Call it a slow news day, but there’s actually another reason why we decided to review the ancient, Nerf N-Strike Reflex IX-1. It’s because this little blaster isn’t total crap. In fact, as part of the “Attack Unit” sold in 2008 and onward as a Toys “R” Us exclusive, in particular, it often served as the catalyst for something far larger than its diminutive size would imply.
The Reflex IX-1 is the third smallest blaster to have ever been made by Nerf, coming in behind only the Secret Strike AS-1 and the Jolt EX-1 (and various Elite, Zombie Strike, Rebelle, Clue Elimination, and Dart Tag derivatives). It relies on the much maligned reverse-plunger system, but still delivers respectable 30 foot average distances flat, and up to a relatively amazing 50 feet given an angle of roughly 30 degrees. It loads from the front, which makes re-arming a simple affair. It’s easy to keep hidden and fits nicely in the pocket of a Nerf tactical vest. And that’s almost where the good news ends.
Two Nerf-branded products that fail to deliver.
There is no shortage of Nerf-branded products on store shelves today, from cameras to cell phone cases to shoes. And although your editor has a degree in advertising and spent nearly two decades in the business, virtually anyone with a degree in marketing or business studies knows that over-extending a brand can be dangerous. But today we’re focusing on two specific examples of why this level of brand extension can be problematic. And, for the first time since the launch of this website, we’re issuing a “Do Not Buy” recommendation to our readers.
First, let it be said that we have nothing against Hasbro wanting to extend the Nerf brand. It’s like Porsche deciding to sell SUVs… these rolling behemoths provide the revenue necessary to continue development of increasingly expensive and exotic sports cars. And if selling non-blaster, non-sports Nerf products allows Hasbro to continue developing more complex and high-performing core products, then we wish them all the success in the world. But selling poor performing goods that don’t adhere to any of the core Nerf brand values is another story altogether.
On Monday, January 20th, Hasbro unleashed the new, N-Strike Elite Demolisher in advance of the London Toy Fair. Since then, a number of new details on this unique blaster have emerged, due in no small part to the folks over at UK Nerf providing us with hands-on feedback before the show closed. We thought this would be an appropriate time, then, to collect all of the best intel we have been able to find on what is sure to be one of 2014’s hottest products.
One of the downsides of having recently launched Blaster Labs is the fact that there are so many terrific, but older products we haven’t been able to formally review. So while we await the onslaught of new-for-2014 blasters that are sure to arrive this year, we’ll continue working our way through the back catalog of notable, but no-longer-new blasters we think are worthy of attention. One such product is the Vortex Vigilon—a modern Nerf classic if ever there was one.
Having been launched as one of the original blasters in the then-new Vortex series back in 2011, the Vigilon remains a staple in the line, being released in the form of a “Sonic Series” (clear green and orange) option, as well as special value packs, and an expected re-release in 2014 with a white, dark red and gray color scheme. Otherwise, this blaster has seen no significant changes in the past couple years, nor has it needed one. In fact, we still think it’s one of the most enjoyable blasters in the range today.
If you think you’ve seen the Nerf N-Strike Elite Rampage before, it’s because you have: it was called the Nerf N-Strike Raider CS-35 when it was first introduced in 2009. And that’s significant, because the original Raider started something of a trend at Nerf. With its record-breaking 35-dart drum and totally new “Slam-fire” ability, the Raider was the first Nerf blaster to have a special release, which occurred on 9/9/2009. And in subsequent years, we likewise saw the introduction of the Stampeded ECS on 9/9/2010, the Vortex series launch on 9/10/2011, and the Hail-Fire Elite reveal on 9/9/2012. The original Raider is notable, then, as the first in a series of subsequent “flagship” product introductions.
With the introduction of the Elite Rampage on 8/1/2012, however, it was clear this upgraded, Elite version of the Raider was no longer at the top of the Nerf range. In fact, it was released with a smaller, 25 disc drum (versus the original Raider’s 35 disc drum), and without the shoulder stock that came standard with the Raider. However, at roughly $29.99, the price remained the same. So the newer Rampage became something of a middle child, neither looking “new,” nor having a special introduction that would cement its place in the range. And that relatively anonymity is, perhaps, this blaster’s greatest strength.
Fun little online game promotes current Zombie Strike product range.
With the Toy Fair in London in full swing, we anticipate any number of new Nerf products to be announced. Among these expectations, we expect to see an expansion of the Zombie Strike line, as has already been demonstrated with the recent announcement of the Slingfire. But while new blaster announcements are getting their fair share of attention, we thought we’d take a moment and point out one other little addition we recently discovered: a fun little online
Flash Unity Web Player game called “Zombie Strike Defender.”
A unique disc shooter takes the prize.
Although Blaster Labs has only existed as a formal entity for a few months, our crew has been collecting, comparing and battling with all manner of foam blasters, laser tag and water guns for years… decades, really. So while our standardized testing procedures and processes have only been in use for a short while, we nonetheless feel as though we have the aggregate experience necessary to be able to pass judgment on what we feel is the best product of 2013.
First, a few words of qualification. For award consideration, a product must be widely available at retail, must have received a full test by our team, and must show superiority in at least one of our key test criteria—range, accuracy, rate-of-fire, value or fun. For example, while we absolutely love Ubisoft’s Battle Tag system, and it performs beyond anything but pro-level laser tag gear, it is almost impossible to actually purchase, and is therefore inaccessible to the majority of our readership. And that makes in ineligible, despite its fantastic performance.