published Monday, Mar 02nd
People aren’t content with just buying a game nowadays. Some games come with a shiny metal box, or a t-shirt, and sometimes DRM install limits. Well NERF N-Strike comes with a foam dart pistol.
Upon opening the oversized game box, we find a NERF Switch-Shot EX-3 dart gun and three foam darts, earning the game a 10/10 score before we’ve even taken the plastic wrap off the case. After knocking a few things off the mantelpiece, we find the next amazing part – the pistol firing assembly comes undone, revealing a holster for a Wii controller, turning your NERF gun into a light gun. Things can only go downhill from here.
NERF N-Strike, by EA and Hasbro, is essentially a target-shooting game, in the same vein as the Point Blank series for the PS1, with various robot-shooting modes to fight through. You are set into the shoes of Shane, a video arcade whiz recruited for his light gun skills (how very Last Starfighter), and set up against a series of racially diverse opponents, not unlike Pokemon gym bosses, to test your skills with a wide array of different NERF guns.
The gameplay is solid enough. Generally you are shooting robots as they come at you, either in a rail-based arcade style or in a shooting gallery, or destroying blocks or spheres in one of the game’s gravity-based mini-games. The aim is to beat the high-score of your enemy, which isn’t particularly difficult, while they shout racially stereotyped slogans at you – one example being ‘Jackal’, the Latino challenger, who tells you, “Give up, I could use a siesta anyway”, followed by “You are awful! Maybe you need a siesta!”
The controls are a little awkward at first. The Wii controller makes the light gun top-heavy, meaning you have to steady the barrel with a second hand. Though your gun auto-reloads you’ll find yourself sometimes needing to reload manually, and this is made difficult by designating the A-button for the job, on top of the pistol. Having said that, it’s easy enough to aim two-handed, and the gun’s trigger taps the B-button just fine, so overall it’s not a bad light gun at all.
Visually, the game falls a little short. The fuzzily rendered robots in the arcade mode could have come straight out of a PS2 processor. Having said that, the two gravity-based mini-games look very much Wii-rendered, and this compensates. The way the darts fire on-screen means you have to compensate for the speed of the dart versus the time it takes to reach your target, and this adds some realism to the game, along with the way your darts bounce realistically off of walls when you miss your mark. Animated cut-scenes tell the story as you move through the missions, and these are illustrated in a frame-by-frame style, much like the stylised cut scenes in Mirror’s Edge.
Unlocking the 26 real and fictional NERF guns is a real reason to beat the missions, as earning the various sniper rifles, magnums, missile launchers and machine guns will spur on any kid that grew up in the nineties, where NERF, the indoor answer to the Super Soaker, was one of the coolest things you could show your friends. Having said this, beating the missions takes only a few hours, and with no difficulty setting to speak of the adult gamer is reminded of the game’s youthful target audience. Multiplayer extends the longevity of the game somewhat, though the lack of a second pistol means it’s only good for a quick head-to-head (a’la Wii Play) before it becomes frustrating for the second player.
In conclusion, Nerf N-Strike is a decent course of shooting mini-games, even if it is little easy and short-lived. The Switch-Shot pistol is a solid light gun, and makes the NERF experience that much more realistic. Parents will see that it’s easy and non-violent enough to buy it for their kids, and they’ll likely find themselves playing it alone, too. The real thing you’ll find yourself doing after completing the game is firing foam darts around your house. Unfortunately EA and Hasbro may have inadvertently juxtaposed their fairly good Wii game against the irresistible fun of pinging foam darts off the back of people’s heads. Luckily these pistols can be bought separately for half the price of the full game, avoiding the need to actually buy Nerf N-Strike.