► Slot car racing without the slots
► Semi-autonomous radio control
► Overtake anywhere, battle hazards
If you want to race cars from the comfort of your sofa (what do I mean if?) then you previously had three options: buy a games console, a slot-racing track, or a couple of remote controlled cars.
It would be preaching to the choir to list all the square-eye inducing, skirting-board damaging limitations of the above, but here’s something that promises to bring you best of all three. The Real FX Slotless Racing set is, in essence, a track you lay out on a flat surface and race cars around using remote controls. It is a timeless concept. So what makes it different?
Two cars, many different modes
By the numbers our £99.99 set is a hugely exciting prospect. It promises 20 track pieces, 40 different layouts, and four different driving modes to test your Vettel with.
We picked one of the pre-designed circuits in the instruction manual, which contained two hairpins and a tricky fast right-hander that demanded a steady finger on the trigger. Pieces fit together easily with tabs and slots on each end, and come apart just as quick when you’re finished.
Sensor laden track
The cars work like any other remote controlled vehicle until you place them on the special track, where sensors steer them around an invisible racing line as if piloted by tiny drivers. Drive slowly and your car will faithfully follow the track around without any additional input, just like a Scalextric set. You can even set one of the cars up to race around autonomously if you can’t find anyone else to play with. The robo-car is pretty slow though and soon became a mobile chicane which we passed lap after lap.
While the sensors mean you don’t have to be an RC hero to keep your car on the small track, the system isn’t fool proof. Take a corner too fast and you’ll still end up driving under some furniture, but unlike a slot car you can simply pilot it back to the circuit using the remote.
If you really want to give it the beans you’ll need to use an increasing amount of steering to keep it on the track, and you also have the freedom of movement to overtake or block your opponent. Not that we’re endorsing any Days of Thunder-style rubbing, of course.
What if I want to throw blue shells and bananas?
Helping to level the parent vs child playing field are different difficulty levels which ramp up the artificial assistance to make driving the car easier. Authentic racing consumables like a limited fuel tank and tyre wear require a trip to the pit lane, and random malfunctions including a gearbox failure will see your car limping around the track. Most excitingly though are the oil spills and bad gear changes you can throw at your opponents in order to slow them down.
With such a changeable racing environment it’s helpful that a speaker built into the remote control handset reminds you of your lap time and position every time you cross the finish line. It also plays engine sounds and shouts when you set a fastest lap or get hit by a well-placed oil-spill. You can even plug headphones in for silent racing.
Once you’ve got your head around the different modes the Real FX set is easy to pick up, and feels genuinely rewarding every time you set a new fastest lap. You can also improvise a track around your living room and use the cars in pure remote control mode, which is an added bonus.
Our only complaint is that battery life will eventually become a fun-limiting factor, and we’d have liked a recharging dock for the controllers or cars (or ideally both). Otherwise you’ll need a healthy budget for packs of AAs.
It’s not completely revolutionary but addresses enough of the problems faced by traditional indoor racing games to earn our admiration.