Hot Wheels Just Got Real: Rift Rally Game Mixes Reality With an Immersive Virtual World

Hot Wheels Rift Rally 13 photos
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Velan Studios
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I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, Hot Wheels was the thing to have - I loved building tracks and using all sorts of accessories to create my racing setup. Now that technology has evolved, why not blend playing with toys with the virtual world? This way, we open up our world to endless possibilities. In the Hot Wheels case, the people at Velan Studios are bringing it to life as a mixed-reality game for PS4, PS5, and iPhone.
VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) features are becoming increasingly popular – even automakers are implementing them inside vehicles to enhance the customer experience. But naturally, I believe the most potential they have for now is in the video games industry.

The Hot Wheels video game is named Rift Rally, and it comes from Velan Studios, an American video game developer based in Troy, New York. The studio gained some recognition for creating the Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit game back in 2020, which also served as inspiration for this new game, as they follow the same concept and mechanics.

Just like in Nintendo's title, you control a real RC car while the screen you're playing on displays an augmented view from its cockpit. The vehicle will offer a first-person perspective of your house on the device you're gaming on, such as an iPhone, iPad, or PlayStation-connected TV screen.

Hot Wheels Rift Rally
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Velan Studios
The concept might initially sound boring, especially since the plastic car doesn't go too fast and moves around doing basic turns. But here's where the magic of a video game kicks in – if you glance at the screen, everything looks much more interesting. You'll be extremely fast, doing jumps and drifting through the track.

These changes are enabled by the 1080p camera mounted on top of the Chameleon – it's set up so that it always captures what is in front of the car, not the car itself, and that's how the developers can add all sorts of special effects to the game. Moreover, the movement in the game is reflected in the real-life performance of the toy. For example, the toy car will have less ability to steer when you're drifting in-game.

You can create your track throughout the living room or wherever you desire in your home. I bet a kid would have so much fun setting up the circuit and just driving around, so you'll probably have an extra hazard to worry about when home. Anything for our kids, right?

Hot Wheels Rift Rally
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Velan Studios
There are two modes available in the game: Campaign and Stunt. In Campaign, you can set up four gates, which come standard in the game bundle, around the room, and you have to drive through them to complete different maps, each with its unique challenges. Basically, the opportunities for creating a track are endless; you're just limited by the four gates.

If you choose Stunt mode, you can drive wherever you want while performing jumps, drifts, wheelies, and more, all with the goal of beating your high score. The game features a solo campaign and multiplayer – however, if you want to compete with a friend, they must bring their car for competitive racing, and the game supports up to four players at the same time. On the other hand, you can play co-op using a single toy vehicle, and the action will switch between controllers.

The toy car you'll get is called Chameleon – its name refers to the fact that it can appear onscreen as any of the 22 different virtual machines available with more than 140 variants. Of course, we all like to personalize our whip, and the game satisfies that need. You can opt for performance mods that transform how the car moves across space, targeting its speed, acceleration, braking, boost, and more. For instance, the toy car will drive faster if you go for an acceleration boost. In order to access new vehicles and modes, you'll have to play your way through a variety of mini-games, challenges, and puzzles.

Hot Wheels Rift Rally
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Velan Studios
Each digital car has its own in-game power, and you can unlock several liveries for each model. The real-life RC car has some LED lights that can be customized to your liking. The game's executive producer, Nic Ruepp, stated that you'd be able to drive the toy on both carpet and rugs, as the twin motors' inertial sensors can detect when you're not traveling at the right speed and send more power to the rear wheels. You'll have to clear some space to make sure you can enjoy the experience – Velan Studios recommends at least a 10-foot-by-10-foot (3-meter-by-3-meter) room.

The Hot Wheel Rift Rally is a neat blend between a gadget and a video game, and all you'll need is some space and an internet connection to start the fun. According to The Verge, even though the game's software is free to download, you'll need to empty $130 (€121) out of your pockets for the Standard Edition, which offers you the Chameleon car, four Rift gates, and a charging cable. Furthermore, you can spend an extra $20 (almost €19) for the Collector's edition, which provides a special edition black Chameleon car, as well as an exclusive die-cast variant of the already existing McLaren Senna.

If this sounds like something you'd like to get your hands on, know that you have a little more to wait – it's coming out on March 14 this year, but you can already pre-order. Even though it's designed with a younger audience in mind, don't hold back from giving this video game a shot – it might just bring back your inner Hot Wheels fan.

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About the author: Mircea Mazuru
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Starting out with a motorcycle permit just because he could get one two years earlier than a driver's license, Mircea keeps his passion for bikes (motor or no motor) alive to this day. His lifelong dream is to build his own custom camper van.
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