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?
The Nerf Maverick REV-6 is one of the most popular Nerf blasters of all-time, and for good reason. The Maverick is easy to load, easy to carry, easy to modify, never jams, and looks great. It’s one of the few, original, N-Strike series blasters you can still find in stores today right alongside newer Elite series products. Clearly, sales of the Maverick have been high enough to prevent Hasbro from ceasing their manufacture, even though they would clearly like to move buyers into the Elite line (along with Elite darts). So, what’s Hasbro to do? Create an Elite version of the Maverick, of course!
Enter the N-Strike Elite Strongarm. Only about an inch longer than the Maverick, and bearing a similar barrel-heavy, steampunk-style appearance (color scheme notwithstanding), the novice could easily be forgiven for assuming the Maverick and Strongarm are basically the same blaster. However, there are a few significant differences. For starters, the Strongarm can slam fire (hold the trigger and keep priming)—in fact, it’s currently the only Elite series blaster to slam fire with a rotating barrel. In addition, the Strongarm can fire darts that are clip-system compatible, whereas the Maverick was incapable of firing slimline darts of the previous generation. And interestingly enough, the Strongarm barrel spins when the plunger returns, not when the trigger is pulled—so, unlike the Maverick, the barrel can’t be fully loaded unless it is dropped. Perhaps to make up for that, the Strongarm’s dart access is improved via a more open chamber and a lower barrel drop (a modification frequently made to the Maverick). And, of course, being part of the Elite series, the Strongarm’s stock ranges far exceed the Maverick, with measured distances of up to 49 feet with zero incline, and up to 66 feet (62 feet, average) with 30 degrees of inclination. Jamming was negligible, though accuracy was a little worse than average, with shot trajectories that varied widely from one dart to the next.
We’re still coming to grips with the whole “Zombie Strike” line of Nerf products that Hasbro introduced in 2013. While all of the Zombie Strike products sport the new lime green, orange, brown, and gray color palette, they differ greatly in their overall aesthetic. A few of the products in the range seem to have been designed from the start as “Humans vs. Zombies” (HVZ)-oriented designs, like the Hammershot and Sledgefire, which both have faux handle wraps and steampunk-esque hammer pulls. But other products like the Fusefire, Ricoshet, Ripshot and even the Crossfire Bow have a much more angular appearance, and even N-Strike embossing. The topic of this review, the Sidestrike, is part of this latter group, with its sleek lines and N-Strike Elite branding in the handle.
Regardless of its likely origin as an Elite-branded product that was re-colored to build-up the Zombie Strike product line after the dies were created (Hasbro reportedly denies this and claims this disparity was intentional), the Sidestrike is nonetheless an interesting little blaster. Of particular note is the included holster, so let’s start there. The all-plastic holster is compatible with both Sidestrike and the Firestrike blasters, but not much else. It’s ambidextrous for use on either left or right sides, and can hold up to 4 Slimline darts of Elite or Zombie Strike variety (2 on each side). It has a belt clip, but nothing on top to keep the blaster in place when things go sideways. Oh, and you’ll pay at least $5 more than you probably should for this unique accessory… but more on that in a moment.
It must be hard being a product developer at Hasbro. Everyone outside the company probably thinks you sit around all day shooting darts at your co-workers, reenacting the famous “Great Office War” video. In reality, being an industrial designer, engineer, materials specialist, marketer, or anyone else involved in bringing new products to market is probably quite challenging. After all, you’ve already developed the chain-fed N-Strike Vulcan that would make Rambo proud, so where do you go from there? If you guessed something like “further, faster, more…”, you’re probably thinking along the same lines as those poor designers at Hasbro. Or, at least, that’s what we imagined when trying out the Nerf Vortex Diatron.
On its surface, the Diatron appears to be a very close cousin to the Vortex Vigilon. It has a similar, side-loading and spring-fed internal chamber (though with a 10 disc max capacity) that is operated with a thumb-switch on either side, has a futuristic sidearm look about it (borrowing from the Lazer Tag Augmented Reality series with the under-hand protection piece), has the same disc jam release, fires the same kind of XLR discs (in orange/white vs. green), and generally maintains the same run-and-gun style that the Vigilon encourages. Where the Diatron differs significantly from the Vigilon is in its “Multishot Madness” ability to fire two discs at a time—in fact, it can ONLY fire two discs at a time, which is a problem we’ll discuss in a moment.
The Nerf N-Strike Elite Stryfe is one of the most impressive blasters available today. The core of the blaster is the flywheel-based motor which, while similar to those in the N-Strike Barricade and similar models, is amped-up for Elite status. Powered by 4 “AA” batteries, and brandishing a design that doesn’t venture far from the typical Nerf look, this mid-range unit doesn’t scream “exceptional.” But with perhaps a single, notable flaw, it is truly one of the best all-around values in foam-dart blasters currently on the market.
Having purchased the Stryfe on special at Amazon for $12.99 as a replacement to a trusty, battle-worn Barricade, we expected perhaps a modest improvement in performance versus the older Barricade, given the Stryfe’s “Elite” status. But what we didn’t expect was how much overall performance could be achieved by a blaster in this price range. In fact, right out of the box, the Stryfe was shooting with consistent mid-40 foot ranges (flat), with upper-50s possible with a slight arc (30 degrees). In addition, the grouping of the shots was remarkably good—something that we have NOT found to be the case with plunger-based Elite models. But what really blew us away was the incredible rate-of-fire. In our testing, we were able to consistently meet or exceed 2 shots per second, and with very little jamming.
Tek Recon was a successfully funded Kickstarter venture backed by parent company Tech 4 Kids of Toronto, Canada. We got our hands on a Tek Recon Havok and two Tek Recon Hammerhead blasters, along with refill pack of the “NRG” (Non-marking, Reusable, Gaming) ammunition. They’re readily available at retailers nationwide, and have even been seen being sold at a discount in some stores (we got ours from Kmart and Wal-Mart).
We’ll say right up-front that these blasters look awesome on the website, and the photography and design style used by Tech 4 Kids to promote the new line is spot-on. The blasters look menacing, in a vaguely Halo-esque, not-too-distant future kind of way, with wild animal-print markings. The product branding also has a very high-tech, mil-sim look that leaves the impression that these blasters were designed by a company that has their act together and that knows their target audience. But that’s as good as it gets.
Let’s get this out of the way: Battle Tag by Ubisoft is one of the coolest laser tag-like experiences you will never have. Yes, I said that you will never have. And that’s a shame. Initially introduced to a very confused E3 audience in 2010, the cleverly named “Battle Tag” system was given a soft release in Canada and Texas shortly thereafter. We first discovered the system in 2011, and went to great lengths to import about a dozen of the blaster/vest combo “Starter Pack” kits and a few med/ammo packs (more on that, below) from Canada, sight unseen. At a cost of about $75 per blaster/vest, it wasn’t cheap then, but now, good luck even finding them. Ubisoft has pulled all support for the system, and currently, they’re going for about $400-$500 per set on Amazon, with very few available (you may have better luck on eBay, though they were also $400 for a new set).