The idea of a children's toy that can shoot safe foam darts or balls was first sold by Parker Brothers back in 1969. Who would have guessed that it would spawn such a huge following world wide?
Children and teens have delighted in the full-on combat experience using ultra safe and brightly coloured weapons. The weapons themselves have gone from the simple one shot pistols to electric multi-shot machine guns, and heavier calibre rocket launchers. The franchise is now held by Hasbro, and they have continued to enhance the Nerf arsenal. The now classic Great Office War is a fine example of the current Nerf arms race.
Understandably the game has also made its way into the digital world, in particular with Nerf Arena Blast, which is a very good multi-player Nerf combat game that unfortunately came onto the game market when it was flooded with third person shooters and did not achieve the success it deserved.
Nerf N-Strike is now the latest assault by the franchise into the games market, and by taking advantage of the unique control system of the Wii, developers EA have delivered one of the better Nerf guns on the market today.
Unfortunately, a lot of the Wii add-on accessories that turn your controller into weapons, rackets and bats are best described as gimmicks. Immediately upon opening Nerf N-Strike you will see the concept has been to deliver primarily a Nerf gun with the ability to connect a Wiimote. The gun is pistol sized, however like most of the new Nerf weapons has a universal rail that can connect it to other Nerf weapons and equipment. It is a standard one shot weapon with a pull back cocking mechanism. Unlike a lot of the wimpy weapons out today, this has a decent spring, and consequently a reasonable punch and range.
By pushing a small button on the side, the entire firing mechanism can be removed and replaced with your Wii controller. This setup allows the trigger to still operate as the firing key, and by either hitting the A key on the controller or flicking the gun up you can reload it. The whole unit feels solid and is well balanced. Its quality and Nerf colour scheme are a pleasant change from some of the current generic controller accessories.
The game itself is where the innovation stops. It is basically a target shooting game. Being mindful of the target audience, it's relatively straightforward. Set in a futuristic world with robotic targets, the game consists of levels of skill where the robots become more frequent or move faster, or move from behind objects. You in turn have a myriad of Nerf weapons to unlock that range from the single shot variety to ball launchers and automatic blasters. Include some bonus targets, and shield regeneration power-ups, and it is very much standard fare for any of the old style arcade target shooters. Most of the levels are relatively easy to beat, while some can be frustratingly difficult for the younger players.
Graphically, the game is full of bright colours and a lot of the objects in-game can be shot at, and moved or destroyed in some form or other. Aiming for the more faster moving targets requires some skill as you have to lead the target, and some of the robots can have quite small target boxes. The concept of flipping the gun to reload hearkens backs to the coin op days, and although workable it quickly gives way to using the controller button. It's more practical and keeps you on target.
Overall the game is uninspired and feels like more of an afterthought following the development of the gun itself. We would have loved to have seen the Nerf Arena concept brought onto the Wii instead. Full marks on the Nerf Gun, and it deserves ten out of ten as far as Wii addons goes. But the game, although solid and mildly entertaining, is a poor vehicle for this excellent Wii peripheral.