Review: Anki Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition | iLounge

Review

Review: Anki Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition

B+
Recommended

Company: Anki

Model: OVERDRIVE Fast and Furious

Price: $170

Compatibility: iOS 9.3.5 or later

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Jesse Hollington

Anki first came onto the iOS scene four years ago, presenting its debut product, Anki Drive, in an on-stage presentation at Apple's 2013 WWDC — a demonstration on how artificial intelligence technology could be coupled with the iPhone in real-world entertainment applications. The original Anki Drive was interesting as a proof-of-concept, but it lacked enough staying power to hold our interest, especially for the asking price. Of course, Drive was just Anki's toe in the water, which the company later expanded into Anki Overdrive, offering more sophisticated and robust gameplay. This year Anki has taken Overdrive up a notch further with a new licensed Fast and Furious Edition that pits players against the Toretto crew, featuring iconic voices and vehicles from the films.

Anki Overdrive: Fast and Furious Edition comes in a starter kit that includes two cars, a four-car charging platform and power adapter, and a track assembly consisting of eight track pieces (four straight, six 90-degree curved), a dozen guardrails and two riser pieces. A tire cleaner is also included for cleaning the wheels of the cars. The base kit can be expanded by purchasing Speed Kits ($20) which include two more straight track sections and Corner Kits ($20) which include two more curved track sections. More sophisticated track configurations are also possible with expansions such as the Collision Kit ($30) which provides a single four-way intersection piece, the Launch Kit ($30) which provides two ramps and four risers so you can create jumps, and the Bank Turn Kit ($10) that allows you to angle up a corner piece to create high-speed angled turns. Additional riser pieces and guard rails are also available. Although the additional kits allow you to expand your track to the limits of your imagination (and your wallet), the base starter kit still offers enough pieces for up to eight standard layouts, including two “figure-eight” style configurations that use the riser pieces to loop back over the track.

The starter kit also includes two iconic vehicles from the Fast and Furious franchise — Hobbs’ International MXT and Dom’s Ice Charger — however Anki also sells five additional themed vehicles for $50 each, as well as two new $60 “Supertrucks” that expand the game play even further with new characters and an additional game mode. It’s worth noting that while the included two cars are enough for basic races and battles, more advanced game modes may require more vehicles. Suffice it to say that if you’re at all serious about getting into Anki Overdrive, you should plan to spend more than just the base $170 for the starter kit, although cars from prior Anki kits can also be used with the Fast and Furious Edition.

The multi piece track configuration is probably the biggest enhancement since Anki’s fledgling Drive, since it opens up a world of new possibilities and challenges, and changing up the track configuration can make for a whole new gameplay experience. Setting up the track is very straightforward, with the pieces magnetically attaching end-to-end. One straight piece contains the start/finish line, which you’ll always need to include in your track configuration, but beyond that you can use as many or as few pieces as you like, as long as you create a looping track. The Fast and Furious Edition also adds an additional bonus in the form of a “Power Zone” track piece that can be used to disable nearby opponents when you drive through it, giving you an extra advantage in a tight race.

Anki also provides a new Anki OVERDRIVE: Fast and Furious app for this version of the game, which you’ll need to download to get started. The app will take you through setting up an account, updating your supercars, and building a basic track. After that, you’ll be prompted to put the cars on the track to begin scanning the track layout — the cars will take at least one loop around the track, drawing the detected layout on your iPhone screen as they go. Once they’ve finished doing this, both cars will line up at the start line so you can begin your first basic race.

As the race begins, your car will actually begin driving around the track at a somewhat moderate pace all by itself, doing its best to stay in whichever lane it started out in. Tapping and swiping up or down on an on-screen accelerator pedal allows you to speed up, and a brake pedal button at the bottom allows you to slow down or even stop your car completely. While your car is moving around the track, you can change lanes by tilting your device left or right — useful to pass other cars as well as lining up with the Power Zone lane if you’re using that track piece. Once you’ve completed your first race you can continue in Campaign mode, playing against other members of the Toretto crew at increasing difficulty levels, or simply play an open race. A “Test Track” mode also allows you to simply race the cars around the track with no specific goals so you can experiment with how your cars perform on different track layouts.

As you progress through Campaign Mode additional game modes will be unlocked, starting with a Battle Mode that challenges you to take out your opponent(s) a set number of times by lining up behind them and firing off appropriate virtual weapons and a Battle Race mode that combines a standard race with the ability to use weapons to slow down your opponents. A Time Trial mode challenges you to compete against yourself for the fastest time. If you have at least one additional car, you can play King of the Hill which is a sort of elimination game where you need to score a takedown on another car and then avoid getting hit yourself for a set amount of time. The last mode, Takeover, requires one of the Supertrucks, which you must take over in order to win the game. All of the game modes are also available in multiplayer, including campaign play where you can team up with your friends against the Toretto crew, particularly useful if you need help with more challenging races.

As you progress through campaigns and win races, you’re rewarded with in-game currency that can be used to upgrade your vehicle. New goals also appear each day which you can complete for additional money, challenging you to win races against specific characters and race on specific track configurations. Numerous upgrades are available in the Garage, allowing you to add new weapons and support items such as shields, boosts, tractor beams, and mines, all of which enhance the game experience, and since upgrades are specific to each vehicle, there’s a huge number of different possible gameplay configurations. Only a limited number of items appear for purchase in the shop at any given time, with the list changing daily, which means you’ll have to keep checking back if you really want to soup up your preferred vehicles. We found that the upgrade system was well designed with only one rather annoying issue: it’s possible to accidentally purchase upgrades for a vehicle you don’t physically have, and there’s no way to undo a purchase or sell the item back to the shop — even at a loss. Items are colour-coded by vehicle, but until you get used to the layout you’ll want to double-check that you’ve got the corresponding vehicle before actually making a purchase. Of course, the upside is that it’s not like you’re spending actual money – only in-game currency which you can fairly easily earn more of — but we’d still have preferred if the app at least provided a warning when purchasing an item for a car we haven’t actually raced with yet.

In terms of the actual gameplay experience, we found Anki Overdrive quite engaging and fun, although some of the taunts from the Toretto crew got a bit repetitive after a while, especially on longer races — some characters only have two or three things to say, and just keep repeating those same things — fortunately voices can be turned off in the app’s settings. The various game modes all worked as well as we expected, with only two important caveats. Firstly, if you want your vehicles to stay on the track you’ll need to put some effort into keeping their tires clean and your track pieces clean. This means using the included tire cleaner after at least every two to three races, and wiping down the track itself with dry Swiffer sheets or a dry microfiber cloth. That said, it’s expected that vehicles may fishtail, lose control, or spin off the track when being hit by certain weapons, colliding with each other, or taking sharp turns at high speeds — that’s all part of the game — but as the cars and track pieces get dirty they will lose their grip on the track and end up off the track more frequently than otherwise.

The second issue is battery life. While Anki has done a great job here of providing quick recharge — 8–10 minutes gets you up and running again — the company can only do what existing battery technology allows for, and the size of the cars means you’re only going to get about 20 minutes of play time with each charge. For practical purposes, this means you’ll get about two to three races on a single charge before it’s time to pop them back onto the charging base and take a break. Of course, if you decide to purchase extra cars, you can rotate them through the charger and keep on playing all day.
More importantly, however, this also means that you may find your cars running out of juice during long games, particularly battles where you can easily race around the track for quite a while without scoring a hit. While it’s best to begin a battle with a full charge, the good news is that even if you find it runs so long that you’re low on battery, you can pause the game, drop the cars on the charger, and then pick up where you left off once they’ve had a few minutes to juice themselves back up. This works well as long as you do it before any of the cars’ batteries are fully depleted, at which point they will disconnect and end the game. Note that the app does provides about two to three minutes warning when one car’s battery is running low, even identifying which car is affected.

We definitely like what Anki has done here. Overdrive is a huge enhancement over the company’s original Drive product, and although we didn’t review the original Overdrive, the Fast and Furious Edition definitely adds some nice new features even beyond the licensed branding. It’s a very fun and engaging racing game, but you should also be aware that for most users the starter kit is going to be just that — something to whet your appetite that will undoubtedly encourage you to spend more money for additional vehicles and track pieces. Realistically, we think many users will at least want to drop an extra $50 – $60 for an additional Supercar or Supertruck to take advantage of the additional game modes, but users who really want to get into it can easily spend $400 – $500 on multiple vehicles and additional track enhancements — purchasing the full set of seven vehicles will run you another $370, and then of course there are additional track pieces on top of that. Of course, the beauty of the modular design is that you can spend as much or as little as you want on your Anki Overdrive setup, and the starter kit does provide everything you need to enjoy the game by itself. Users with even a passing interest in slot car racing games will definitely want to check out Anki Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition, and of course, if you’re a Fast and Furious fan that just adds even more to the appeal of an already great product.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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