Nerf wars are fun. But they have issues: gun jams, losing ammo and the occasional black eye. If only there was some way to capture the fun of playfulling shooting at friends or co-workers without the hassle of, you know, projectiles.
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Hold on, we invented that in the '80s, didn't we? It's called Lazer Tag (correctly misspelled with the "z"), and it's had many incarnations since then: From a Saturday morning cartoon-inspiring kids game to the organized group activity loved by How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson.
You know where this is going. Yep, Lazer Tag is back! Even better, it's been upgraded for the smartphone era. The new version, sold by Hasbro under the Nerf brand, involves inserting your phone into a Lazer Tag gun, launching a free app, and blasting away. The blasters are designed to hole the iPhone 4/4S or iPod Touch, so it's just for iOS right now (sorry, Androids).
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Our chums at Hasbro were nice enough to drop off a couple of the new blasters (retail price: $40 each), and we checked them out with the Lazer Tag app (free). Our version of the app was an early version, so it was a little crash-y, but Hasbro assured us that the current version (1.1) is much more stable.
Once mounted in the blaster, your iPhone's camera shows what's in front of you, superimposed with a radar screen, targeting crosshairs and various indicators -- all interacting with you in real time. Yes, this is augmented reality, and it really gets immersive when you start to play.
There are two ways to play: solo or against other people. When you play by yourself, you're pitted against virtual opponents -- mainly drones that resemble the tentacled mechanical beasts from The Matrix (you can see one in the gallery below). They actually get challenging pretty quickly, coming at you from all directions. Unfortunately there's no way they can interact with your environment (hiding behind pillars, for example), so it's a little less "real" that you wish it would be.
Much more preferable is playing with others. The app is fairly sophisticated in multiplayer mode, letting up to 24 people play together on either different teams (up to four) or in an every-man-for-himself mode reminiscent of that stadium Lazer Tag ad from the '80s.
Running around the Mashable offices playing Lazer Tag with Christina Warren and Chris Taylor was, well, a blast, and you soon get the hang of things like shield mode and the need to aim at your opponents gun (no separate sensors like in the original Lazer Tag). The volume of the blasters is thankfully adjustable, and it can make things nice and loud when you want. However, since you iPhone connects via the headphone cable, it doesn't get a charge.
Tagging fanatics can build up points, trade them in for superior weaponry and special tricks (like the ability to call in an airstrike) and compare scores through Apple's Game Center. You can actually play the app without the blaster, but only in single-player mode.
The new version of Lazer Tag is loads of fun once you get going, but by its nature you won't be doing that as much as you might with Nerf wars. With a dart gun, you can just open fire, and the game begins. With Lazer Tag, you'll need to arrange a game, insert your phones and fire up the app (with it's many delays) before any awesomeness has a chance of happening.
By the same token, Nerf wars don't have leaderboards, upgrades or a single-player mode. With those extras Lazer Tag caters to a more dedicated fanbase, and with the new version, there's lots to zero in on.
What do you think of the new Lazer Tag? Think you'll buy it? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The Lazer Tag Blaster
The new Lazer Tag is made to work with your iPhone. After you've inserted the phone and fired up Hasbro's Lazer Tag app for iOS, you'll be blasting away at virtual drones and real friends in seconds. The blasters cost $40 each.
This story originally published on Mashable here.