Rocket League seems like a game that wouldn’t translate well to real life. It’s super intense, with cars that seem to defy physics and balls that explode. But the real-life version we had the chance to play at Toy Fair in New York this weekend is just as fun, while being a lot easier to master.
That’s because the Hot Wheels Rocket League RC Rivals set takes you out from a vantage point directly behind the car and instead has you hovering over the playing field, using a smartphone (the app is available on iOS and Android) to control your car.
The change in vantage point instantly makes it easier to play and should end up being a great way for people to get into Rocket League if they’ve previously been put off by the intensity and third-person view demanded of the video game version.
But despite being easier to play, Hot Wheels Rocket League is still a lot of fun, even for seasoned veterans of the video game. Instead of getting crushed by a ten-year-old online you’ll never see in person, you’re competing against someone standing right next to you, which makes trash talking all the more personal. You’re also dealing with real world physics as you pilot RC cars that can spin and drift, requiring a different level of driving skill. But the boost button is still there in Hot Wheels’ version, for those times when you just need to punch it and outrace the other car.
The live action version of the game uses a big ball that’s heftier than the video game version seems to be. It rolls smoothly across the board instead of leaping into the air with a tap, but it’s still not easy to actually get it into the goal. The cars, which are about the same size as the ones from Hot Wheels’ discontinued AI racing system, also have to be wary of one another. They’re light enough to be flipped with a well placed zoom across the field by a rival.
The arena is comprised of a rollout mat with nine plastic pieces that are snapped together to create the walls and goals. The goal posts and the ball are each equipped with IR blasters and IR sensors that can detect when a goal has been scored, and to prevent cheaters from trying to rack up points by just driving their car into the net, as the sensors can distinguish the two.
The cars also have adjustable speeds. So you can go at a snail’s pace when you’re playing with your kids or just getting the hang of the controls, or you can ramp it up when you’re playing with friends or competitors who are more familiar with the game. But unlike the video game that lets you play for hours on end, the Hot Wheels cars only run for about 15 minutes until depleted, and require an additional 20 minutes to be brought back to a full charge.
The toy is also way more expensive than the video game. Rocket League on the Switch will set you back £15, whereas Hot Wheels Rocket League RC Rivals is expected to cost around £150 when it’s available later this year. That’s a big difference in price, especially as the Hot Wheels version requires at least two phones or tablets to actually control the cars and keep score. On the other hand, the video game requires a couple of Switches or PS4s to play against a friend, so maybe it isn’t actually that pricey.
And it’s still really dang fun.