Reviewed by David Savage
We love marble runs is our house, we have plastic ones as well as wooden ones, cheap ones and expensive ones. We were delighted to receive the GraviTrax Starter Set from Ravensburger to try out.
The GraviTrax system is a design and build system where you can build your own marble race tracks which use gravity, magnetism and kinetics to propel a small metal ball around the track. With a variety of different ways to build the tracks over single and multi-levels using tiles and tracks it is very versatile. You can also add in extras such as cannons, catapults and hammers to boost your track, making it better and faster and creating gravity defying ways to move your ball around. Just think of a vastly superior marble run for slightly older children that is actually a STEM system (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). While it is not only great fun, it helps children grasp the basics of physics, gravity, engineering and problem solving.
As mentioned at the start of this review, we received the Starter Set. This set comes with over 100 pieces in the box – everything you need to create your own racetracks.
Included in the box are:
4x cardboard base plates, 2x plastic transparent levels, 18x track pieces (3 different lengths – 3x long, 6x medium, 9x short), 12x small height tiles, 40x large height tiles, 21x curves, 3x junctions, 2x switches, 1x 3-in-1 block, 1x vortex, 1x magnetic cannon, 4x basic tiles (with inserts), 2x catchers, 1x freefall, 1x splash, 1x landing, 6x balls (different colours), 1x launch pad, 1x finish line, 1x instructions, 1x construction plan booklet, 1x task booklet.
As there are over 100 pieces in the box it does take some time to read through the instructions and understand what each piece does and how it all goes together. Once familiarised with the pieces, in the box is a construction plan booklet which has plans for different tracks at varying levels of difficulty (or you can just build you own design), so this was a great place to start.
After reading trough the instruction and construction booklets and knowing what to do, building a track is relatively straightforward. After slotting the four base places together you can then build up your tracks using the tiles and track pieces, the different level platforms and adding in junctions, curves and the magnetic cannon. Once built, you add the balls to the launcher and watch them race around the track, rolling, jumping and defying gravity.
We also received some extra expansion packs (magnetic cannon, catapult and hammer) so we were able to add very some cool extra functionality to our set, expanding the complexity of the track.
Overall, we found this to be a fantastic fun and educational toy. Children (along with their adults, or in some cases just the adults) that love marble runs and construction toys will love it, it is so much more fun than a standard marble run. Aimed at children aged 8 years upwards, I agree that this is a fairly accurate minimum age due to being able to understand the complexities of building the tracks so that the balls flow easily, along with being able to handle the track pieces without breaking it (they are not flimsy but you wouldn’t want to handle them too roughly).
The hex-shaped tile pieces make this quite easy to handle and assemble, slotting into the cardboard base plates keeping the structure nice and study. The track builds in the book start from basic designs using a single track to much more complicated and complex designs using all the pieces, so it is a great introduction to show how the pieces are used before getting you on your way to construct your own designs (expansion packs, including track and tiles, are available to buy to expand the set into a bigger and more advanced set).
With the expansion sets of the hammer and catapult you can increase the power and functionality of the set and are very easy to use.
As everything these days comes with an app, you can download a free GraviTrax app to a mobile phone or tablet to create tracks and see them from different camera angles, making the whole system much more fun and interactive. There are endless possibilities available which means you can test out new ideas before building them for real. If you have a VR headset you will be able to see the track in action using the Virtual Reality feature. This is a really cool idea and keeps the playability going for longer.
This is an excellent modular marble run / track system for children and adult use. This 100+ piece starter set is an excellent introduction to GraviTrax with the only problem being that the kids may not want to use their old marble run sets ever again, making them redundant.
GraviTrax is packed full of fun, a fantastic STEM toy that will encourage hands-on learning.
At £36, the GraviTrax Starter Set isn’t the cheapest but is definitely value for money in terms of quality, fun and educational value.