Twenty years ago, it seemed like laser tag was the game of the future. And that’s not just because every poorly-lit, neon-spashed, fog-filled laser tag arena looked like a cross between an Aliens corridor and the nightclub from Hackers. But instead of taking over the world, running around with friends and shooting plastic guns has been replaced by online first-person shooters and portable smartphone apps. As a result, Hasbro has attempted to update laser tag for the 21st century with their new iOS accessories, Lazer Tag Blasters.
The blasters are sold individually for $39.99, in white or orange colors, or you can buy a pair for $74.99. They’re sold at Toys-R-Us, or online through Hasbro’s website, but you’ll have to go to the App Store to download the free Lazer Blaster app. The app works by itself in single-player mode, so feel free to give it a try as a sort of demo, and imagine housing your device inside a giant plastic gun.
To connect your device, you place your iPhone or iPod Touch into a rubber sleeve to protect it, and then into a hard plastic case located above the trigger on the gun. The case snaps down, keeping your expensive iOS device from wiggling around or falling out when you move the gun. You also have to line up the camera so that it’s facing out, and plug in a headphone jack, which sends signals from the gun’s triggers and other buttons to the device.
We should note that the blasters are only sized for last year’s iPhone or iPod Touch devices, so if you’ve just bought an iPhone 5 or an iPod Touch 5 with the longer, four-inch screen, you won’t be able to use them with these toys.
With your app loaded up and the device in place, it’s time to play some augmented-reality laser tag. We enjoyed the game’s single-player mode, which populates your environment with flying, tentacled aliens. You’ll have to spin around and shoot high and low to hit them all, and as a result, you might accidentally smack yourself or anyone standing near you. There’s a reason this game opens with a warning: Be aware of your surroundings.
You can upgrade your guns using in-game currency, or pay in-app purchases to get access to them right away. This may seem like a waste, since you’re already spending a lot of real-world money on the blasters, but at least the app itself is a free download.
If you have more than one blaster, you can play multiplayer laser tag with up to 24 people. Each person will need their own iOS device and blaster, which means this sort of setup would cost thousands of dollars, making it extremely unlikely. After everyone has their devices plugged in, you can select teams, and then start firing. The game will detect each hit with a little explosion on the screen, and a sound effect coming from the gun itself. You can also hit a secondary trigger to activate your shields, which makes shots bounce off of you with a fun “ping” sound.
Your experience with these blasters will depend entirely on how many blasters and devices you have, and what sort of environment you’re playing it in (neon-splashed hallways are not included). With just two players, you may find yourself in a back-and-forth shootout, which takes a bit of the strategy out of the game. Still, the augmented reality experience is pretty novel, and we have a feeling that active kids will enjoy running around with the blasters. Just make sure that they don’t damage your iOS device by playing too rough, and that they don’t swing it around blindly and clock their little brother or sister.
If you trust your kids with a weighty, blaster-shaped case for your iPhone or iPod, the Lazer Tag Blasters could make for a surprising gift under the Christmas tree or as a birthday present. But we also know that there are many, many more options for great games in the App Store that don’t require any setup or third-party accessories. It’s very possible that having only one compatible app means that the Lazer Tag Blasters could be gathering dust while your kids play with the iPhone or iPod Touch by itself. These blasters aren’t for everyone, so we recommend waiting for the price to go down, which it surely will, since the blasters aren’t compatible with next-generation iOS devices.