The Hot Wheels Ai from Mattel is billed as an "intelligent "racing system, and it is that. The set includes a unique paper-like track that you lay out on the floor, two cars, and two controllers. Setup does take a little time and you're going to want to put it in a spot where you don't have to move it that often.The instructions do include various different track configurations. The pieces go together by inserting tabs into the slots on different pieces. Once you're ready, choose one of four modes to race your cars along the track. Each mode changes the acceleration, track difficulty and hazards you'll encounter.
There is a "free-play" mode that lets you drive the cars independently on any surface, but this is really about the ways that the cars interact with the track. They have sensors that allow them to "read the track" and the modes give you various levels of assistance in keeping the cars on the track electronically. In "Championship mode," you'll choose one of three levels. In the beginner mode, you get a lot of assistance keeping the car on the track -- you really can't drive it off. In advanced mode, you get some track assistance with more acceleration and steering. And finally, in expert mode, you'll get low track assistance and full acceleration and steering. As you increase in levels, you'll also have more hazards to get around, adding to play. Oil spills, blowouts, engine failures, and missed gears. These add challenge to your driving.
You can play with friends or set up races to race against an automated challenger, that's the artificial intelligence part.
The racing can be exciting, and it helps build confidence that the cars are designed to get assistance to stay on the track, particularly since there are no slots, as in more traditional racing sets, to keep the cars on the track.
In the heavily assisted levels, you don't have a lot of control over the speed, and it can seem a little slow, but that's largely for learning. Kids who are into this will quickly master that and move up in levels.
Kids who play with the A.I. mode at the higher levels will be able to master the tracks.
We found that setting up the track was very time consuming and frustrating. It won't life flat, and the cars can only go one direction. If they reverse, they'll get caught on the seams between the pieces. Figuring out how to set up a race where one player drives against a car in A.I. mode was very difficult, and the car frequently lost the connection to the controller.
For kids who have the patience to learn, this is a good play experience with racing, but be ready to invest the time and energy.
All in all, we found this to be a good play experience. The Hot Wheels system is designed for kids ages 8 and up, which means that even some younger kids will be able to play with this easily, but will require some adult supervision.
We also found assembling the track to be quite difficult. You have to insert the tabs into the slots, and we've never been able to get it to lie flat. At times, connecting one piece causes others to disconnect.
Each controller takes three AA batteries, and each car takes three AAA batteries.
The instructions are poorly organized and often difficult to follow.
This is a toy that's going to get a lot of attention and promotion during Holiday, 2016, so it will be on a lot of holiday wish lists.
3 AA & 3 AAA batteries required
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