What's really the game changer is these new guns are now sporting the all important triggers (complete with 'safety's') while still boasting some serious performances out of the box. We were pretty stoked to get our hands on the 'Pump Action S2500' model to have a play; it talks a big game but we put it to the test- our very detailed review after the jump.
When it comes to toy blasters, foam is the dominant ammo of choice for most fans, but there are always alternatives are always popping up for consideration. Me, I personally love water guns, and I love laser tag as well but these are no longer the only other choices. There've been home variants of paintball, rubber bands, spit wads and even marshmallows but one of the more innovative ammo selections are a modified 'water ball'; similar to those pretty colourful squishy balls found in centrepiece vases at wedding receptions:) What makes this ammo appealing is the disposable, biodegradable nature of the balls- they're inexpensive, disposable, fire a fair distance and splat harmlessly on impact without any of the drag of retrieving them afterwards.
These were first seen with the "X-Ploderz" range but these haven't really taken off here in Australia, partly due to poor exposure, but mainly due to the lack of the all important trigger that really is an important aspect of toy blaster fun. Rather than replace them though, the Maya Group have come back with another all new line with Blaster Pro that addresses many of the community's general complaints towards blasters in general.
The packaging for the Pump Action S2500 looks pretty sweet. Sleek looking box, with a more grown up design, you can definitely see they're acknowledging the older market of toy blaster fans and are straight away appealing to them using key words and phrases that'll attract their attention.
It is ironic that it demands you wear safety eyewear when playing, but does not include any in the box, unlike Nerf's Dart Tag line or even Jakks Pacific's competing Max Force gear. I personally don't care as I do have my own preferred Oakley's anyway.
"Airsoft performance" and "Paintball splatter" is homage to all those airsoft and paintball fans who bag out foam dart warfare- you've also got the selling points of it being "spring powered", 150 FPS/Velocity (never seen this on a blaster box before) boasting 75 feet plus in ranges. And the ammo is.. funnily enough.. 8mm.
The big thing is the "this is not a toy" declaration on the box-ironic given it's available at Toys R Us, but I guess what they're trying to say is it's some serious kit.
Well at least it looks it. Other than the safety cap on the tip, there's no orange or gaudy bright colours here- it's a whole lotta grey here and clearly designed to look like a pump action shot gun. I like the design, it's got a decent amount of role play cool factor here.
Build quality is pretty sturdy- I quite like how it feels in the hand. The S2500 isn't huge, and it's quite light but the plastic feels decently made and not rattley or brittle like some other blaster lines. The pump action is smooth and gives decent amount of spring/resistance without it being stiff and unwieldy.
The ammo comes in dry form, in these little 'seeds' that need to be soaked for an hour or so; once this has happened you end up with these squishy clear blue 'wet balls' that are ready to shoot. They're quite soft and squishy, very bouncy and break apart if you squeeze them hard, or alternatively fire them from the gun:)
Once your ammo has been 'grown', you can fill up your clip and attach it to the Blaster Pro gun. Higher capacity clips are available, but even the standard clear clip stores quite a number of rounds. Attaching the clip is a simple slide action; clips are also interchangable with other Blaster Pro models.
The S2500 comes with a 'safety' switch/button near the trigger- you need to press this in for the trigger to function, which I thought was a neat novel touch.
Priming the blaster is simply pulling back on the pump grip located at the front of the blaster, in true shot gun style.
Something that does happen occasionally is loose ammo can fall out through the barrel if you point your blaster down towards the ground. It's not a big deal given you have a bootload of rounds to fire off anyway, but was just something I noticed- that I was leaving water ballz behind:P
Firing the trigger lets out quite a large 'crack' noise, leading me to believe there's quite some power going on inside the S2500- and the ranges would be testimate to this. Distances are a little hit and miss in the beginning, but after the chambers are well filled with rounds, distances can be quite impressive and the boasted 75ft+ performance can be quite accurate.
Although given they're "wet balls", you'd assume this is best for outdoor play, which it is, but admittedly we went nuts indoors in my lounge room and kitchen area, and the balls merely bounced all over the walls and floor and just settled to be picked up with a vacuum cleaner when we were done (or even reused at times). Those that weren't picked up, just sat there and after finding the balls a few days later, they had slowly 'dehydrated' and shrank to close to original seed size. They don't leave a stain or mess, and while we don't necessarily RECOMMEND indoor play (more for the ear bashing that is inevitable from your parents or partner), rest assured it's minimal if any damage can be caused by them. The water balls are also non toxic- as one of my friends decided to test out by chewing on them. I know. Educated, right?:P
Probably the main area of disappointment is the lack of feedback that you've hit your target. While the enclosed colour changing target changes to red when you land a shot, hitting a real life opponent is less obvious. It's GOOD that the rounds don't hurt on impact, but half the time we didn't even know if our shots were connecting or not, as they leave the blaster quickly, are small and difficult to trace. At the end of a few games we could debrief and report how many times we felt those squishy balls hit us in the chest and legs, but otherwise it wasn't like with a foam dart/disc where you can visibly see it connect, or with a laser tag gun where you get audible/visual cues like lights and sounds to let you know your shot was successful.
It actually takes quite a bit for the ammo to explode/disintergrate on impact, and half the time they just bounced off the target in full rather than any "splat" resulting from the shot. Because of this, I found half the time (maybe because I WAS stupid enough to be playing indoors close quarters) I was being hit by the ricocheting of my own ammo hitting the walls and smacking me back in the head:P This isn't the Blaster Pro's fault, but just something I found while playing.
So the verdict? Blaster Pro is pretty cool to be honest, and the Pump Action S2500 was definitely a real hit with myself and my co testers. It performs as it should, looks and feels great and has this really fun role play element to it that had visitors reaching for it straight away. Distances are great and finally, we're experiencing a wet ball blaster with a trigger; something that the Xploderz line lacked.
Whilst they're not available in Australia per se, they ARE available from Amazon.com and it is confirmed Amazon will ship them Down Under, with no interference from our Customs.
I haven't been able to see/try the Vapor blasters by Razor as I assume this would be the natural line for comparison, but so far I think Blaster Pro should hold its own. I'd probably like to see the ammo in brighter colours (maybe even the glow in the dark tracers like the Xploderz have now) so I can visually see the rounds connect to my target better, but this is actually quite fun and a decent alternative to the foam dart blaster. If the price is right, sure we'd recommend it fo sho. :D