You might think you know laser tag, but you don't. Hasbro's Lazer Tag (that's with a "z") takes the classic hide, seek and shoot game and adds in an augmented reality layer. Our first thoughts: this is silly. Our thoughts after trying it out: hey, it's pretty damned fun.
We're not big fans of augmented reality games for two reasons. The first is that AR games usually require object markers in order for a camera to track it properly (3DS owners who've played with the AR games can attest to this). The other reason AR games get a bad rap is plain and simple: they suck. So you'll excuse us if we weren't expecting too much from Hasbro's Lazer Tag toy blasters. With an open mind, we picked up a Lazer Tag blaster, slipped in an iPhone and braced ourselves.
Getting To Know The Basics
A little bit on the heavy side, the blasters have two triggers: one for firing weapons and one for activating a shield. There's also a reloading trigger where a magazine would normally be. With designs clearly influenced from Hasbro's Nerf and Super Soaker blasters, the Lazer Tag guns don't feel cheap at all. They kind of have be rugged, considering Hasbro's target demographic for Lazer tag is the 11 to 14-year-old range. Kids at those ages are rough, so the toys need to be able to take a beating.
You also need an iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S or fourth generation iPod Touch. Once you've got a compatible iOS device (sorry Android users), you lock it into the blaster's chamber and fire up the free Lazer Tag app and from there you can dive right in and shoot aliens or friends. Here's what it looks like:
Thankfully, the Lazer Tag app is fast, responsive to all the aiming you'll be doing and there's a slew of features that add depth to the game and give it a healthy dose of replay value.
Pew Pew Pew, But In Real Life
In single player mode, you can shoot enemy targets in six levels with difficulty increasing as you make your way through each one. Remember, these are augmented reality enemies that appear onscreen in all directions, so you can actually see your weapons firing lasers at aliens, explosions when enemies are destroyed and blue shields when they're activated.
Multiplayer is where Lazer Tag really shines. Twenty-four players can join in together in team battles or deathmatches, which can make for quite the experience, assuming you've got friends and they've got Lazer Tag blasters and iPhones or iPod Touches.
The free Lazer Tag app (available now on the App Store) includes six weapons, each of which can be upgraded three times to provide different levels of firepower, two unlockable special attacks including a plane that can drop air strikes and a drone that shoots rains hail fire on foes. All items can be unlocked by powering through the game or by purchasing them in-app for between $0.99 to $1.99, depending on item and upgrade.
Range is not too bad, either. Blasters can sense shots from each other from 250 feet, which, when you think about it, is more or less enough, if you're playing outdoors.
We're not saying Lazer Tag is more fun than paintball, but for the combination of the augmented reality app and physical toy blaster, it's a good time that marries the tactile feel of toys with the digital appeal of the app.
Lazer Tag hits store shelves on August 1 for $39.99 in two yellow/gray or orange/white. A bundle pack with two blasters will be available later on October 1 for $74.99. And if you're wondering, yes, the Lazer Tag blasters do require batteries — six AA batteries — so stock up if you don't have.
All photos taken by Raymond Wong for DVICE.