Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lazer Tag Augmented Reality: But the reality is..

We've heard of Hasbro's new re-entry into the home laser tag market with the all new Lazer Tag "Augmented Reality" line for a while now, and while on my trip to California I was happy to pick up a pair on my travels to review while on the fly. I've had mixed views on these bad boys since they were first announced; my main gripe being the reliance on an Apple iphone or iPod Touch device. I was however given hope by my well respected learned friend and fellow blogger Bazookafied of Tactical Tag (who pretty much is the man when it comes to laser tag) who let me know these new taggers' key functions fine without any need for an iPhone. 

Sold I said, and here I am with a pair to review.. How do we find them? All is revealed after the jump:)

Anyone who knows me and is willing to endure the ear bashing I'll make about Apple products will know I absolutely refuse to purchase one- which I thought would render these new taggers useless for me. I also didn't like the idea of a sub 100 dollar toy relying on consumers to own  500 dollar plus devices to operate them- it made little sense to me. Sure, a significant number of users out there probably DO have an iPhone, but I myself do not. But I do love laser tag. I love new stuff. And these new blasters are backwards compatible with the awesome Phoenix LTX's- so hells yes I bought two:D

The are apparently available in a two pack, but I bought mine individually. They say "from the makers of Nerf" but aren't Nerf branded specifically and come in a slick looking slimline box. Older teen boys again, but different imagery to what you'd see on a Nerf pack.

Inside the box, you get the tagger, the iPhone/iPod Touch housing, manual and rubber inserts to use for your chosen Apple device. In my case, they'll just be put away:)

 As with previous Lazer Tag products, they come in two different colours- it doesn't really matter which colour you get as far as vs/team play is concerned, so it's just up to individual choice. Personally I like the white.

So, let's talk briefly about the history and evolution of Lazer Tag; They were a line of blasters that originally were released in the 80s by a mob called 'Shoot the Moon' which went on with pretty amazing success at the time, also doing well in the arena commercial laser tag market too. Lazer Tag came back in various guises, mainly the new Tiger electronics 'Lazer Tag Team Ops' system which did away with the wearable sensor vest and focused on targeting a dome sensor mounted on the blaster and brought in some rather detailed and complex hosted games available.

Lazer Tag was revamped again with the awesome Phoenix LTX line which did away with the complex hosting/scoring system (although were backwards compatible and can be a part of a hosted LTTO game).

None of these made it to Australian shores; I'm hoping these new ones do (and am optimistic, given they list Hasbro Australia on the boxes as contacts), although I've picked mine up in LA.

Soo, the new line. Slim, light weight and quite sturdily built is what my first impressions are of the exterior shell. They feel pretty good in hand for both big and small hands. They are backwards compatible with earlier Lazer Tag models which is AWESOME.  They've done away with physical ammo and health gauges- these are presumably now monitored thru the Head Up Display (HUD) on the iPhone/iPod Touch for those who have them; and are as simple as two switches on the side- one for setting the tagger for indoor/outdoor mode, and the other for powering up the unit.

Using these without the iPhone/iPod Touch attachment means they're essentially just revamped versions of the Phoenix LTX's as far as functionality is concerned with a bit of LTTO thrown in on the side.

 First thing is they've reverted back to the 'reloading' clip on the front of the tagger as with the older LTTO blasters rather than using the 'ejecting' clip at the base of the grip like how the Phoenix LTX's do it. As far as functionality and playability is concerned, this IS a great thing. As far as cool factor- well one of the things that was so tough about the Phoenix LTX's was the mad 'eject' reload motion, giving you that pretend feeling of dropping empty clips and slapping in new ones. I personally loved this feature, so am disappointed it's gone, even though it is for a better more usable mechanism.

Another feature from the LTTO's is the secondary sensor lens, used to detect when enemy players are nearby- sort of an enemy proximity alert thingy. That seductive woman's voice warning you of "Danger" is a great function that was sadly missing from the Phoenix LTXs and is quite useful when you're patrolling an area and want to know exactly WHEN the guy's about to take you out:)

Top lens is for firing; bottom is the enemy proximity detection thingy
 The trigger and shields layout look a lot like the Phoenix LTX system with the shield placed on the front/inside of the trigger guard. It's pretty comfortable stuff- how the shields work is push to activate (up to a certain amount of time- I think it's around 15 seconds but I could be wrong?) and push again to stop. Shields can run out, but then you can reload your tagger to bring them back again. As with all the Lazer Tag blasters before the LTAR's, you can't fire while your shield is on.

As far as firing is concerned, they've also brought back the "overheat" function where you're penalised for rapid continuous firing by your tagger stopping for a brief moment to 'cool down'. It's annoying, but I also quite like this idea as it trains you to be more controlled with your shots rather than random firing (which with laser tag, doesn't work like it does with Nerf or water fights)

The LTAR takes six AA batteries, similar to previous Lazer Tag blasters by means of a battery sled that slides into the back of the tagger and kept in by a small phillips head screw. The sled was a lil' tight fitting in my testing units and also didn't feel as well made and sturdy as previous battery sleds of other blasters. Still, it does the job:)

On top of the blaster is the targeting dome and essentially the thing you're going to be aiming for constantly of your enemies'. I quite like having the target on the tagger over a wearable vest- what it means is if they're going to be in range to shoot at you, they're also in range to be shot at and be exposed at the same time. The domes have LED's in them that flash every time you're hit, and will stay lit once you're out of the game.

Now the big news- the HUD attachment. The big news for the LTAR line is the incorporating of a new Apple iPhone/iPod Touch to the mix, with a free downloadable app from the App store allows you to bring a world of gameplay that traditionally is found in first person shooter video games. The LTAR comes with a housing that clips on to the tagger on the top, replacing a removable casing. 

 If you don't wish to use the HUD options or don't have an iPhone, then this isn't relevant, but if you do, you can remove the above casing as shown below, which also hides the 3.5mm cable plug to attach to the iPhone housing.

Once you remove the casing, you can attach the iPhone/iTouch housing by sliding it down till it snaps in place. A word of caution and a personal gripe- once the housing has been attached, it's attached for GOOD. That's right folks, for some reason Hasbro have elected to have a removable casing to house the cable that can be attached and removed whenever, but an iPhone housing that is PERMANENT.

This is REALLY annoying for me, and I really do wish I'd read the manual about this because I only did so AFTER I attached the housing and realised it can no longer come off. It doesn't even wiggle or have any give.Given the fact hell will freeze over before I own an Apple product means I'm stuck with one of my taggers with a big square housing of nothingness on top.

I appreciate Hasbro wanted to do this to make the iPhone attachment process be as sturdy and solid as possible, but for me it made no sense that it was something you couldn't remove, even for transportation, or for when you want to play and don't have access to an Apple device. It's a very awkward design to transport and store now (especially when travelling!) with the housing permanently attached, and does this mean I just throw out the original casing?

Now here's my next related gripe and what will possibly be a game changer;  as you probably are aware, Apple have just released their new iPhone 5.. and it's apparently with larger screen and longer in dimensions. Now obviously no one's got one just yet to test this at the time of this review, but the attachments that come with the LTAR are for an iPhone 4 and an iPod Touch so I'm going to take a stab here and suggest.. the new iPhone.. is not going to fit. 

Now over the years this has been nothing new for after market Apple product accessories, but the LTAR's only JUST came out.  Traditionally, Apple users are mad crazy about their products and love to upgrade, so the typical iPhone user will probably want to do so.. causing a huge spanner in the works for these awesome LTARs.  

The same goes with whether or not Hasbro release an Android compatible app; my Android phone is quite compact and also relatively obscure and I can't see a manufacturer ever considering it in their designs for future housing. People are also pretty fickle about their phones and often change quite regularly, but these LTARs at this stage are fixed to just the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The easiest solution would be for Hasbro to redesign a housing to accommodate the new phones, but the issue is even if Hasbro DOES release a new housing for the iPhone 5.. you can't remove the housing for the current iPhone 4/ iPod Touch to replace it. The relatively permanent nature of these housing attachments means instantly dating the tagger, and while the unit itself is backwards compatible.. the hardware it relies on is what will cause it most pain in the long run.

BUT! Lets review these LTAR taggers as they are, with no Apple attachments; they work a treat as a basic grass roots laser tag game system JUST like the Phoenix LTXs. What's very cool is they are compatible with older Lazer Tag gear and look fantastic.  Gameplay is very similar to the older units as far as the sound effects, countdowns and basic weapons/shields although I DO find the woman's voice to be a lil MORE seductive sounding than in previous lines, or maybe that's just me:D

I'm still personally a fan of the old LTXs but these new LTAR taggers bring back the really cool features of the LTTO line to make for a much more complete unit in terms of functionality and usability. Overheating trains us to shoot wisely with more accuracy; the proximity/enemy ahead alert is cool and the reload mechanism is, while not as fun as the LTXs, much more usable in battle. 

They're accurate, pretty well made and the fact they're backwards compatible means they'll fit in nicely if you've already got yourselves Lazer Tag kit of old and don't have to feel like you're starting all over again. Pricewise at under 40 dollars a single blaster is in my opinion reasonable for what they offer. As a basic system, I love them, and they fit in nicely with my existing Lazer Tag gear, though if you were to buy these and play them as they are out of the box, you may find them a little.. basic (though that suits me just fine)

The thing is, I'm NOT the norm here, because the selling point for these blasters IS the Apple HUD and that's where you can do some pretty mad things such as change weapons, see the lasers shooting, targeting scopes AND even organise air strikes against your opponents. Given I don't own an Apple product, the App review will have to happen later when I can get my hands on one; for now I'll say I do like the new LTARs out of the box. I'm just curious to see how they'll handle the new iPhone 5...


  1. YES!! was so excited for this review. Can't wait till they are released in australia (brisbane to be specific)

  2. Me thinks that, despite your hatred for Apple products, you should get a friend's iPhone, get the app for this on it, and just try it out, at least once. Also, I'll bet the mount is permanent like the Longstrike's stock is. Prolly just need to take a screwdriver to it.

    1. The mount is not permanent noob :D

    2. Did you read my next sentence? Let me repeat myself. ' I'll bet the mount is permanent like the Longstrike's stock is. Prolly just need to take a screwdriver to it.' See? I'm referring to another Nerf thing that had a part that claimed to be on forever once you attach it, but could be removed by opening it.

    3. My brother and I figured out how to remove it. This method requires two people, a small flat head screwdriver or pick, and a pair of pliers. First grab the square tab from the inside of the cradle (should be attached to a tab that helps lock the cradle in.) Pull it out in tell you can jam a pick or screwdriver in to hold the tab. Must be strong tool. Then push the cradle up away from the gun as hard at you can and it will pop off. Do in an area where you don't mind if the cradle will fly for a few yards. This is easier if you have a second blaster (without cradle attached) for reference.

  3. Shame its not Android compatible, would be fantastic if it was

  4. Go Pocket! Down with Apple... I wonder if they'll make an Android compatible one, 'cause I definitely buy that!

    1. I've heard they're planning to do so, which makes me really happy because I recently got an Android phone.

    2. It's in the works. Only trouble is that Android phone sizes aren't consistent. Then again, now the Apple iPhone5 isn't consistent with it's size either.

      I'll have an update once the Android functionality for the App is released.

  5. I bit the bullet and bought a pair of LTAR's a few weeks ago, finally deciding to hang up my Nerf blasters for a while and get my friends into Lazer Tag for winter wars since summer's winding down and our Super Soakers are going to be retired for the season.

    Suffice to say I've never had a more active one-on-one battle. I forgot about the versatility of these things considering I haven't played Lazer Tag since the 1990's. I never realized how sharply they respond to hits and how advanced their features were compared to what I remember. I mean, an IFF and an infrared warning reciever? These things feel like something a modern fighter aircraft would be equipped with. I know that the LTTO had these too, but I never got a chance to use of those, so...

    But you can thank the LTAR for getting me back into Lazer Tag again. Here's hoping for a fun winter.

  6. Light strikes are a lot cheaper

  7. There is a way to remove the cradle without damaging it. I've got the instructions up on my page.

  8. I ended up getting these for my kids for Xmas and then modded the holder to fit my iPhone 5. IMHO, it's way more fun with the phone and you can check out the mod here:

  9. I've watched the video where you showed how to host the three different systems. Nice! I have a few questions and am hoping you can help when you have some time.

    1. How many blasters can the "Tiger Team Ops" system host?

    2. Can the TTO system host the LTAR's on different teams or do they all have to be solo?

    A bunch of us have played 4 on 4 team games and it would be awesome to know who hit who. If the TTO system will do the LTARS on teams, I'll pick up a set ASAP.

    Might have to pick up some more blasters, there were people waiting to get into the game and EVERYBODY had an awesome time. We're already planning our next game and a couple of the players already bought their own blasters.


  10. No longer a permanent cradle.. You can take it off if you guys haven't read the other post yet? is weird to say it's permanent when I released my cradle from my device after a day. Like the other post says, long nose pliers onto the little notch inside the bottom of the cradle, pull on it to release the lock, and push/pull the cradle off. The instructions should really tell you that, or the company should have at least designed it to come off easier instead of scratching our heads.