NERF N-Strike
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-12-04 Wii Shooter E10 (Everyone 10+) EA / Hasbro

With the Wii's motion controls, it only makes sense to expect a genre of shooters to emerge that utilize the Wii Remote as a sort of light-gun (think Duck Hunt on the original Nintendo Entertainment System), either by asking players to hold the remote like a gun, or by including a peripheral that allows you to actually pull the trigger of a plastic weapon.

Hoping to lead the pack in this growing genre is NERF N-Strike from EA, a bundle that includes not only the NERF N-Strike video game, but also the new NERF blaster, the Switch Shot EX-3, which can function as both a real NERF blaster (and in fact, includes three darts for your firing pleasure), and as a video game peripheral for your Wii Remote. By sliding the dart canister off of the weapon, you can replace it with your remote, and take advantage of the two-in-one opportunity presented by the game.

In terms of the video game proper, players take on the roll of Shane, a young arcade master who is discovered by B.O.B., an N-Strike recruitment bot, who believes Shane has the skill necessary to infiltrate and subsequently dominate the N-Strike Elite Team to become the best N-Striker around.

The game's story mode progresses in a level based fashion, with four main opponents for you to eliminate in all. Each opponent has gained control of a certain wing of the N-Strike facility, and you must take control of each room within this wing (by besting the current champ's high score in each event contained therein ? either by defeating various robotic enemies or by completing more logic based tasks) before you can challenge the champ themselves.

The events within the game are quite varied, and range from puzzle and thinking games to all out shooting frenzies. For slower gameplay, players can try events like Pummel, which asks you to shoot an assortment of blocks off of a platform, all the while keeping at least one gold block on the platform (a task easier said than done with the inclusion of bombs that send blocks of all types flying in all directions, stationary platforms that block your shots, and so on), and Blockade, which challenges you to find the goal block within a massive pile of regular blocks in order to move on to the next level.

For those interested in more fast-paced gameplay, there are quite a few events for you as well, starting with Revolt, which, for those who are familiar with the film, is almost identical in both look and feel to the first person action sequence in the movie Doom, and challenges you to make your way through a part of the N-Strike facility that has been taken over by the robotic scourge.

Other more action-based events include Onslaught, which places you in the middle of a large, seemingly empty hanger, where you quickly realize that you are not alone, and instead must fight off wave after wave of robotic enemies while waiting for the goal block to appear within the level, allowing you to shoot it and move on to the next, and Recognition, a sort of "draw" sequence that has you shooting only the robots that B.O.B. tells you to shoot, that is, before they have a chance to shoot you.

The entirety of gameplay is experienced via a first person perspective, with the only representation of your character being your equipped blaster, in all of its orange and yellow glory, which is held in the lower right corner of the screen, ominously awaiting its next target. And while I normally hate first person shooters, since I am always slow to make my way around corners as I am fearful of what might be awaiting my approach, NERF N-Strike eliminates this stress by taking control of both the camera and Shane's movements within the environment, allowing you to place 100% of your focus on annihilating the enemies. The game also keeps any "Surprise! There's an enemy right behind you!" instances to a minimum.

All of this combined not only helps to take some of the challenge out of the game, making it perfect for younger players and/or FPS novices such as myself, but also ups the sheer amount of fun one can have with the game, by asking little more of players than to simply blow the hell out of everything in sight, a task which I am very happy to oblige.

In terms of your weapons themselves, each blaster comes with its own set of stats, such as those for power and firing speed, as well as its own pros and cons. The Vengeance REV-8 magnum, for instance, which also happens to be my personal favorite, contains a less-than-average shot capacity of 8 shots per clip, but makes up for it by being powerful enough to blow virtually anything out of the proverbial water with a single shot.

On the other side of the spectrum is the Vulcan EBF-25, which lacks in power (meaning that you may have to cover an enemy in darts to see any real effect) but contains one of the largest shot capacities at 25 shots per clip, and also one of the fastest firing speeds at 6.7 darts per second.

Other blaster choices include the Crusher SAD-G, which offers an unlimited supply of massive ballistic balls as ammunition, and enough power to decidedly eliminate your foes, but also comes with the added challenge of trying to predict the trajectory of its projectiles, and the Stampede REV-12, a double barreled shotgun of sorts that packs a definite punch, but also lacks in accuracy.

All in all, there are over 25 blasters to unlock and master within the game, making something available to suit not only everyone's individual tastes, but also their particular needs in the various challenges found within the game. In addition to these 25+ blasters, players can also unlock custom blasters by entering codes at the games title screen, that is if you can find the codes first (Ill give you a hint: Google is your friend).

Its in these realistic touches, having to reload during an intense battle, choosing between speed, power, or overall ability in blasters and so on that almost made me forget that Im merely shooting small foam darts at my enemies and not live ammunition, a reality which I found myself quickly returned to every time my screen became covered with darts that your enemies can and will shoot back at you.

With such a large amount of action taking place on the screen at once, I am happy to report that the game handles it like a champ. Not only did I experience absolutely zero lag, but was also able to follow the trajectory of each and every dart with my eyes, even if they were being shot the length of a football field or more, and even with more robotic forces closing in on me from all sides.

The graphics within the game also help to create a sense of realism, even though the majority of gameplay is centered on a sort of futuristic theme. The hallways of the N-Strike facility are dark and gloomy, barely lit by various colored lights implanted in the walls or ceilings, which create shadows and help provide a sense of urgency and panic when you do find yourself standing in the light. Furthermore, the overall pallet of gray, silver, and black also helps to cement the game?s industrial and futuristic appearance.

Likewise, the games sound effects, including everything from the explosions heard when a robot is destroyed to the clanging of metal as a door slams shut behind you blocking your escape perform quite well. The soundtrack itself is frantic, albeit pretty forgettable, seeing as how you will spend more time concentrating on the explosions of your enemies rather than the music playing throughout. Additionally, the games voice acting could use some work, as it contains mostly clich??d trash talk between players such as "I hope you kissed your mama at the bus stop, 'cause I'm taking you to school".

As if this in-game trash talking wasn't enough, players can also trash talk to their real life friends by taking advantage of the game's two-player mode, so long as each player has access to their own Wii Remote, regardless of whether or not each has their own NERF blaster peripheral. Additionally, players can also take part in each of the game's challenges in a Free Play mode, which allows you to sharpen your skills before continuing in the storyline proper.

What the game may lack in terms of engaging storyline and overall complexity is more than adequately compensated for by the pure amount of mindless entertainment provided to players. Not just a game for boys, NERF N-Strike is fun for the entire family, and definitely worth the purchase price, especially when factoring in the fun one can have with the standalone blaster included in the bundle, which could just as easily work with any other Wii shooting game as it does with this one, making the bundle just as much of an investment as it is a surprisingly good time.

Special thanks to Alexis Mervin and EA for providing a copy of this title.