2017 Year in Review – Nerf, Buzz Bee, Zuru, and more – The Blasters, the Fails, the Wins, the Ugly

YEAR IN REVIEW: BLASTERS AND MOAR BLASTERS
Vas The Stampede

Blogger note: Each section will not encompass ALL releases for each brand. I am choosing highlights for each.

Nerf Nemesis. One highlight from 2017

NERF CONTINUES TO INNOVATE FOR 2017, BUT ALSO BLASTS YOUR WALLET.

2017. Probably one of the craziest years for blasters thus far. Nerf continues to hit some really high notes with their Rival line, continued world-building with Alien Menace, Doomlands, and hitting stride with continued products for Zombie Strike. However, they also continue to push the envelope when it comes to prices. While they are establishing themselves as the de facto blaster brand (so much that the brand has become eponymous with blaster battle play and games) they also establish with Nerf you get a premium product but also at a premium price.

The Nemesis, Regulator, Judge, Twinshock and even Dreadbolt were all 2017 releases and while impressive big blasters, the lowest of the bunch was $39.99 approximately. The Voidcaster, a semiauto spring pistol also released at around the $19.99 mark. The Raptorstrike looked great but it was another bolt-action rifle and while impressive aesthetically wasn’t functionality we hadn’t seen in previous blasters (bolt-action, magfed, accustrike ammo, etc.) The new blasters for the most part were cool in their own right –

Nerf Mega Twinshock
  • Nemesis – gravity fed hopper, 100 rounds before empty, usable with the Nerf Battery pack, overall just a great addition and a huge step for toy blaster play, although at $99.99
  • The Judge – a multishot functionality (3 dart bursts) but HUGE, and expensive.
  • Regulator – a blaster that introduced 3 dart bursts (a function also used in the Nerf Wii game a few years ago) but also a select-fire switch, a huge feature to go from burst, single, and full auto in a blaster. Bonus points for Modulus functionality to add more accessories. If the Nemesis hadn’t released this might have been my favorite from Nerf this year.
  • Voidcaster – Another semiauto blaster. Just a lot of fun and a function that needs to be used more often.
The jewel of the Nerf releases I think was clearly the continued monster offering from Nerf Rival. Higher fps, higher capacity, even at the prices it’s what the community was doing and Nerf made an offer for folks to step up their experience right out of the box. The Nemesis is costly, but that just makes blasters like the Hera, Kronos, even Khaos (with mags now sold separately) a bit more accessible and reasonable by comparison. And the Hera and Kronos were sleeper releases that weren’t a Toy Fair but were a huge hit when they came out, adding functionality to the Rival line of a semiauto flywheel Rival blaster and a 5 shot pistol with an internal magazine.
Not to even begin on the licensing for Deadpool, and Star Wars blasters that are perform pretty well (though I’ll say I wasn’t excited to see the Boba Fett Apollo kit), Nerf continues to keep the market stocked with a good amount of product for shelves. It’ll be interesting to see where Nerf goes next (and a leaked video earlier this year hinted at Bigger than a Nemesis, maybe even a Rival rifle…. a Rivle?) and with all the sub brands they have you can only expet more Nerf on the shelves for the coming year (some of which has already leaked onto shelves early, including the Mediator and Tri-Break.) If I had to nitpick anywhere, I wish there was more range out of the Judge, and maybe something new besides another rifle for Accustrike. Impressive as the lineup was in places, there is still some room for improvement and maybe some concepts I would like to see revisited. The Signature Bow was another great item, albeit not your usual blaster fare.
Toss in the additional licensed products from Sakar and Jazwares, there will be a full array of toys, accessories, and items to choose from to add on this year. Nerf continues to pave the way for other brands. And yes, there were also a bunch of smaller releases, repaints, exclusives, but these are the highlights that stuck out most for me. Dare I say it Nerf continues to set a gold standard for blasters in mass market, and whatever innovations they make definitely find their market amongst hardcore fans and casual players alike.
Don’t sleep on the competition – “Nerf or Nothin'” =/=…. Buzz Bee, Dart Zone, Zuru….

Competition is healthy! It’s so good. And when the competition is like this, the real winners are the players.

Buzz Bee came out swinging, releasing the Thermal Hunter, Zenith, Barbarian, Tactical Storm, Dwight’s Crossbow (for “The Walking Dead”)…. all for lower prices than Nerf blasters. The highlights were not only the number of pump-action blasters they made, but some accessory innovation with the Thermal Sensor (shown below!)

Buzz Bee also made magazines that were cross-compatible with Nerf blasters, new ammo types (Precision, Long Distance, in addition to sucker darts) that were compatible with Nerf blasters, even an adapter to make the Thermal Sensor usable on Nerf Tactical rails.

The Thermal Hunter was by and large the most comfortable blaster from this line for me, and the pump-action gave it the advantage over the Tactical Storm. I also have the Monorail (thanks for the sample, Buzz Bee!) but man…. the issues about it loading are pretty apparent. It does jam on me quite a bit from just the initial testings I’ve done, and considering how excited I was at Toy Fair I was a bit frustrated with the final product. Great idea, great look, but I wish the experience with the Monorail so far hadn’t left me wanting.

All the same, heck of a year for Buzz Bee releases. They really stepped up to provide an alternative dart flinger for Nerf, and at the prices they have the offerings are pretty good! If you’re a blaster player on a budget, don’t sleep on Buzz Bee toys. You definitely get what you pay for and a lot extra, I think. They still haven’t made their comparable Nerf Rival blaster, but that brings me to…
With the Thermal Hunter
Dart Zone (Covert Ops!) I used to dub Zing Toys the Dark Horse of the blaster/launcher category.
As Zing hasn’t had a new release in some time (that I’ve heard about) besides some Costco gift packs… I pass that onto Dart Zone. It wasn’t enough that they released the Enforcer, Light Command, Dartstorm, but they made a real splash this year with…. 
Much like what happened with Buzz Bee, Dart Zone has made a comparable product to Nerf Rival, but cheaper than any other offering from Nerf. $20 for the Powerball, and it’s cross-compatible with Nerf Rival ammo and magazines. The performance is comparable, in range and accuracy. No slam-fire still from these blasters but that’s not a big deal at all considering what you are getting. On top of the ability to use Nerf mags, the BallistixOps blaster comes with a gravity fed hopper, so depending on your style of play you can use either. You have choices. And buying this blaster won’t put you out against anything else except maybe the battery operated Rival blasters. And even then, there are plans for a new blaster called “The Accelerator”.
Dart Zone again makes the case for a budget buy that offers near-premium performance. You won’t go wrong giving this brand a second look in 2018. Their dart blasters are fantastically strong out of the box as well, but the BallistixOps definitely made their mark this year.
Welcome to the…. ZU (Zuru/Xshot)

Zuru by and large may arguably have the BEST value of blasters and darts. Knowing some of their manufacturing methods, their darts come in crazy packages of refills, but there is a caveat with that. While their blasters accommodate nerf darts, the darts are a little shorter than Nerf darts. In early Zuru mags, Nerf darts were way too long and weren’t cross-compatible. The Bug Attack Crossbow fixed that, but it made the magazine and Crossbow unusable with earlier smaller Xshot magazines, a huge oversight on their part in my opinion. Zuru darts however might hiccup in a Nerf magazine but they work a large part of the time. 
This year, Zuru put out the much lauded Turbo Advance and the Regenerator…. both really decent blasters. The Turbo Advance may have the advantage in my opinion though, as the blaster only needs to be reloaded via the drum while the Regenerator has two new clip styles and you have to refill those as you go. But the blasters are pump-action which I like, and in addition to the cost Zuru continues to chug along cranking out low cost products for good ranges and decent quality. Another brand that undercuts the premium pricing you find at Nerf with good options that don’t have the spectacle and aggressiveness of Nerf, but fire almost as well as anything else. Again, another brand you won’t regret saving a few bucks on.
The E-thir (Third Party companies/products)

Nerf says to use only products with the Nerf seal of approval, and there’s a litany of legal reasons they have to say that to people. Nerf’s brand has become synonymous with toy projectile play – practically anything that shoots a foam dart, arrow, ball, etc. gets referred to as a Nerf toy. Something goes wrong, like a third party dart injures a kid (anyone who used FVJs and found those uncomfortable to get hit with for instance) or some other product breaks and damages a kid’s toy, it’s Nerf who initially may get put on the hook for it. To my experience, the third party products I’ve used (Headshot ammo, shout out to them for providing a pretty decent Rival alternative) have so far been ok, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them will be. With the advent of 3D printing, information exchanges on the internet, and Amazon availability, the third party products available now is at a crazy level. That being said, yes, you may find some products perform better than Nerf products and that’s great. Common sense, not all Nerf products are created equal and not everything “for use with” Nerf is Nerf made nor may it be as safe as a product made by Nerf, or any other retailer that makes their products compatible for Nerf but also make their products for mass market (that means Dart Zone, Zuru, Buzz Bee). Just use common sense, read reviews, ask for recommendations, and happy hunting.
Bring me that horizon:

They’re still out there, and I hope to follow up on them at Toy Fair 2018, but Marshmallow Shooters, Paper Shooters, and Precision RBS are still out there and making products! Alternammo from foam darts are still around, so make sure to stay tuned here to find out more as I get info from them. 
Accessories! Modular battlefields!

Earlier I touched on licensed products by Jazwares, utilizing the Nerf brand (those are ok!)
Get familiar with these brands, as they offer ways to create your own adventures and battlefields in two very different ways. Battle Bunkerz offers inflatable barrels, drums, boxes, etc. that you can set up for your own purposes, like they do on Battle Universe. They look really cool aesthetically, and I do need to get these out in the field to try out for myself (it’s winter, and going outside is tough right now in Illinois! Indoor places by me are also few and far between. :P)
Fort Boards (and their sister product, Blaster Boards) are a bit costly to make a HUGE fort, but even the starter kits available can help make some decent panel obstacles for a small battlefield. The blaster board targets make for good objective and target shooting game play, while you also have the added benefit of a construction and fort building kit to add just a little more panache to your battlefield, whether indoor or out. It’s the first year I’ve seen other companies try to market directly to blaster play communities, and it’s interesting to see how everything plays out. The fact that these products exist and have an audience in this manner show that blaster play patterns are really coming to light. Yes, couches, chairs, and tables may still rule the field, but they don’t have to be the only things at risk (and these may save a lamp or two!)
WHEW! What did I miss? 2017 was a big year for blasters and associated products, feel free to sound off and let me know what you want to see in 2018! Happy new year, everyone!

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Toy Fair 2017 – Day 1! Schedule and Preview (Buzz Bee, Dart Zone, Zuru, Precision RBS)

Toy Fair 2017 – What’s to Come for 2017

UPDATE:

Here’s the Rail Blaster from Buzz Bee. Inline clip, clear door to see your ammo, and rear-loading!

 

The above shows a hint of things to come for this year’s Toy Fair, like that new prototype from Zuru. Also on the schedule today I have meetings with:

– Precision RBS (Rubber band shooting launchers from Super Impulse)
– Buzz Bee Toys (With word on new Walking Dead blasters)
– Zuru
– K’Nex (and maybe some new KForce builds) – it’s the 25th anniversary for K’Nex today so who knows what they have in store?
– Dart Zone this afternoon – they typically don’t have functional prototypes yet at Toy Fair (they save the big news for the summer reveal) but maybe they’ll bring something extra this time.
– World Tech Toys  – they make some new blasters to hit the market.
– Factory Entertainment – Soft Weapons and Tactics!
– And a special event for bloggers with Playmates Toys, home of the T-Blasts 

I’ll be checking in on Instagram and Facebook, don’t forget to get connected!

 

Blaster Test Tuesday! Taking aim at the Grossery Gang

Target Practice: Testing blasters on The Grossery Gang!

Thanks to the folks at Moose Toys for the samples! They sent along some members of The Grossery Gang, a new collectible mini set of toys. For those who don’t know, if you’ve seen the Trash Pack or the The Ugglys, you’ve seen Moose. They specialize in collectible sets like this, most recently the phenomena known as Shopkins.

And they let me take the the Grossery Gang (some of the set of 150) down the sight of my barrel. I tried a variety of blasters, from the Precision RBS Hyperion, the Nerf Recon MK II, the Reflex Tk-6 Revolver from Zuru, the Dart Zone Covert Ops Enforcer…. and a special friend from the past. Naturally, given the Grossery Gang toys measure 1″ x 1″ (besides the containers), aiming at them was a challenge. Even moreso trying to hit them from 20′, perhaps the saying “bull’s eye a womprat come to mind here?

These eyes, mocking you when you miss. Don’t miss. Don’t bink.

Toy blasters tend to be inaccurate enough as it is, because of ammo quality and a litany of other reasons why torsos are easier to tag than small precision targets, but consider the Challenge Accepted!

I feel like the Precision RBS blasters might have had the edge and lived up to their name by taking out 3 targets, while foam darts tried to go every which way but toward where my sights were. But maybe YOU, dear reader, will have better success? Take a look at the video, and don’t forget to Like and Subscribe!

Unboxing Zuru Sample Box (Bug Attack, XShot blasters)

Unboxing Video: Zuru Samples arrived!

Many thanks to Zuru Toys for the samples!

Here’s an unboxing while I get working on reviews. The Bug Attack Eliminator and I believe the XShot blasters are in stores already elsewhere, but they’ve been pretty spare in availability where I live. I am really just seeing them in larger quantities now, and even lost touch with Zuru until Toy Fair this year. If you’ve seen these already, great, I’m going to post a review later, and if you want to check it out, I hope to see you then!

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New York Toy Fair 2015 – In A Nutshell

New York Toy Fair 2015 in a Nutshell (The Good, the Not so Good, the…. What?)
Vas The Stampede

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.’ – Norman Vincent Peale

And there was a lot of shooting (darts, rounds, water pellets, zartz) at this year’s North American International Toy Fair. This makes 5 years now I’ve gone to the show and as always, I come back saying, “wow.” So here’s a quick rundown on what I saw, and some initial impressions.

Quick note: As always, this trip is not sponsored by any of the companies. No one pays to fly me out. This is all out of pocket for me on this trip to ensure I am covering what I want and saying what I need to say.

BRANDS:
There were a LOT of blaster type/associated brands that caught my eye this year. The Story So Far (in no particular order), followed by a taste/preview of things I liked (+) and/or didn’t like (-). As I intend to give each brand their own post, these tidbits are shots from the hip, what I readily recall.

  • Nerf (Hasbro)
    • DOOMINATOR +++++++++ (the amount of +s are completely arbitrary, but may relay my sense of enthusiasm) 
    •  Modulus blaster by itself (it’s a Stryfe, even if you can make additions)
    • Strike & Defend blaster (Literally, a “Stock Blaster”) +
    • Rival line ++++++++++++++++
    • Zombie Strike silly s Zombie Repellant + 
    • Rebelle Codebreaker + 
    • Tek Strike +
    • Rotofury doesn’t have a stock

 

BOOMco Needler – Halo

  • BOOMco (Mattel)
    • Halo blasters ++++
    • Spinsanity +
    • One of the new blasters is another triggerless/slam-fire affair – 
  • Zing 
    • New airborne toys/planes +
    • Firetek Styled Zano Bows +
    • Some additional roleplay items to the “Legends” line +
    • Firetek Style Sky Ripperz+
  • XC Shot/Bug Attack (Zuru)
    • Bug Attack will have included targets for additional hilarity +
    • New blasters for XC Shot (the ones with clips) were prototypes and not firing
    • Increased ranges for XC shot blasters + 
  • Primetime Toys
    • Not much new there, as a lot is still in the works. I did get video of the Talon, but Primetime promises some new product in the next few months. They did address some reports about the dart adhesive being problematic, and insist they have since fixed the problem. Comment below if you still find Primetime Toys streamline darts to fall apart, I’m sure they’d be interested to know. The Scorpion was one of their first forays going out of the Airzone line, and they plan to do more.
  • K’Nex +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A springer styled shotgun of their own.

    • I mean, seriously. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 
      • With a little working knowledge, I’d be interested to see how the standing K’Nex community excels with these blasters. They’re built with “regular” blaster play patterns in mind, with the intent of being able to withstand a drop/fall/hit like any other blaster currently on the market. DROP TEST HERE.
      • What makes me a believer? That one of the folks that works for K’Nex made a multi-barreled blaster (that fired on a single trigger pull after priming each individual plunger tube) out of the available kits. It took some work he said, but it worked out. To me, that spoke volumes of the potential of builds in this line. With enough plungers, connectors, rods, who knows what is possible. Also, look forward to their promotion coming this spring, to really find the best K’Nex fans out there! 
  • Marshmallow Shooters
  • Marshmallow Shooters Orballistics ammo
    • ORBALLISTICS. Reportedly going to get 50′ flat, and straight no less.+++
    • Foam ammo finally. Apparently the feedback was a lot of people didn’t like wasting food, so this is now a thing for their line. 
  • Discovery Kids
    • TBD: they had a number of blasters in boxes, nothing to demo. The designs looked like stuff we’ve seen, but if the price point is right (also, they might have some interesting licenses) I won’t discount them out right.
  • Moose Toys (From what they told me, they have a blaster in the works. Not your typical fare, but I’ll get more info on this later.)  
    • TBD
  •  NXT (Maya Group, from the way I see it, this is a reboot of the Xploderz line)
    • This iteration of water pellet shooters from Maya Group FINALLY HAZ A TRIGGER. After all this time, and the first run with BlasterPro, these blasters get a trigger. I will admit, I had misgivings about previous Maya Group blasters, but these seemed on point. Although, paintballers might see something very similar here (at least, the gravity fed hopper shape on top. +

  • NXT Generation (Bows, crossbows, etc)
    • Some of the most solidly-built blasters/shooters I’ve seen, but the ammo to me leaves something to be desired. They require a closer look from me for a determination on this next set. The shotgun I reviewed was a little expensive for what you got, but it’s a new year, with a new line of products. TBD

  • Ogo Sports (had a few interesting launchers, they might be good for objective-based gameplay) (N/A, as these are more for goals and objectives, and I see them as less for PvP.)
  • Hog Wild Toys (Power Poppers)
    • What is becoming a yearly standard, while these blasters are simplistic but freakin’ hilarious. +
      Honorable mention, right here! Made me think of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

    By my count, that’s about 13 different brands that made something blaster/launcher-related.
    There’s a LOT of press release info to go through, photos, and videos but I’ll release them all here! Stay tuned, as I will be releasing more galleries and videos this week (piece by piece, so as to not overwhelm you:)  and if you have any questions please leave in the (moderated) comments below!

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    Toy Fair 2015 – There, and Back Again. (Nerf and More Round up!)

    Toy Fair 2015 Preview – Expectations and a look back at Blasters in 2014
    Vas The Stampede

    Sorry it’s been awhile, you all! Just a heads up, while I maintain here, I am also posting content at the following:

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    Facebook: Foam From Above

    Just like the title says, I am here in New York City, and ready to go for another round at the New York Toy Fair. The blaster scene is a little different from last year, but there’s a lot of buzz surrounding this year’s show. Dare I say it, possibly even more than last year.

    NERF:

    Nerf had a hit on their hand it seems with the Rebelle line, expanding on the roleplay/bow and arrow aspect of the blasters to appeal to young girls. While I have my own opinions about gender specific toys, the line is still around, and going strong. So strong in fact, there will be a whole slew of new blasters to check out at this year’s show, including the Revolution Bow:

    Image taken from Toyqueen, writing for about.com

     
    Nerf’s largest release (literally) was something not on display last year, the Nerf Rhinofire. After the initial releases of the Slingfire, the Mega Thunderbow, and the Nerf Cam ECS-12, Nerf crashed through with one of the biggest, full auto blasters to date. While pricey and even a pain to reload, the blaster was a lot of fun to use.

    There is already a large amount of buzz for Nerf in 2015 as well, starting with info about the Rotofury, The Doominator, the Nerf Modulus, and most recently today, NERF RIVALS.

    The Rotofury
    Nerf Rival blaster (this is the Zeus MVX-1200)
    Nerf Zombie Strike DOOMINATOR

    Needless to say, that’s a lot of blaster to look at over the weekend. I’ll be back Sunday with the report on Nerf, after my visit to their showroom that morning.

    Other Brands:
     
    Tomorrow is the actual Day 1 of Toy Fair, but the Hasbro Showroom isn’t open to tours yet, just a special event. That being the case, I’m going to spend time checking out the other brands such as Zing Toys, Primetime Toys (makers of the Scorpion Gatling Gun), Hogwild Toys (the Power Poppers makers), Marshmallow Shooters, Maya Group (whose offering this year might be something different, the branding doesn’t seem Xploderz related but you never know), Zuru (if you bought the Vigilante), and of course, K’Nex and their K-Force. BOOMco will also be on hand at Mattel’s showroom, but I won’t get a look at their new stuff until Monday, during one of their media events.

    That being said, you never can be too sure what else might be on that show floor. I’ve seen push rockets, something called a “Titan Torpedo” (which looked a lot like the throwable Uberdart), and maybe there will be some new vehicle blasters like the VMD cars and Attacknid. But that’s part of the fun of the show for me, that extra sense of discovery!

    The big release from Zing last year, the Firetek Bow
    Ghostbusters Marshmallow Shooters first seen last year, just in time for the new film!

    It’s going to be a busy few days, make sure to check the social links above for live-updates, but come back here for the full writeups. Thanks for your time!