Hot Wheels Rift Rally3.5 / 5
Hot Wheels Rift Rally is a good example of combining physical toys with a mixed-reality gameplay component done right, and it's fun for all ages.
Hot Wheels has been a staple in the minds of children and car enthusiasts for generations. They've adapted to the times by collaborating with films and video game series to bring fictional cars to life through toys, as well as making Hot Wheels video games since 1984.
Rift Rally is the latest in a long line of Hot Wheels video games, but it is the first to include mixed reality as a main feature. Players create their own race track using the four provided "Rift Gates" that serve as checkpoints throughout a race and use the Chameleon RC car to drive.
It blends racing game mechanics with remote control cars, producing a unique game experience for people of all ages to enjoy.
Hot Wheels Rift Rally - Gameplay
Setup on both iPhone and PS5 is remarkably easy, the game guides you through getting the Chameleon car ready, as well as placing the Rift Gates around to create a playable racetrack. The Chameleon has a 1080p camera on the front for third-person driving gameplay and to scan its surroundings to identify Rift Gates.
The battery lasts a good while, you can drive for around 2 hours before charging the Chameleon. It does take approximately 2-3 hours to fully charge from 0%, though, so we recommend keeping the car on the charger when you're not playing.
We recommend connecting the Chameleon to your home WiFi to make it easier to play in different parts of your home and ensure your play area is open and flat. For example, making a race track on the floor around a table may require you to move the chairs to avoid creating obstacles.
The tutorial is easy to follow, and the driving system follows a mechanic of using and restoring energy to boost the car and use abilities unique to each car. Rift Rally follows a gacha game mechanic, where you collect currency to spend on unlocking a new car with a randomly generated skillset.
We don't think this takes away from the experience or promotes hours of grinding, as we could easily play through tracks with one of the beginner cars.
There are 22 core cars and more than 140 variants, making collecting and customizing your favorite options easy. During gameplay, the Chameleon morphs into the car of your choosing, which brings the collecting aspect of traditional Hot Wheels into the game in a fun way.
The game allows you to explore three different regions after the tutorial in Campaign Mode and play in Stunt Mode to aim for a high score. It was impressive to see how game mechanics translated so easily to the RC car, and we found minimal lag in terms of driving the car.
However, some lag does happen when lighting is low since the Chameleon can get confused about the location of Rift Gates. The game issues warnings when this happens, but it was never bad enough to interrupt or have us restart a race.
We created racetracks in our hallway, living room, and basement. Getting creative with designing your racetracks can help with reducing the feeling of repetitiveness playing the campaign. If you were to make an easy "O" shaped track for every race, you'd understandably get bored.
We'd put Rift Rally closer to the Mario Kart side of the racing game spectrum instead of being similar to a game like Forza. Your car has a unique ability, and you often must dodge different obstacles or projectiles fired at you during a race.
We think creativity goes a long way for this game, which is another reason why it appeals so well to younger audiences. We recommend using the iPhone version for short races, but if you're sitting down for a longer gaming session, definitely use the PS5 version if you're able.
We'd like to note that both versions are free on the PS Store and App Store, respectively, making buying the Chameleon and Rift Gates a one-time purchase.
Multiplayer is available through co-op and cross-platform play, but we did not test this during our review.
Unique mixed reality fun
We think this game can make a great gift for the 8-12-year-old in your life or anyone interested in Hot Wheels and AR games. It successfully blends together RC car racing, AR, and traditional racing game mechanics to make a unique experience for anyone who tries it.
The price may scare off some, especially since it costs what two triple-A games would amount to. If you know it's a good fit for you or someone in your life, then you should try it.
Hot Wheels Rift Rally Pros
- Unique blend of RC car, AR, and racing game features
- Easy-to-follow setup and enjoyable driving system.
- Mostly smooth gameplay and opportunities for creativity
Hot Wheels Rift Rally Cons
- Lag in low-light conditions affecting gameplay
- Long charging time of 2-3 hours
- Potential repetitiveness in campaign mode with simple track designs