station and tyre cleaner. The cars are very impressive to look at. They look every bit like an authentic racing car should and contain a tiny computer and infrared cameras to allow them to respond to the track. They have a level of artificial intelligence that allows them to not only learn and drive completely independently on the track, but also to learn and adapt to their environment. They contain weapons and strategy that is routinely updated to ensure the player never gets bored. Despite being full of tech, they don't feel particularly fragile, and I was confident that a child could handle them without instantly causing damage.
The track is very easy to set up, using simple magnets to secure the track together. The track is totally smooth and flat and made from flexible plastic, meaning there is very little opportunity for it to get broken or damaged in some way, by something getting accidentally snapped off, for example. Despite its innocent, floppy exterior, the track contains infrared coding patterns that work with the cars to provide a unique racing experience, where the cars learn the track layout and drive it without ever flying over the sides or getting stuck. It's truly mesmerising to watch. Being totally wireless, there is a lot of flexibility with setting it up and it's much safer not having wires trailing everywhere, too. You will need to have a compatible ios or android device, in order to operate the set, but you can check your device's compatibility on the website, if you are unsure. In order to get the full experience of competing against an opponent, using weapons, you will need wifi. If you don't have an opponent you can still play against the second car, using artificial intelligence, which I think is a massive plus, if you want a toy that is entertaining without necessarily needing a lot of adult/ sibling input. Using the USB charging station included, the cars charge in just ten minutes. This track contains half the pieces, as I am not tall enough to fit a whole track in one frame!
Overall, I was very impressed with the whole kit. I realise it's a lot of money to invest, but I think it represents very good value for money, compared to other similar sets, because the artificial intelligence means it is constantly providing new play opportunities. The option to play without a second person is also very useful, as it increases the play value infinitely. For a boy's eye view of this product, and to see it in action, check out the video below.