My son loves just about anything to do with vehicles so I was sure this was going to be a hit. I came across this on Amazon for just over £4 and decided it would be a good filler present. With the set we received the launcher itself and one car from the range. The cars are tiny little micro cars, and even smaller than the Disney cars micro drift cars that we own. This can prove a problem as the car is so small, and there is no way to store it inside the launcher, so you need to be careful you do not lose it. You can buy more cars for around £4 for two, and you can only use the cars from the same range as far as we have found.
The car launcher is made up of two pieces. You have the bottom part of the launcher which is basically a set of plastic lanes for the cars to sit in. It states it can launch up to 12 cars but we only have 2 one from each set I purchased for my boys. To launch 12 you would need to line them up behind each other as there are only four lanes for the cars. It is small launcher and only just bigger than my sons hand. The second part of the launcher gets placed down on top of the cars sitting in the racing lanes, and basically locks them inside a tunnel. It has a gearstick like handle at the top which my son thought was great as it matched the cars theme. When placed down this is the part that actually launches the car out, and when the handle is lifted it reveals the four different lanes again. The pieces are attached at the back of the toy so they remain in one piece without becoming lost.
The problem for us is this toy is just too fiddly. My son was excited and was trying to get the car in the launcher quickly to shoot off. Most of his stories including this launcher require speed, so considering it takes a good five minutes just to set the car up really ruins any idea of fun. My son was interested in how it all worked, as it is different to his larger launcher. He gets frustrated that he cannot fire them out quickly, and I do think it is a shame it requires so much preparation for it to work.
To set the launcher off you have to lift the handle which allows a small gap for the car to be placed in the lanes of the toy. Then you need to push the car right to the front on the launcher once the handle is placed back down, and this can be very hard to do, as the lanes for the cars follow the small theme. My son found the only way he could push the car enough forward, for it to be launched out the front is to push them to the front with a pencil. His fingers are two short to be able to push it all the way to the bottom, and adult's fingers are too large to be of any help.
You have to make sure the car is clicked into place correctly, or it simply becomes stuck on the rubber tassels that sit at the opening of the launcher. My son never really knows if it is going to work correctly, and it is pot luck as to if the car will actually fire out or just sit at the starting line. If you manage to get the car in the right place then it does launch with some power when the button on the back of the toy is pressed. The cars fly out and shoot across the room with speed which my son loves. Then you have to start the whole process again for 5 seconds use of the car.
This toy does not receive a huge amount of play. It gets small amounts of use now and then, and even at the small price I paid I think it is more pound shop value. While the toy is durable enough and made of strong plastic, the hassle it takes to launch a car for a few seconds just puts him off. He usually likes small play sets but with this he just finds there are too many design flaws for it to really work as a toy. The car can be used without the launcher, but as it is so small my son loses interest quickly. It is not compatible with any of his play sets, and it just gets forgotten about.
On the internet it suggested an age range of four plus, but on the box you receive it actually states it is best suited to ages 6 and above. I can see why it has a higher age recommendation as it is just too much like hard work for anyone younger. It took my son a good half an hour to get the cars shooting out correctly, and after he had mastered how to get it to work he was no longer interested. He still plays with his Disney Cars 2 launcher so I think the design flaws with this set just really put him off.
It is currently on sale for around £12 on Amazon which I think is far too much. The whole feel of it reminds me off pound shop toys, and it just feels a little poor quality. Some children may like the extra steps needed to launch the cars to make it more interesting, but at 6 I find my son just wants to send the cars flying through the air, without needing to wait five minutes between each game. It may be better with more cars, but considering they are expensive, and the launcher has problems with sending one car out I dread to think what it would be like with 12. I would not recommend this, especially not when you can get far better versions for just a few pound more.