Lazer Tag. I loved it. Too bad my father wouldn’t, at least initially, allow us to play with it for fear of radiation. Talk about over protective. But alas, in the end, he conceded. So I got the gear. However, by that time it was too late. The fad, to a degree, had warn off. My friends had moved on to greener pastures, and my Briggs and Stratton Go Kart took precedence.
Now, fast forward 20 something years later (gulp), and Disney is unveiling what I’d effectively call the next generation of Lazer Tag. It’s called Playmation. And while I wasn’t initially impressed by their presentation, which included the product lead and Disney’s COO, the hands on demo is what sold me.
That said, for launch, this October, Disney has chosen Avengers, or to be more specific the Ironman Repulsor. Following that, sometime next year, will be Star Wars (right smack in line with the movie release), which will then be followed by Frozen in 2017.
So, gathered into a room with a group of 5 other journalists (or a variation there of), the lead product manager, and a 10 year old, we were provided with a hands on demo. Which is to say, the 10 year old walked us through just how the system worked. In effect, it’s just like Lazer Tag. However, and this is a BIG however: you don’t need a friend to play with.
Instead, a story mode on the Repulsor, which mind you fit me, walks you through a would be challenge. Additional challenges, or levels, can be downloaded by connecting to a mobile device via Bluetooth. Upon launch there will be a whole host of missions, each presumably ranging in difficulty. And eventually Disney, will roll out additional downloads, though no date or price has been announced as of yet. But, back to the mission…
Once the mission was activated, which was downloaded from the iPad, it worked with something called a Power Activator. The Power Activator is something akin to a gun turret or a robot. It can detect you, or in this case the Playmation Repulsor, and works in tandem with Smart Figures. Smart Figures contain an NFC chip, or a variation there of, and as you’ve probably guessed it, give
kids parents the good old upsell, as they’ll likely provide additional capabilities and open up missions. Though, I’m not sure how they work separately from the missions that can be downloaded. Nevertheless, once the Repulsor is paired with the Power Activator the mission will begin.
Using a speaker, it walks you through the mission. It even goes as far as to replicate your footsteps thanks to a built-in accelerometer. Once an enemy is sighted, you’ll either need to slow your pace so you’re not detected, or hide. In battle, there is a hand trigger, a missile launcher, or the trusty Ironman Repulsor gun – it can be fired much in the same way as the movie; just lift your hand to charge and fire. Once the battle is completed, and provided you’ve won, the Power Activator will physically launch the Smart Figure from its base, thus representing its death. That is until the next mission.
For me, the whole thing felt a bit silly, but only because a group of adults starred at me as I attempted to dash around a 20×20 room in a pair of jeans that were entirely too tight for the task at hand.
The Repulsor Gun felt surprisingly solid and will easily sell any Ironman fan, old or young. And while it’s built for kids, it fit my arm and hand just fine thanks to the elastic band at the hand piece, and a knob that adjusts for arm girth.
To that end, though, I could see this as the next big thing this Christmas. And it likely will be. The combination of tangible and virtual goods, while not a new one (i.e. Skylander and soon to be LEGO), makes it a very alluring offering. The price, while on the steep side – $120 – might mean this is the one gift Tommy will get. After all, it is about 1/3 the price of an Xbox One or PS4.
But, price aside, parents should be ecstatic, largely because it’s perhaps the perfect combination of physical and virtual play. Moreover, the imagination needs to still be engaged. And vastly more important is that sedentary video game console play time is, or will be negated. If not for nothing, get this toy for your kid to battle childhood obesity.
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