I was one of the lucky ones to get hold of one of the first Scalextric ARC sets. It comes with a decent amount of track and a couple of cars. It’s all analogue for the time being, but I believe the digital version of ARC is promised later this year (2015).
Out of the box, there is one change that comes to me straight away. There’s none of the polystyrene storage system inside the box, it’s all cardboard and shaped boxes to store everything securely. Very eco-friendly.
There are also some interesting things that should be noted straight away. There are two pieces of track in this set that I’ve not seen anywhere else.
The first one is the extra-long straight, slightly longer than 1.5 normal straights.
Then there’s the 90degree Radius 2 curve. Whilst we’ve seen 90degree Radius curves before, they were reserved for the cross over, these bits of track are just a standard 90degree radius 2 track.
I haven’t seen them separately available on the Scalextric website and nor do they have a normal Cxxxx reference. On the ARC app, they are called SSA00138 584mm Straight and SSA00139 90deg Racing Curve. It’s going to be interesting to see if these appear in other sets or separately.
Then there’s the control base, this is attached to a printed piece of standard straight track with a PIT box printed on it. There’s one central light on the base and new shaped sockets for power and controllers. The PIT straight has a couple of holes in the track (exactly like the ones you get for digital lane-changing tracks) that must be used to spot the car going over the top.
The controllers themselves look different too with a sculpted grip and red and green triggers and the tops are a bit more angular than we’re used to.
Next to be noticed are the track supports. Nothing like I’ve ever seen before. There are two plastic full height supports and then a series of cardboard ones with printing on one side. I like the plastic full height supports, but can’t help feel that the cardboard ones are going to short-lived. There are a number of circular plastic bases that are used to hold the cardboard supports upright. Each of the cardboard supports has a different number printed on it, I’m not sure whether these are to indicate the order in which they should be placed or their respective height relative to the others. Given that the ones labelled “1” and “4” are almost the same height, I suspect the numbers refer to the order in which they should be placed either side of the plastic full height supports.
The other new pieces is the wedge shaped tablet/phone holder. This has a slot in to which you can put your tablet or phone (with Bluetooth) and then use it to show updates going on during the race. In practice with phones it’s not that stable when you’re trying to choose various options – I found it easier to pick up my phone to choose the options before putting it back on to the stand in order to race.
What of the cars? Well, they’re two low-detail cars, one predominantly silver, the other mostly blue/grey and they come with a set of decals for you to stick on.
I wasn’t able to find a diagram that showed me what to put where, so I had to use the pictures on the side and front of the box to work out where the stickers should go.
I did realise half way through that the stickers are placed on the decal sheet to indicate where they go, but it’s not clear. It’s also a pretty delicate operation to get all the stickers in place and not too wonky. Some of the stickers are hard to remove and I thought I’d torn the white star that goes on the rear quarter of the car until I realised that one of the star points was not supposed to come off the decal sheet because that was where the wheel arch was. The front light stickers were quite tricky as well given that they were having to be stuck to a surface that curved in two directions – not ideal for a flat sticker. Anyway, once decaled up, they looked good.
I opted for the figure of eight track with bridge and it took very little time to put it all together helped by the 90degree radius 2 curves and the extra long straights. Once set up, on powering up, the power light on the control base flashed. I switched on Bluetooth on my phone and fired up the ARC app on my Android phone. Very quickly the two systems synchronised and the control base light went steady. I was ready to race.
The ARC app is a little bit confusing and the interface leaves a bit to be desired. There is also quite a limited list of devices on which the app will run. On Android it has to be OS 4.4 Kitkat or above, iPhone 4S & up iPad3 & up and must also have Bluetooth 4.0 which does limit the number of devices that can be used. My kids have got the original Hudls so they won’t work. I think my new Android phone is the only one that will work. Eager to start racing I decided just to try the quick race option. There are various racing options within the quick race menu, but the real additional piece is that of the compulsory pit requirement. As you race the cars around the track, your phone/tablet records the race order and also tells you how much fuel you have left and the state of the tyres. Once they both show as read you need to stop in the PIT box and refuel and get the tyres changed which involves sitting stationary whilst the tank fills up on the screen. Then it’s off to race again. The cars have very generous magnets in and it’s possible to wiz around the track and a high rate of knots without the cars coming off. I guess these may be aimed at beginners who can be a little heavy handed with the controllers.
So, the racing works, the pit-stop works and adds an extra element to the on-going racing. This is all good. Looking at the app in a bit more detail, it enables you to add in all the cars, sets and track you’ve got and you can choose to race on a specific track although I’m not sure how much difference this makes to anything, that’s for me to work out on another day. It feels like it might be quite hard work to enter all my Scalextric cars and track in to the app, it’s a shame that there isn’t a way in which you can go on line and add the details via a website and for it to talk to the app and pick up that detail. In addition, the list of available cars you can add is definitely not comprehensive, for instance it has some starting C1xxx and C3xxx but doesn’t have any in the C2xxx range.
Using it is fun, it’s a step up from what we’re used to with the analogue systems and also a lot clearer to use than the somewhat arcane display and control process associated with the Advanced Car Powerbase and display – I’ve never really got the hang of that. Will I take it out and use it instead of my digital kit? Probably not, but I’m sure the kids will enjoy it, once they have a compatible device. I am looking forward to the digital version of this – that will be a must-buy.