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.
If you’re thinking the “revo-“ part of the Revonix 360 blaster’s name is related to it’s unique, revolving drum, you’re probably right. It’s the only Vortex blaster that currently uses a drum of that type, and one of only a few, period, in the entire Nerf range (the Elite Strongarm, Spectre and Stockade being notable, dart-based exceptions). However, we think the “revo-“ aspect of the Revonix name is a bit more significant—we think it could more correctly be used as an abbreviation for “revolutionary.”
Don’t believe us? We’ll let the Revonix speak for itself. Fresh from the box, here were our typical ranges…
The Nerf N-Strike Barricade RV-10 has been among our favorite, go-to blasters of the past few years. It came out in 2010 and was one of the original flywheel-based blasters. Featuring a thumb-mounted switch that turned-on an internally mounted, battery-powered flywheel, it allowed the user to fire semi-automatic rounds as quickly as they could pull the trigger. We liked the original so much, two of our team members used it as their primary weapon of choice. Our expectations, then, were fairly high for the Barricade’s inevitable Elite-branded upgrade: the Stockade.
Name confusion notwithstanding, the Barricade and Stockade share a number of similarities, both good and bad. For starters—and just like its Blockade forbear—the Stockade was not initially released in the United States (the Blockade was first released in Australia, then the United States). And when it did come to the states last fall, it could only be found in Wal-Mart (and later online, where we found ours). But aside from its staggered release and availability, the two blasters are also visually identical in size, shape and molds. The Elite color scheme is the only appreciable aesthetic difference. They likewise share the same manual-load 10-round barrel, the same overly-large muzzle, the same top-mounted jam door, and unfortunately, the same thumb-mounted flywheel switch. Importantly, however, the Stockade includes a detachable shoulder stock that holds a full 10 rounds—the exact number needed for a complete reload. Whether this was intentional or not, it’s brilliant, and the look of the Stockade with the new shoulder stock makes it a great-looking, compact blaster.
By most accounts, the Nerf N-Strike Elite Centurion has been somewhat of a failure in the Nerf community. While it’s “100 foot range” and ridiculous size made it a standout on store shelves, the reported performance of the blaster varied greatly. For starters, the range was inconsistent, and shots often veered in all directions. But to make matters worse, many users found the priming mechanism prone to jamming, and chewed-up darts were common. It wasn’t easy to modify, and the reverse-plunger mechanism was not in keeping with the newer, direct plunger system used in other Elite products. In short, the Centurion failed to live up to its hype, and frankly, we don’t know a single person who desired one, much less actually bought one.
The new-for-2014 Mega Magnus, then, has some “mega” baggage to overcome. But it does have one thing going for it—as soon as we saw one, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. Perhaps it’s the “big power in a little package” idea, or perhaps it’s just that it looks a lot less ridiculous than the Centurion with 85% of the (theoretical) performance. Either way, we predict the Magnus will sell a LOT better than the Centurion, simply based on size, price and perceived performance. But does it make up for the Centurion in justifying the existence of the Mega line, in general?