Sivlerlit did well when they named this toy the 3D Twister because my play (err…I mean precise testing methodology) mostly involved watching the car skitter around our home and later our concrete driveway literally flipping, spinning, hopping and jumping around. At full throttle the car looks more like a frenetic animal than a toy car, so much so that a squirrel actually charged it a couple of times while we were playing (err testing).
A note to parents while this car seemed relatively safe for children five and older you’re going to have to help them get it out of the packaging and up and running. Manufacturers needs to rethink their packaging because holidays and birthdays are no fun when a parent is required to bring a toolbox and spend more time opening their child’s gifts than they do playing with them. The 3D Twister is not the worst example of problem packaging, but it does require an adult to cut many pieces of tape, then cut through two plastic wire ties (scissors, knife or snips are necessary) and finally either undo or cut two more twist ties to free the car. Then it’s time to get out your small screwdriver and find four AA batteries because they’re not included.
Once I got the box open I found the car, remote, two spare tires, an instruction sheet, small “pairing” addendum, two sheets of paper-backed tape and a piece of cardboard. The car is about six inches long and weighs just under two ounces (50g). I’ve owned several small RC cars in the past and the build-quality of this one seemed a level or two better (in other words I wasn’t afraid it was going to fall apart in my hands). This proved to be true as during the crash-test stage the 3D Twister exhibited no signs of physical damage despite many hard crashes and the aforementioned squirrel attack.
However, out of the box my 3D Twister had a couple of problems. The front end of the car that controlled the steering was defective as it did not have enough tension to keep the wheels pointing straight. One side was good the other allowed the wheels to flop in that direction. The trim adjustment had no effect on this problem. It was possible to drive the car straight by correcting the wheels back in place with the remote steering, but this car moves very, very fast and that’s pretty hard to do. I saw no sign of damage to the car, but I believe a spring or tension device was either missing or defective on one side.
The other problem involved the car’s crash feedback system. For those of you who are familiar with video game consoles that send vibrations back to their controllers this was supposed to be a similar mechanism. When the car crashes it would send a signal back to the transmitter causing it to vibrate. I felt the feedback twice in all the time we tested it and it was seemingly a random event. I believe the technology works; I just think the unit I received was defective.
What wasn’t defective was the little electric motor or the flip sensor. Flip sensor? Yes, the car actually has two tops, one red and one blue. It doesn’t matter which side is up as the car will send a signal to the controller and the controls adjust automatically. So turning the wheel to the right always makes the car go right, forward is forward and so on. This is a much-needed feature for this car as the power delivered to the rear wheels has the front end off the ground quite often. Have I mentioned that this little car is fast? The 3D Twister travels at about 21 feet per second (14.5 MPH). That means it will move across most rooms in under two seconds. Parents don’t despair while the 3D Twister moves quickly and will collide quite often with…everything…it’s so light that I didn’t see any damage or marks to our walls or furniture.
I was disappointed in the Bump & Run Stunt Ramp that was included with the car. The pictures on the box show the 3D Twister flipping and driving down a plastic road/ramp. What you get is a rectangular piece of cardboard with some cuts that allows you to use the included tape (if you can get it off the back which I couldn’t) to build a small, four-sided ramp. Of course, it’s possible to build your own ramps out of some cardboard.
After running the car over the ramp a couple of times my fellow researcher (six-year-old son) reported that the most fun to be had was putting the car on the floor…holding the accelerator all the way down and watching it zip around, bounce off walls, furniture, and cabinets, in a blurred display of hopping, flipping and, top-like, spinning.
Unfortunately, like most RC toys in this class the battery lasts under 10 minutes and then requires a cool-down period of 15 minutes and a recharge time of roughly 20 minutes before play can begin again. The battery is not replaceable so you can’t keep another charged pack ready as is normally done with the larger RC toys. After about two play/cool/charge cycles my co-researcher declared the 3D Twister to be boring and left to pursue his work on forcing cold fission between grape jelly molecules and the surface of several DVDs.
For the sake of science I carried on with the research and took the car and transmitter outside to our concrete driveway to see if a large, relatively flat and clear area would allow me to see just how fast the car was when not hitting all of those bothersome things that we tend to keep inside our homes. The car is so fast, and so light though that even the slightest imperfection in the surfaces causes the 3D Twister to hop or flip. So, while dreams of a mini-Bonneville Salt Flats were dashed the larger open space allowed for some more fun and the interesting encounter with a squirrel.
I was running the car around trying to see what the maximum range is on the transmitter’s radio (about 30 feet) when a squirrel approached and started watching intently as the 3D Twister hopped and flipped around my driveway. When moving at full speed the car is very erratic and really does look like something that could be alive (albeit in a mad frenzy). So either out of lust, hunger or anger the squirrel actually charged the car but backed off when it hit a small pebble and went into a spin. The squirrel then ran at the 3D Twister again…this time though our furry friend got too close and was hit by one of the rear wheels and scampered away. Some rough calculations that required me to actually use Pi (rather than eat it) lead me to believe that the rear tires are spinning at close to 5,000 RPM at full speed…placing them above the maximum safe squirrel facial friction levels.
So, after about three hours of use/cooling/charging my testing of Silverlit’s 3D Twister RC Racer is complete and here are the results:
- Packaging: Not great – Requires tools to snip through plastic wire ties and twist ties. Expect safe removal of the toy to take 10 – 15 minutes unless you have everything at the ready. Remember to have four AA batteries and a small screwdriver with you as batteries are not included.
- Quality – There were two defects in the unit I received (front wheels and crash feedback). If I had purchased this unit I would have returned it for another. I didn’t find any reports of widespread problems with this toy on the internet, so I’ll assume it was just a manufacturing fluke.The transmitter feels and looks like cheap plastic, however it worked well during our testing. I don’t believe it would survive extended use or any kind of drop. Somehow though, I don’t think many of these small RC cars ever get used more than a few times.The 3D Twister car was better built than I expected. After several hours of running into, through and over everything in sight there were no physical signs of damage on the car’s body. The foam tires were beginning to show a little wear, but that was probably from use on the driveway and the kit comes with a spare set.
- Fun Factor – I have owned a couple of RC cars and boats in the past, but tired of them after a few runs. My son loves cars and trucks, he has watched every episode of Top Gear, owns hundreds of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars and the complete set of Chevron vehicles. He will pontificate on the advantages that the Aston Martin has over BMW and loves to go to our local race track (Palm Beach International Raceway). He was excited to play with the car, with dad, and on his own. He became pretty adept at using the remote. However, the short battery life followed with the cool down/charge cycle killed his interest pretty quickly. I would expect an older child (around 10 perhaps) might get more use/fun out of this toy.
- Value – The 3D Twister lists at $49.99. While there is some pretty impressive technology in this toy like the 2.4GHz radio, flip sensor and crash detection and the car, itself, appears to be quite sturdy I don’t believe either me or my son would get $50 worth of fun out of it. However, someone that really likes RC cars may feel otherwise and find this to be a great gift. I should note that it appears the package I received may not be the full kit that is sold for $49.99. If you go to https://get3dtwister.com/ to make your purchase you should receive what appears to be three or four plastic ramps rather than the cardboard model I described.
- Additional Information – Since I am not an RC car expert I took a spin around the internet and found someone who is and here’s his video review of the 3D Twister. Best of all it doesn’t appear any squirrels were harmed during the production.
Update: 12/23/2011: The people at Silverlit and JS2 (squared) Communications sent me a second 3D Twister this time with the full ramp set. The wheel problem was mostly fixed. The front wheels were still a bit off, but this was easily adjusted to “true” with the trim adjustment. The crash feedback was working very well on this model. The additional ramps are sturdier and allow for some different configurations that my son enjoyed greatly. After several additional hours of “testing” the 3D Twister has earned the label of “really fun” from my oldest boy (six), it has also not been broken yet which is quite an accomplishment.
I’ve received a couple of comments about the squirrel attack. That same squirrel (there are only a couple in the neighborhood) came up to our front porch and attacked/killed an avocado tree seedling we had recently moved outside.
No animals were harmed in the creation of this review – yet.
Update 4/15/2012: I realized today that my oldest son (7) still is playing with an enjoying this toy. That says a lot as every other RC car he has received (and there have been a bunch) either broke or has been ignored. It’s not often a toy like this stays interesting to a young child…but the 3D Twister has managed to do just that. I’m going to buy another so we can race.