Where it starts to get really interesting is with the Hot Wheels Race Portal. Like the Skylanders portal, this enables you to scan in your cars, even if your Smartphone or Tablet doesn’t have an NFC reader.
It clips to your existing track so you can log how many laps and how fast each of your Hot Wheels id cars has gone.
This also unlocks a new Slingshot mode in the video game. Here you have to time the drop and speed of a physical car on the track to trigger a virtual car’s launch in the game.
It starts simple but as more complex timing and targets develop it needs quite a bit of skill.
The real advancement here is the Smart Track Kit. This extends the interactions from the cars to the track itself.
This completely redesigned Hot Wheels track has smart connectors so the app knows the exact course you’ve created.
It reminded me of Anki Overdrive as the track you create in the real world magically appears on the screen.
But in Hot Wheels id, this means it can now track the exact distance each of your Hot Wheels id cars travels in its lifetime.
As every with toys-to-life games, the biggest question is whether it offers good value. Hot Wheels id won’t be the cheapest die-cast cars you can buy this year and the track will cost more than the old fashioned style.
You will also be able to buy in-app virtual cars as well as physical cars.
But in terms of value Hot Wheels id does some clever things that parents will appreciate. Firstly both the Portal and Smart Track kit are compatible with your existing Hot Wheels cars.
You can put any appropriately sized car on the track to expand the fun. It also comes with converters to enable you to slot either kit into your existing Hot Wheels track.
That die-cast car in your child’s pocket isn’t just there because they like how it looks, but because that’s their unique car with speed, distance and wins history that’s unique to them.
Along with new ways to race, the Smart Track Kit also unlocks loads of new challenges in the Hot Wheels id app. This uses the new super powerful launcher.
But rather than just hammering it as hard as you can and sending the cars flying (which is fun), to do well you need to learn how to put in just the right amount of juice to hit the target.
This may seem like a small thing, but this kind of feature ensures that families get good value not only from these new toys but the ones they have already invested in.
It’s also good that you don’t have to buy everything to have a good time with this. A single Hot Wheels id car can be scanned into your Smartphone to play the video game. This kind of interaction has previously needed more investment to get started.
Also, the Portal peripheral in the Portal and Smart Track pack is modular. It pops out of whichever housing it came in so it can be used in other (I presume) upcoming aspects of Hot Wheels id we’ve not seen yet.
A big difference from other toys-to-life games we’ve seen in the past is that this really is a toy in its own right. The cars are fully functioning Hot Wheels cars rather than a statue to unlock a virtual character or vehicle.
This physical play ethos is nicely built into the set-up as a whole. Each car has a certain amount of juice that lets you play the on-screen games. Once this is used up you need to earn more juice my racing your car on the physical track.
Stitching in this need to play with the physical toys is a clever move and one that parents will appreciate. It’s critical for the toys to get good play time as well as the screen if this is to offer good value — something that other toys-to-life games have struggled with.
As with any first viewing of a new tech-toy, I came away with plenty of questions alongside my excitement. These focused on where this might all go as much as what we’ve already seen. Would there be a console version?
This seems likely with the Switch having a built-in NFC reader in the controllers. What other game and modes would use the technology? Will there be additional Smart Track packs to expand the number of configurations?
However these are answered, this is an impressing and ambitious step into video game toys from Mattel.
It combines elements of Skylanders with bits of Anki Overdrive to create something entirely new that still feels true to the Hot Wheels brand.
Hot Wheels id vehicles, Race Portal and Smart Track Kit are available today at Apple.com and some Apple Stores.
The Hot Wheels id free-to-play app is available for download from the App Store.
A single Hot Wheels id vehicle is £6.99, Hot Wheels Race Portal is £49.99 and Hot Wheels id Smart Track Kit is £159.99.
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