Toy Fair 2014: The Blaster Labs Wrap-Up (and One More Surprise)

We covered everything in foam, water and IR blasting that Toy Fair NYC had to offer—and we’re just getting started!

It’s now been two weeks since the Blaster Labs team blitzed the American International Toy Fair on February 16, 2014 in New York City. We thought it an appropriate time, then, to take a look back at a few of the highlights from the show, and to thank a few of the people that made it so memorable (including a special bonus for fans of Nerf and Blaster Labs!).

If you’re just joining us, or perhaps didn’t catch everything we posted, here’s a quick highlight of some of our most memorable experiences:

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In-Depth: Tek Recon Predator is on the Hunt

One of our most memorable visits at the American International Toy Fair was with the folks from Tech 4 Kids, where we got some brief hands-on time with the all-new Tek Recon Predator—the most aspirational blaster in the Tek Recon line-up, with a claimed range “exceeding 100 feet” and a maximum ammo capacity of 100 rounds. Interest in this new blaster has been strong, so with the generous support of Tek Recon’s PR folks, we’re pleased to now be able to provide some additional details about the Predator, along with a closer look at what makes it so unique.

First, the news: the Predator will ship with a fully packed, 100 round magazine standard for $49.99. These will be the current, standard-velocity NRG rounds, though the Predator is capable of firing any type of NRG round, including the new shorter and longer range types. We are also pleased to confirm that, according to Tech 4 Kids, the Predator will hit the claimed 100’ ranges on the max distance setting using the original NRG rounds.

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Toy Fair 2014: Hands-On With the N-Strike Mega Thunderbow

It’s actually a lot cooler than it looks.

We’re not going to lie. When Hasbro first announced the Nerf Mega Thunderbow, we thought the Mega brand had already jumped the shark. For starters, the proportions of the Thunderbow just looked goofy. And to some degree, it felt like Hasbro was just blatantly trying to ride the wave of culturally-inspired bow-like products that are currently hitting the market, rather than giving Nerf Nation what it really wanted—a flagship Mega product that didn’t embarrass itself like the Centurion.

We still feel the same way. However, after having spent some hands-on time with the Mega Thunderbow at the American International Toy Fair in the off-site Hasbro exhibit, we came away with a newfound respect for the Mega line’s first bow-based product. The progressive pull back system gives the toy a very tactile quality, which is paid-off by being able to fire the huge, whistling Mega darts up to a claimed 100 feet (the first time this kind of range has been claimed by any Nerf product apart from the Centurion).

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In Detail: N-Strike Elite Nerf Cam ECS-12 Blaster

Let’s get this out of the way: the N-Strike Elite Nerf Cam ECS-12 is the new blaster no one asked for, at a price no one seems interested in paying, and with technology no one believes is appropriate for a device released this decade. Nonetheless, the new Cam ECS-12 is very likely the “mystery blaster” that UK Nerf spotted at the UK Toy Fair, and according to Engadget, may indeed be Nerf’s “big ticket” item for the year, despite widespread hopes and dreams of something more spectacular.

Having now had a week to recover from the disappointment felt at the near-complete lack of new product announcements from Hasbro during Toy Fair 2014 (other than confirmations of products previously announced or otherwise leaked online), we decided it would be appropriate to take a step back and reflect on what exactly is coming our way later this year—to consider some of these products on their own merits, versus merely dismissing them for not having met our collective (and lofty) expectations.

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Review: Nerf Zombie Strike Crossfire Bow

Blame it on Daryl Dixon or Katniss Everdeen, but we’re seeing quite the resurgence of interest in the trusty bow and arrow. And Hasbro, ever one to hone-in on current events, isn’t about to miss out on the trend. Forget the original Crossbow from 1994, or even the fun-but-aging Big Bad Bow. Today, we have no less than the Rebelle Pink Crush mini-crossbow, the Rebelle Guardian Crossbow, the Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow, and the recently announced Mega Thunderbow and Rebelle Agent Bow, all set to be on store shelves next to each other in the not-too-distant future. So, naturally, it’s no surprise that Hasbro’s Zombie Strike line would also get a bow-type product of its own, which was delivered in the form of the Zombie Strike Crossfire Bow earlier this year.

Much has already been said about the origins of the Zombie Strike Crossfire Bow having likely been rooted in the Elite product line, what with its angular lines and embossed “N-Strike” seal in the handle. But you know what? Who cares. It looks great in the Zombie Strike color scheme, even if it’s missing the faux cloth-wrapped handle of other Zombie Strike products. And besides, it fits in with the whole Zombie genre better than the Elite theme, anyway (after all, how many modern-day combat operatives still rely on crossbows?).

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Review: Nerf N-Strike Reflex IX-1

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.

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Don’t Buy: Nerf N-Strike Walkie Talkies and Single Blockade

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.

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