For many of a certain age, the name Scalextric conjures either many happy memories or abject frustration. A lack of space on the living room floor, cars hurtling off the track and lodging somewhere under the sofa, and a single dog hair causing the entire system to fail are not unheard of experiences. But the slot car system is still with us, and has undergone a few evolutions.
It’s possible these days to get digital sets, with lap times tracked, wireless controllers, and apps that can be programmed to make your cars react to things like rain and tyre wear! Impressive, but that does feel like it’s aimed more at the experienced hobbyist. What about someone who played with it as a child, and is hoping to get their own offspring into a game they once loved? A nice option might be Micro Scalextric.
Smaller than the standard set, coming in at 1:64 scale rather than 1:32, these are much more likely to fit into the standard, slightly cluttered room, meaning you don’t have to convert your loft into a racetrack. We were sent the Batman vs Joker set. An impressive looking kit, with fun cars that maybe aren’t as neatly painted as they could be but are nice enough, and a nicely themed track. It’s enough to give an old heart a flush of childlike excitement.
But nostalgia is a heady brew. Time for a real test. How would an eight year old, raised on a diet of Roblox and YouTube, react to this dinosaur from the 60s? To start off, the colourful and exciting box did its job, piquing the interest enough for the smartphone to actually be put to one side. But then came the first hurdle – the track. Though aimed at four years plus, this eight year old found the pieces impossible to put together. It should get easier with time and wear, but there was a strong feeling of Christmas mornings spent watching dad putting together toys the children wanted to play with. However, having the child hunt down the different pieces as they were called out one by one made it more of a shared activity.
The next step was finding batteries. Surely Scalextric plugs into the wall? Not this one. There followed a hunt around the house that uncovered six slightly scabby looking double As but, with those in place, we were ready to start.
The controllers, which felt small but comfortable, come with a speed limiting option, graduating how fast the cars can go. At the lowest setting a player can hold the trigger at full throttle continually and the car whips around, no problem. Which is fun for a small amount of time, but there is little competition there. Trying the other setting it was clear that, though smaller scale might fit in the average house, it does mean there is less chance for really fun tactical racing. Luckily there is still opportunity for cars to go pinging off into walls with pleasing regularity.
Though the word ‘cars’ is, perhaps, a tad too generous. For when the race was ready to start, with Batman vs Joker, the Joker really wasn’t up for it. The track, which includes banked curves and a full loop-the-loop, defeated him every time. The car refused to go all the way around the loop, either stopping a third of the way up or pathetically falling. It’s possible that the slightly suspicious batteries used may have let it down, but it was something of an anti-climax. Which, oddly, felt strangely fitting.
Despite all of that, the eight year old has asked a number of times if we can play again, and is eager to try different track set ups. We had managed to spend over an hour together, enjoying each other’s company, laughing and getting excited about something in a way that isn’t possible with an online digital experience. So, perhaps there’s more than a little life in the old slot car yet?
Micro Scalextric Batman vs Joker: The Race For Gotham City is available now from Hornby Hobbies.