Nerf N-Strike for the Wii is a shooting game that ships with a Hasbro Nerf Blaster that can be configured to hold the nerf-darts that come with the gun or to hold the Wii controller. What this means is a real gunslinger feel as you play the game. As a person who spent many hours as a kid fantasizing about being a cowboy, I have to confess I loved the feel of pointing and shooting at the screen.
The things you shoot are not people I am never happy with shooting even digital humans. With Nerf N-Strike you shoot objects such as blocks and spheres, and you shoot machines. The educational value of these games for young children is sometimes missed by adults. What to an adult is an inane exercise to shoot only certain robots in certain colors teaches identification skills that are developmentally important. And being wrong means the robots shoot the bejeesus out of you. It’s fun at the same time that it’s frustrating to get creamed.
Getting shot, however, is non-threatening. Instead, you see the suction-cup end of a nerf dart as if it has plastered itself onto the other side of your screen. It makes a squish sound, hangs around for a second or two, and then falls away. That is not to say that when a barrage of darts comes at you, you don’t feel overwhelmed sometimes.
I like my games pretty simple to play. I have never really liked having to learn complex button-pushing to get the best score. I prefer to build skills of speed and accuracy than arcane secret handshakes with the controller to win. The Nerf N-Strike is just that kind of play.
You can choose between Free Play and Mission Mode in the game. Free Play offers you seven skill sets to master. There are a variety of blaster choices that make it either easy or hard to win at a given skill set, so it is a good way to learn about the difference between power and speed, accuracy and firepower.
The first thing that happens in Free Play mode is that you have to choose your character. I didn’t notice any real difference between my skill sets with the different characters, but maybe I haven’t played it methodically enough to notice. The five characters to choose from are Shane, Komodo, Jackal, Raven, and Tango. Raven is the only girl.
Blocks: With blocks, on the first two levels, Blockade and Blockade Elite, you have to destroy blocks to discover the target block and shoot it or knock it out of bounds before time runs out. The basic mode is pretty easy. Elite level difficulty really depends on your weapon. if you use the Hydra gun that sprays seven bullets per shot, you can demolish pretty much anything. Piece of cake. But a single shot gun takes some skill, especially since you cannot control your angle and there are obstacles often in the way. With the next two levels, Pummel and Pummel Elite, you must remove all the blocks except the goal blocks. Here, a weapon with too much firepower or a spray of bullets will make it impossible to win. So each round has its tests of skill that go up in very satisfying increments.
Revolt: This one duplicates the first half of the Mission Mode play. You move through the robot world shooting robots until you reach a certain boss battle moment, and then you get thrown out of the game. To progress beyond that point, you must play through the four levels of Mission Mode for the final battle. This has two levels, regular and elite, for you to practice your combat skills.
Onslaught: Here, wave after wave of robots come at you as you try to stay alive long enough to shoot the goal block when it appears. Here, the less often you have to reload the better. There are four levels and each one raises your adrenaline more and more as the robots keep coming at you.
Range: Play this to practice your aim. There is no time limit. You shoot objects as they pass by and can reset the targets when you have blasted them all or change position to shoot from near or far. There are no levels here, just shoot until you feel done.
Sniper: Sniper is the only category where the higher 2 levels of play are nothing like the lower levels. At the StandOff levels, you pick off certain robots while leaving others. Shoot the wrong color robot and you get pummeled. At the 2 LookAlive levels, you go through the labyrinth of rooms like you do in the Revolt of the Machines levels, only this time you must shoot the robots without hitting Bob, your robot mentor, even though he is often in the way. If you shoot Bob, he annihilates you with nerf bullets. The reason for this is more clear at the end of the Mission Mode game, when the story comes together and Bob...well, no spoiler. Play it yourself.
Draw: Here you have to hit the robots in a shooting gallery before time runs out. The first two levels are all about speed. The second involve speed and recognition. Shoot the wrong color of robot and they barrage you back.
Spheres:Here you have to shoot balls on a surface. Sometimes you must blast them and sometimes herd them with bullets into pockets. I don’t really understand the skill here. I guess since the balls roll, you have to be good with your aim, or use a multi-shot blaster. I found this the least challenging of the levels.
One annoying thing in Free Play mode is that once you finish a level, you are thrown all the way out to the main menu. If you want to do the next level of that challenge, you have to pick a character and choose Free Play mode and go to the challenge menu again.
In Mission Mode, you are put into the character of Shane and are selected by a robot mentor to become defeat the other four contestants to become the N-Strike Elite fighter. At each stage of the battle, you enter a chamber with seven doors. Behind each door is a challenge from the Free Play mode. You have a target score of your opponent to beat. As you enter each chamber you learn the back story of each of the other characters.
I have to say that I found the storyline in the Mission Mode to be quite dark. Each of the challengers has a troubled past. I was particularly disturbed by Raven’s story, as it looked like she was going to shoot a bully in revenge. It turns out her gun is a nerf gun and she shoots near him not at him as a warning shot. But still, I had a moment’s pause given the history of teenagers and guns in this country. However, if you are going to allow there to be games with guns in your life, you probably feel the gulf between fantasy and reality is far enough for a healthy kid to distinguish. And the storyline in the end shows that Bob, or some person behind Bob, is in fact taking advantage of their anger and rage for purposes of his own.
Each of the four levels gets progressively harder to win. Occasionally, a new blaster is offered in a stage, and if you win using it, the weapon becomes part of your arsenal. This can be cool, but some of the guns are not the most effective for winning that particular challenge, and so you have to choose between going forward or winning.
The Mission ends on an open-ended note, suggesting that evil is not totally destroyed and may return. I have not found a way to that level in this game yet. Perhaps it is here. Perhaps it is waiting in the next game. I suspect there are more levels because I’m sure there are some weapons that I have not yet unlocked. It’s hard to know for sure because not all the l the weapons in your arsenal are available all the time. I found that irksome. Once I had won the weapon, I wanted it to be always available to me.
One thing that suggests there are secrets yet to discover in the game is that there is a codes tab in the main menu. I tried guessing codes with no luck. The screen just informs me that it is an unknown code. So there are secrets to this game I have not yet unlocked. To a certain degree, I don’t care. I like the heft of the blaster and the arcade-feel fun of actually shooting at the targets. This is a good game for kids and for older players like me who are not into the realistic warlike fighting games but like picking off the targets in the age old tradition of Space Invaders.
Nerf N-Strike website
NERF N-Strike for the Wii
comes bundled with the NERF SWITCH SHOT EX-3 blaster
MSRP of $59.99.
Additional blasters for multiplayer games - $14.99.
Rated “Everyone 10+” by the ESRB