With the London Toy Fair finally over for another year, it's time to sit down with a nice hot cup of tea and think about what we have seen.
This year, we saw a change in tact from Hasbro. The unprecedented press releases at the beginning of the year meant I already knew what I was going to see when I got to the Hasbro stand. I am still not sure whether this was a good thing for me. Although it was pretty cool to get an early look at this years blasters, it was a bit of a bummer that some of the excitement I usually feel was absent this year. That said, this year I could focus on the things I wanted to know about the new goodies instead of melting into a gooey mess of excitement.
Oddly, this year Hasbro had given up their usual position within the Olympia exhibition hall, in the middle, in favour of the more curious position, upstairs, at the back. It struck me as a little odd that the world's biggest toy company and sponsor of the exhibition had given up it's prominent position in the hall for a dark corner. Granted anyone going to the Toy Fair will already know who they are but it still felt a bit weird. Not only that but it meant I would have to walk farther!
Since you already know the majority of what I saw, I will break down what I learned, answer some of your questions and confirm any rumours that have been floating about. Before we start, it should be noted that the Hasbro stand was very busy and was filled with men in suits. It was also fairly small, no more than 50' long. For these reasons, it was impossible to get confirmation of ranges firing one or two darts into a crowd every now and then. The only indication we could get on power was shooting each other at close range. Not ideal by any stretch but it was the best we could do. All of the blasters we played with were handmade prototypes. Some of them were battered and didn't work properly. All of the observations I make below are based on these prototypes and what I was told by Hasbro's UK Brand Manager for NERF. Please bare in mind that Autumn is a long way off. Things can change. I am told that the design of the Demolisher alone has changed 3 times in the last 6 months.
We will start with the MEGA Thunderbow.
Not as big as I thought. Maybe 3 feet long and surprisingly light. Pretty comfortable to carry but a bit too bulky to be considered 'wieldy'. I can confirm that it is not a true bow and that pulling on the string articulates the top arm and primes the blaster. Release the string and the arm springs forwards, firing a dart. There is no 'catching' action either so this suffers the same problem as the Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow. If you don't pull all the way back your shot will barely clear the barrel.
I wasn't too impressed with this. It is a bit of fun and in the right hands I'm sure it could be pretty lethal but it will take a lot of skill to use effectively. My advice, leave it on the shelf unless you want something for a bit of fun. There are better bows out there.
Next, the Zombiestrike Slingfire.
About the same size as the Sledgefire and roughly the same weight. This was designed to be used one handed so the balance is spot on. You can flick it to prime it and it lands neatly in your hand so rapid fire with this technique would be possible with a little practice, keeping the other hand free for a secondary or to reload. The lever was fairly robust although I am sure it will fail at some point. Sadly, it appears that the Sledgefire uses a rack and pinion gear system for the priming mechanism, similar to the Roughcut. This means it could be tricky adding larger springs. The barrel really does look stubby in real life but that is fixable.
The main surprise for me was that I liked it. I didn't think I would but the one handed action of it made me feel all 'Terminator 2'. All I need now are your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.
The one we all want, the Elite Demolisher.
About the same size as a Rapidstrike though a little chunkier. fairly front heavy but that was to be expected. The prototype was designed to be semi-automatic but we were told the plan was to make it full auto after the success of the Rapidstrike. Everything so far suggests that it uses AA batteries so we will have to see if this is revised for the final production version. The claims that the Demolisher will hit 85 feet is also confirmed. I am told that this is the new benchmark for Elite blasters so hopefully any new Elite products will also have increased power.
The Grenade launcher is not detachable, nor can it be without a lot of work (as far as I could see). It is fairly heavily integrated into the shell and I think if it were removable, simply using it would wrench it off the rail anyway. Although the 'nade launcher is air powered, it is a HAMP or 'pump rocket'. In other words there is no tank and no trigger or 'blast button'. Slide the grip forward to prime and pull it back to fire. Despite being a pump rocket, the 'nade launcher packs quite a punch. I think it could easily hit 50' or more and has a wonderfully satisfying 'pop' when it goes.
The missile itself is a lot smaller than that of a Blast Bazooka, but made of solid foam unlike the missile from the Titan. The fins are angled in such a way that the projectile spins as it flies, thus achieving a more stable flight. This in turn makes the missile extremely accurate.
The stock is pretty much a modified version of that from the Supersoaker Lightning Storm. It has a built in holder for the spare missile which I feel is a bit of a let down. It is a really loose fit so any running at all and you will loose your spare. It is also mounted in an odd position. Obviously designed for easy access, the holder gets in the way a bit when you look down the sights. Hopefully this will change.
The 'Banana Clip' was a little underwhelming. It only takes 10 darts and this is for a very good reason. The curved section at the bottom is all dead space so the curve is there only for pretties. It does this fairly well but if the Demolisher does indeed end up being full auto, you're going to want to ditch this for an 18.
All in all I love this thing. It ticks all the boxes and although many are disappointed in the lack of conventional air system in the grenade launcher, I think that you will all be pleasantly surprised. At the end of the day, if you want a masterkey there are easier/better ways of making one but if you want some ordinance with your blaster then look no further.
...And yes, this is a flywheel blaster. The lower trigger is for the flywheels and the main trigger is for the pusher.
I am told we are looking at an August release for the Demolisher so keep your eyes peeled for some soft releases.
Lastly, the Rebelle Agent Bow.
Approximately 3 feet long, this isn't strictly a conventional bow because there is no energy stored in the arms. The energy comes solely from the string which is made from some kind of silicone. The arrows are about a foot long with a foam ball for a tip and a thin semi-rigid shaft (giggity). Everything else is pretty much as you'd expect and this thing shoots pretty far and is naturally fairly accurate.
As for the "electronic glowing red dot", the Agent Bow features an inbuilt reflex sight activated by the little red trigger. It's a pretty cool feature but I'm not sure how useful it'll actually be.
Secret Mystery Blaster
Out of everything on the Hasbro stand, there was one blaster we were not allowed to see. We can speculate from the size and position of the empty stand that it is Elite and it's fairly big. Beyond that I have no details on it. Nothing. Our man from Hasbro was under strict orders to be smug about it's secrecy which he did very well. We can only assume that it will be unveiled at the New York Toy Fair so we all look to our American cousins for details on that. In the mean time, fire up that rumour mill!
All in all, there will be approximately 10 new blasters coming out this year including a whole new range of Rebelle blasters and one for the Zombiestrike line. I'm still waiting on clarification on whether I can tell you about those so watch this space!