My son never plays with any one toy for long, but he can't get enough of this Hot Wheels toy car set - even after 5 months
- A high-quality vehicle play set should be easy for parents to put together, keep young ones entertained for hours on end, and durable enough to put up with some abuse.
- I like the Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Track Set because my five-year-old son Bucky had a blast with it nonstop until the batteries died.
- It's held up well in the five months we've had it, and he can compete against friends with a unique smash 'em game that we made up.
- Though it's more expensive than most vehicle play sets (currently $49.99 on Amazon), it connects with other Hot Wheels sets, is fun to keep coming back to, and is made by one of the top names in the die-cast toy car industry.
The original Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Track Set launched more than 40 years ago. It was hand cranked and only had two loops for the die-cast toy cars to zoom around. It's still one of the most popular Hot Wheels play sets today, but it now operates on batteries and there are four loops that cars can continuously loop around until they smash into each other.
My 5-year-old son Bucky has been having a blast with this set for five months now. Below are the highs and lows of our experiences with it.
Like I mentioned, the modern set has four loops that cars can continuously race around until they smash into each other, and requires four D batteries.
To play, you load each car onto the launch ramp. From there, gravity pulls it onto the rotating disks that send the car shooting around the first loop. The loop feeds the car into the next set of rotating disks and then it's another trip around a second loop. This continues until the car runs into another car and goes flying off the track. The track has car parking zones around it, which stops the cars, so you can easily access the vehicles you're loading.
The overall size of the set is about 31 square inches by 8 inches high, so it has a small footprint in your living room or child's bedroom.
The set comes with 21 pieces, plus decals.
The assembly directions are pretty straightforward, and all of the pieces snap together easily. The whole process took me about 10 minutes even with Bucky chomping at the bit to start playing.
You'll need a Phillips head screwdriver to open up the battery compartment, but you won't need any other tools.
What makes the play set stand out
Once the set was together, Bucky played with it nonstop for about an hour. We only dragged him away because it was time for bed. Then the next morning, he was at it again.
After about four hours of total run time over the course of a few days, we finally had to replace the batteries.
When Bucky started to grow a little bored with the Criss Cross Crash, I helped him attach some of his other Hot Wheels sets to it, though he was able to do it easily on his own too. Via the launch ramp, he was able to attach his Pizza City, Bat Manor Attack, and Scorpion play sets to create a living room-engulfing Hot Wheels universe.
So many toys these days are fun for a couple of minutes, and then they're tossed aside only to clutter your home. We've had the play set for five months and it's still something Bucky keeps coming back to - especially when he has friends over.
One fun game you can play with Criss Cross Crash is a demolition derby of sorts. Each player starts with an equal number of vehicles, and then they take turns feeding the cars onto the launch ramp. As more vehicles are added, there are more crashes until eventually there's only one car left. The owner of the last vehicle standing (racing?) is the winner. I kept trying to play this game with Bucky, but he had trouble understanding it. However, older kids might enjoy it.
What I like the most about the Criss Cross Crash is that I don't have to be involved for Bucky to have a good time. If I'm on deadline and need to finish up some writing, he stays occupied with the set until I'm done and can join him.
Best of all, it doesn't involve any screens for my five-year-old.
Cons to consider
Our enjoyment of the Criss Cross Crash Set was delayed because it requires four D batteries, which we didn't have on hand.
It really bugs me when products that require batteries don't come with them. On the bright side, Amazon has great deals so we bought single-use batteries because they were so much cheaper than rechargeable ones and because I wasn't sure if our usage would justify the added expense. If you plan on using your batteries for 10 or more cycles, I strongly encourage buying rechargeable ones.
I couldn't stand applying decals either. I don't have steady hands or the patience to do it correctly, so I was annoyed with them. Fortunately, there aren't many.
The set only comes with one Hot Wheels vehicle too, but you really need several to get the most out of it. This probably won't be a problem for most parents since kids seem to have plenty of cars on hand, but you may want to keep this in mind if this is your child's first introduction to die-cast vehicles. The set does work with some off-brand miniature race cars, but the classic Hot Wheels seem to stay on the track best.
The bottom line
I consider all of the cons I outline above to be trivial, and overall, this really is a great set.
Though it does feel like it's made of flimsy plastic, in the five months we've abused it, the set has shown virtually zero wear. Bucky still enjoys coming back to it, and it's always a hit when he has friends over. I also don't have to supervise Bucky while he plays, and it keeps him away from screens.
I'd strongly recommend the Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Track Set to anyone who enjoys toy vehicles.
Pros: Quick assembly, durable construction, intuitive play, integrates with other Hot Wheels sets, potential for competitive gameplay
Cons: Doesn't come with batteries, expensive, only comes with one car
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