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Scalextric review: nostalgia, digitised

Published: 22 June 2020

► Scalextric in 2020
► Sunset Speedway set tested
► Still worth getting

Scalextric is back, though in truth It never really left. Competition for our free time from smartphones, racing games and Lego sets has forced the slot car set to evolve – and in 2020 that means Scalextric now has a big dose of digital trickery. So, what’s playing Scalextric like nowadays, what’s changed, and is it still as good/bad as you remember? Read our review to find out.  

Which kit did we go for?

In order to get a proper taste of modern Scalextric, we went for a Sunset Speedway set. At £379.99, it’s very expensive, but is a showcase for everything Scalextric can do in 2020. You get three – yes, three – controllers, three cars and about seven metres of track, including pit-lane and lane-swap pieces. There’s also a stand for your smartphone or tablet – yes, it’s very digital now.  

Setting up

Getting everything working is actually pretty simple, though just how much better it is will depend on when you stopped playing Scalextric. The lollipop-style track connectors have been replaced with simpler, more robust structures, and hooking up the power involves one simple cable and a powerbase. Again, it’s much easier than some of the older sets.  

However, things get interesting when you need to put the cars on the track. The Sunset Speedway set uses Scalextrix’s new ARC Pro tech, and it basically means you can have more than one car on each lane – and up to six on the track at one time. Each car has a microchip and optical sensor to make it work, and clever bits of track have the trickery, underneath too.  

After downloading the app on a smartphone or tablet and connecting it to the track via Bluetooth, pairing is relatively simple. Each step is sign posted on the app, and it takes about 2 minutes at the most for each car.  

Digital racing

After everything’s set up, you have two options for starting a race. You can either get racing without an app – exactly like you used to – or you can take advantage of some of Scalextric new features. The app can be used to start a session, and there a few on offer – from Grand Prix, to longer endurance races and practice sessions.  

Each mode logs the fastest laps of each player, and also lots the laps completed. In Grand Prix mode, you can even enable tyre wear, fuel usage and rain – all which slow you down somewhat, and a KERS mode is also available if you bother to tick the box.  

In practice, these modes genuinely add to the enjoyment of the racing. In less competitive sessions you find yourself pushing and comparing fastest times, but in Endurance mode you’ll take a more cautious consistent approach to pack in as many laps as possible. 

A yellow flag mode also acts like a VSC; whenever a car flies off the track, all the other cars slow right down, until it’s put back on the track. It’s a way of neutralizing the race while someone goes and retrieves the missing car, and it’s a very nice touch. 

The digital aspect seeps into how you physically race, too. Players can choose different throttle map curves, giving you response towards the top and bottom ends of the trigger. It’s also possible to brake and change lanes, but in the kit we have, only one of those is useful.  

The straighta aren’t really long enough to warrant braking, but changing lanes is useful, and can be used for tactics and overall speed. Switching lanes is as simple as pressing a button on the controller and it can be used to block or pick the fastest route around the track.  

Can you use your old cars and track?

You can use your old Scalextric cars if you like, but not with the new-fangled digital ones, and you lose the digital elements such as lane changing and fastest times, too. However, you keep the wireless controllers. Some more recent cars can be made Arc Pro compatible, but you’ll need to retrofit them with a microchip and optical sensor.  

Old track can be merged with new track as well; you just need to buy a cheap adaptor to link to the two connection types together. And significantly, you keep most of the digital features when using both your new and old track together; lap times will be logged, and laps will be counted. If your original track is clean and in good order, it’s fine to use both.  

Verdict

In some ways, Scalextric in 2020 is a very different animal to before. Digital tech means cars must be paired to the track, you can have the occasional technical problems, and not all older cars will work with all the modes available. However, it’s a better system on balance; intelligent lane-changing and lap time logging add a new level to the game, while the ability to change throttle maps lets you tweak your own driving further.  

Is it enough to compete with driving games and after more modern hobbies? Not really, but in truth it doesn’t have to. Scalextric brings people together in a way that multiplayer racing or sims just can’t. It forces players to come together in person to experience the physical action on track, and it’s an key aspect to Scalextric that feels even more important in the current climate.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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