Anki Drive Review – Next Generation Racing at your Fingertips
Anki Drive was unveiled during the 2013 WWDC keynote address. It’s a combination of your classic slot cars, mixed with some real life video game play and some next generation technology. The result is a fast paced, customizable fun racing game for the entire family.
Take a look at Anki Drive in action in my video review.
Here’s a closer look at Anki Drive. Inside the starter set you get two cars, their charging pods, a charger, the track, and a tire cleaner.
The track isn’t small. It comes in at 8.5 feet by 3.5 feet. So you’re going to need some room to play it. It’s made of vinyl and is extremely thin. Packed inside the track is a lot of code and technological goodness that the cars read and transmit to your iOS device via bluetooth. The track is tacky to help keep the cars on the track, and this leads to it being a lint and debris magnet. You can clean it with a micro fiber cloth or a damp cloth.
The Anki Drive starter set comes with two cars – the yellow one named Kourai and the grey one named Boson. Each one has its own starting attributes. Both are very balanced having a weapon and a tractor beam. There are a couple of other cars you can buy separately. Rho and Katal each have their own starting attributes as well. While the starter set runs you $200, the individual cars cost $70. So they aren’t cheap.
The cars are equipped with sensors underneath them that can read the code on the track. When not playing against a physical opponent, all the information allows the artificial intelligence to make split second decisions on movement, tracking, and strategy to help it defeat you. So if you’re playing solo, you’ll notice the AI controlled cars will slow down to let you pass, then speed up to attack. They’ll move side-to-side to block you or even match your movements all in an attempt to try to beat you.
As you play, you collect points, and these points can be used to upgrade your cars weapons, defences and speed. You can even sell off your upgrades if they aren’t quite working for you or you need a few more points to get an upgrade you really want. So there is a lot of customization for your car. Those upgrades will also stay with the car, so if you’re playing against it, the AI opponent will have them.
You can set the difficulty of the AI to easy, medium or hard. In my testing, trying to beat the AI on hard is incredibly difficult. So don’t worry about spending $200 and then the game become too easy.
Each car has a battery that last about 20 minutes. It’s not a lot, but thankfully it only takes about 10 minutes to recharge. Oddly, you can have four cars competing at the same time, but the charger Anki provides can only accommodate three cars.
Currently there are only two modes of play. Practice and Battle. In practice mode you can drive around attacking the AI opponent without it fighting back. In battle mode the object is to destroy your opponent 5, 10 or 15 times before they destroy you.
To play Anki Drive, each person needs a car, and they must have an iPhone 4S or newer, an iPod Touch 5th generation or newer or an iPad 3 or iPad mini or newer. The app allows you to control your cars speed and fire its weapons. You also tilt your device to move the car side-to-side on the track. I’ve found controlling the car using the full sized iPad a little difficult. It’s tough to control the speed and fire your weapons with the app configuration. Personally I love it on the iPad mini. For me it’s the perfect size.
On the app it also shows you your cars energy. If it runs out and you get shot by your opponent, that counts as a kill. Your weapons also require energy. So the more you use them, the quicker your energy drains. That means a strategy of continuously firing your weapon isn’t going to work. Your energy does replenish as you race around.
A new Race mode is supposed to be coming soon, so it’ll be interesting to see what Anki has in store for it.
Overall I love the Anki Drive. My son got it for Christmas and he and I haven’t stopped playing it since. I can see if you’re not playing against a physical opponent and just playing against the AI all the time, you could lose interest in it. But as I mentioned, since the AI on difficult is tough to beat, it should keep you coming back for more.
Are there some issues with Anki Drive? Yes. You have to remember it is only couple of months old. This is something new. I know I’m an early adopter, and I’m fine with it. Yes the price is a little steep, but again, it comes with being an early adopter. But at $200, I still think you’re getting a ton of value. I really want to see the battery life improved. For me, it’s my biggest complaint. Would I like to see more tracks? Maybe even some sort of customizable track if possible? Of course. Who wouldn’t. And over time, if this becomes popular as I hope it will, we should start seeing more features and options.
Let me know what you think about the Anki Drive. Is it something you’re interested in? Or is it a little too pricey with not enough features for you right now?
Check out the Anki Drive starter kit for $199 USD from Amazon.com.