On the surface, this line of R/C vehicles licensed by Nintendo looks cool - like something right up my car-obsessed kid's alley. Featuring popular characters such as Yoshi, Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad, we received the version featuring Donkey Kong. Recommended for Ages 8+ and retailing for about $24.99, these 1:24 racers run on different frequencies to allow multiple "drivers" to race. Their small size even made me think of them as a potential "For Grownups" item - a cool novelty to keep in ones' office.
The operation is a little bit weird, with the R/C controller calling for "3 Heavy Duty AAA Batteries" (I went with Duracell ProCell), and then the controller gets attached via wire to the Kart itself, allowing the controller batteries to charge the non-removable battery housed within the Kart. After about 15 minutes, a red LED lights up on the controller to indicate that you're ready to race (pictured above). We charged this on Saturday (when it arrived), but we waited until today to really give it a go.
The Kart itself is pretty weighty, seems to be well-made, decently-detailed, and when it runs - it's pretty neat. The controller though, this is where the product has a fatal flaw.
The controller just looks "cheap" from the get-go, made out of that crappy plastic (if you deal with a lot of toys - you know what I mean) with really cheesy "DONKEYKART" text across the bottom. Aesthetics aside, I was shocked when my daughter - just minutes into playing with this under my supervision - got a really odd, almost blank look on her face as she quickly set the controller down on our kitchen table. She didn't really know what to say, so she said "The batteries need to be charged again, Daddy." She was holding her left thumb, which I thought nothing of as I picked up the controller and started racing Donkey Kong myself. It was only a couple of seconds before I felt a sting in my thumb coupled with the smell of burning plastic. Something was very wrong.
Looking at the controller, I could see a small bubble starting to form right where your thumb would be. I'm not sure what the melting point of plastic is, but I'd guess "pretty hot." I grabbed my screwdriver and removed the battery compartment door, holding it face-down toward my sink, should the batteries be on the verge of exploding. Surprisingly, they were not. In fact, the batteries were completely cool - no heat at all. But the controller still smelled. So I took the whole thing apart, unscrewing each screw on the case, and cracking off the last one, which was somehow stuck. Upon investigation, you could see a distinctly "square" impression melted into the controller shell, directly corresponding to the black transistor... which was noticeably marred by melted plastic residue.
Is this a case of the old "isolated incident" - a bad one among thousands created? Perhaps, but it landed here... and this isn't HIGHLANDER - I highly doubt that "there can only be one." Not only can I not recommend these, I urge parents to exercise caution, and return any that may be received this holiday season - don't even let the kids open the box. Is this a potential fire hazard? I don't know, but it burned my child, and I want to make sure that it doesn't happen to anyone else. I'll be filing a report with the Consumer Product Safety Commission later tonight. As for ours? It's in the garbage, destined for a landfill. Thankfully, little Addie was fine and no serious injuries were had. She was smart to put it down right away when she knew that something wasn't right.
UPDATE: I filed my report with the CPSC on November 7, 2013, which is now available publicly at this location on SaferProducts.gov. On December 3, 2013, Goldie International, Inc. responded with the following:
"The Product which is the subject of the report was tested and has at all times met every testing standard maintained by the CPSIA, the ASTM and the FCC. Because the specific toy in question was discarded, Goldie International, Inc. has been unable to obtain enough information to determine how or why the reported incident occurred. Goldie International, Inc. maintains all certificates of testing and compliance in our U.S. Offices. "