Following in the profitable footsteps of Skylanders, Amiibo and Lego Dimensions, Mattel is getting its toys-to-life aspirations on the road with its Hot Wheels brand. The popular die-cast cars have been given a modern virtual makeover with MindRacers, a game that combines physical toy cars and game tokens with digital racing.
MindRacers is built on the Osmo platform, which attaches to an iPad and uses AI and computer vision algorithms to identify objects placed in front of the device's camera. That system allows kids to play games both on- and off-screen at the same time, hiding important lessons on literacy, problem-solving and coding behind hands-on fun.
The Hot Wheels game seems less educational than other Osmo offerings, but the kids probably won't complain. Attaching to the bottom of the base Osmo platform, the MindRacers set includes a launcher with two parallel tracks, six Hot Wheels cars, and 32 game pieces. It's designed for two players either racing against each other or teaming up against computer-controlled cars and other challenges.
Players pick a car and place it on the ramp. When the game starts, each presses a button to launch their car "into the screen" (read: into a tunnel underneath the iPad that will trigger its appearance on the digital track). Once they're off and racing, players then control the game by throwing down tokens onto the base to give their car a boost, attack the opponent's car, or perform a spin or wild card action.
Each player starts with 16 tokens – four of each power – which can only be used once per race, meaning timing and strategy are key to victory. In later levels, if a car falls off the track in the game, its real-world counterpart is thrown out of the holding garage under the iPad, meaning players will need to physically pick it up, put it back on the track and relaunch it into the game to continue.
Like other Osmo games, the system works by using the iPad's camera to identify the unique patterns on the cars and tokens, allowing it to quickly figure out what game pieces have been played.
Osmo and Mattel say Hot Wheels MindRacers is designed for both boys and girls, aged seven and up. The kit is available now for US$59 by itself, or $79 if you don't already have the Osmo iPad Base.
Check out MindRacers in action in the video below.