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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: December 13, 1999
Even though computer gaming has been around so long there seems to be nothing completely new under the sun, every once in a long while a title comes along that is such a fresh implementation of a tried-and-true genre that it knocks my socks off. Sometimes this glorious occurrence is completely unexpected. When I heard Hasbro was developing a Nerf title for the personal computer under its Atari label, I figured it would be a mindless kiddie offering that would be about as thrilling as the Barbie design software now flooding the market. I have never been a big fan of Nerf toys and could not imagine how an electronic representation of combat using Nerf weaponry could be any fun at all.
But from the very moment I installed this program, I could see how very wrong I was. Developed by the little-known California-based Visionary Media, Nerf ArenaBlast is a real stunner. Even a few minutes of play was enough to show me that this title places gamers in the midst of frenzied and exciting combat within gorgeous arenas that capture the very essence of tournament competition. While there is no attempt to develop a meaningful storyline such as that in Valve’s Half-Life, Nerf ArenaBlast is clearly a top-notch first-person shooter. Pitting an amateur team called the Twisters against professional teams represented by the Tribe, Tycoons, Rockheads, Barracudas, Lunas and Orbiteers, the action is designed to reveal definitively the very best Nerf champion.
There are three types of gameplay options: Point Blast, Speed Blast and Ball Blast. Point Blast is a ten-minute competition like the traditional first-person shooter deathmatch, except that in addition to being awarded points for knocking others out of the competition, you may also rack up points by hitting certain scoring targets. Speed Blast is a race among the players to tag seven flags in the proper order within an arena while overcoming obstacles and surviving opponent onslaughts. Ball Blast is the most complex and potentially the most fun of the three: While knocking out opponents, you gain vital points by shooting seven colored balls into designated targets throughout the arena, and the competition ends when someone has shot all seven through any of the goals. Trying simultaneously to locate balls, avoid attacks, steal balls from opponents and hit the targets is a real rush. The design of this last type of contest shows the real innovation that went into this title’s development.
While in single-player mode you compete against artificially intelligent “bots” similar to those in Unreal Tournament, the multiplayer competition can support up to 20 human players going at each other over a LAN or the Internet. You may even add computer-controlled bots to a multiplayer competition. Unfortunately, there is no real cooperative multiplayer mode in which you can meaningfully team up with others and split up assignments to accomplish your objectives. In a very odd twist, NerfEd, the editor used to build Nerf ArenaBlast, is included on the CD but is not supported by either Hasbro Interactive or Visionary Media: The documentation gruffly states that “neither company is able to provide technical support or answer questions regarding NerfEd at all, so please don’t ask.” Replay value is thus dramatically extended by the great competitive multiplayer possibilities, but not in the way it could have been by the inclusion of the unsupported editor.
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