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).