Nerf Arena Blast

Trying to be violent without being violent.

2_1Think of Nerf Arena Blast as Unreal Tournament with spongy weapons wielded by teenagers. The single-player game does involve a tournament, pitting you against a series of young Nerf warriors who are formed into teams and who prowl their own particular set of maps. Each team you face must be bested in three kinds of games: Point Blast (your typical deathmatch), Speed Blast (a race through a set of waypoints), and Ball Blast (a scavenger hunt). Once you’ve beaten every team, a final Point Blast victory completes the single-player game.

Although most of the maps lack an architectural theme, individual rooms are carefully designed and vibrantly colored. A few maps have a pleasing structure that gives you the feel of occupying a real location—one with a purpose—chief among them a map located in space that features interior locations with normal gravity and exterior catwalks with low gravity. While attractive, the vibrancy of the textures does at times result in a primary color jamboree that makes detecting opponents difficult on the eyes.

Your opponents in the single-player tournament are all “bots” (that is, enemies with enough artificial intelligence to make seemingly human decisions). Often the Nerf Arena Blast bots do indeed run for health, weapons, and power-ups, and they correctly navigate Speed Blast and Ball Blast maps in pursuit of special objectives. Sometimes they display a disturbing level of machine-like stupidity, however. All too frequently, bots get stuck in a corner or at the edge of water. Jump pads are often too much for the bot brain, and bots will jump onto a ledge only to fruitlessly hop back down on the jump pad—and repeat this nonsense until distracted.

At the other extreme, the occasional bot will be infused with incredible machine-like precision. It will pull off inhuman mid-air shots ten degrees from the vertical, and it will dominate a particular room to the point where the merest edge of your body approaching around a nearby corner will be enough to ensure your demise. These events, too, make the bots seem more machine-like. All in all the bots are capable, but they aren’t really believable replacements for human players.

The three game types offer new spins on deathmatching. Even the most traditional, Point Blast, introduces a nice scoring twist—knock off the player who’s in first place, and she’ll leave behind a pill worth 1,000 points (which anyone can snag). The other top players leave less valuable residues, but the fact that there are bonus points at all rewards the aggressive and talented player. In Ball Blast you have to collect and score with all seven balls before the level ends, but the seventh ball doesn’t appear until you have scored with the other six. You can imagine the fun when a player who doesn’t want the game to end just yet hoards the seventh ball. Speed Blast requires careful attention to the score as well, as simply running through the flags fastest does not guarantee a win.

10_1Several of the ten Nerf weapons are modeled after plastic equivalents that can be purchased at toy stores; others are mere flights of fancy. Each has a secondary fire option, the most interesting being that of the Sidewinder (your point of view switches to that of a slightly sluggish guided missile). Weapon animations are very well done—especially those for the Hyperstrike and Whomper. Balancing is a bit off, with certain weapons clearly being the heavyweights—these weapons are almost always more difficult to come by, however. Power-ups include the usual assortment of health boosts and armor.

Nerf Arena Blast is best suited for gamers who want to enjoy the thrill of firing a virtual gun at virtual humans, but who are tired of playing Quake III Arena or Unreal Tournament.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win98

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