Okay, confession time: most of us here at Nintendo Wii Fanboy are in our 20s, and we can't get enough (e-NERF?) NERF, either. Many adults boast vast collections of NERF guns, claiming that they're all "for the kids" and that they only use them when they're joining young Billy and Bobby on a friendly neighborhood NERF hunt.
According to a thirty-something EA representative manning the NERF N-Strike booth at the EA Summer Showcase here, N-Strike is being marketed to kids between the ages of eight and 12. But the grin plastered onto his face as he hefted the hybrid NERF gun / Wii casing spoke louder than words; the appeal of NERF defies age demographics.
As mentioned, NERF N-Strike's custom controller casing is half NERF gun, half shell for the Wii remote. The remote is easily docked into the carriage so that the shell can be held just like a real blaster, resulting in a comfortable N-Strike experience. When you're not firing virtual bullets at your television screen, the shell can be loaded with darts, making the transition from video game to behind-the-couch or woodland assault a breeze.
Because of the casing's dual nature, NERF N-Strike will employ a method of double market penetration when it launches this November; applicable retail stores such as Toys R Us and Target will carry the game in both their video game and toy departments, which should result in successful sales numbers for both Electronic Arts and Hasbro.
N-Strike's simplicity is a testament to its core demographic. The graphics are simple, reminiscent of slightly more advanced editions of arcade shooters such as Area 51. Gameplay is comprised of an on-rails experience that takes players through barracks, bunkers and space ships with roughly the same aesthetics. Robotic enemies appear rather slowly due to the authenticity of the NERF gun's slower rate of fire, but we never once felt rushed to clear a screen full of bad guys before being herded along.
Multiplayer features several modes with unique challenges that should keep players as busy NERF-ing indoors as they are outdoors. Blox mode, clearly a nod to EA's recent Blox game, challenges two players to fire one dart each per round at a stack of boxes. The goal is to uncover and then shoot the goal box, but the camera rotates after each shot, ensuring that just because one player might have uncovered the goal, the other player won't necessarily be able to easily shoot it.
Spheres mode entails painting balls by shooting them with your color four times. Of course, the balls are moving targets, and if the other player shoots your ball, it assumes his color. A surprising bit of strategy was necessary to emerge victorious, and one could only assume that heated rivalries will be continued elsewhere with the very controller casings that originated them.
NERF N-Strike won't appeal to hardcore gamers, but it's not trying to. This is a game made specifically for its NERF fans, and the gimmick of the hybrid controller casing should ensure that EA and Hasbro's joint venture does rather well.