Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New and Nearby (Relatively Speaking)

Yesterday I made a trek to Vestal, NY to check out an arena that has only just come on my radar. Fun Zone at Midway Lanes has apparently been operating Helios Pro for about a year and they are absolutely the best kept laser tag secret in NY. Ironically they are a stone's throw away from a rather unremarkable site just down the road, so if you were to talk about laser tag in Vestal you might not realize that there are now two options within less than a mile of each other. So I had to check it out for myself.
When I walked in the first thing I saw were plenty of bowling lanes (36 to be specific...that would be relevant for me to know later on). Apparently this place took out 12 of their lanes to make space for the entertainment area which included laser tag, bumper cars and something called Falcon 360 (I have no idea what that is).
The arena is small to medium in size, but they have packed in a lot of impressive extras. One of the first things to catch my attention was that there were two portal gates with a target above each. Shoot the target and the lights along the gate would switch to your team's color and if an opposing team player walks through while the portal is under your control it deactivates them and you get the points. Until now I had only seen this particular feature at the Baltimore Ultrazone.

There were also two pick-up pads located in internal corner areas and by standing on/under them you could "pick-up" a power-up.

But the most interesting thing in the arena has got to be how they are using the game station screens.

I have  only played in one other arena that had these (coincidentally that was also Baltimore) and there you could swipe the tip of your phaser to get the power-up. However here they used them in a COMPLETELY different way. At this site they are used as an in-game trivia station and you have to answer a quiz question mid-game in order to get either bonus points or a power-up. This adds a whole different element!

It makes you shift your attention and even though the questions are not hard it's easy to make a mistake. For example, I knew that we were in a place called Fun Zone, but when the question came up "What is the name of the laser tag arena where you are currently playing?" The choices did not include Fun Zone. There was Laser Zone (wrong), two other choices that I forget and Laser Warfare. Well, that's the answer they are actually looking for.

A few other questions included the following:
Which attraction is NOT available at the Fun Zone? Answer: Batting Cages
What color are the employees shirts? Answer: Purple
What street is the street address for this center? Answer: NORTH Jensen, not South
You'd be amazed how challenging it can be to think about trivia and hit the right answer on the touch screen while simultaneously focusing on the game of laser tag.
The arena was designed to look like an abandoned town. Bases were located under the school bus (red base), house (blue base) and castle (green base).

Although they can certainly adjust settings however they like, I was surprised to learn that during their standard games they have bases set to deactivate after only one shot, not three. Also, they will stay off for about :60 seconds before restarting, then you can shoot the base again and repeat this an unlimited number of times. Although I wouldn't waste time camping for :60 seconds it's interesting that this is where you can really rack up the points.
The rest of the arena coordinated well with their theme and was definitely NOT the same old CW designs I've seen before.

And at the end they do have scores on the screen...

...but I always appreciate being handed a personal scorecard as well.
I played six games, taking advantage of their buy five and get one free offer. All in all I had a really great time and hope to return again soon!

Comments or Questions?
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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lazy Tag: Playing a Laser Tag Video Game On My Computer

Yesterday was the first time in probably more than a year that I did not spend any part of my weekend playing out at a laser tag arena. I was thoroughly worn out after a long day in the humidity, having set up and hosted a yard sale in the morning before doing a quick change and emceeing a pageant in the afternoon (yeah, I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but it was exhausting!), so I decided that it was not necessary for me to drive an hour and a half to play tag last night. Instead I decided that this would be a good time for me to review a PC video game that I've wanted to share for awhile. Let me tell you about my experience playing Laser Arena by TrainWreck Studios.


I call this "Lazy Tag" only because I didn't have to physically get up and run around. :)


First I must make VERY clear that I am NOT a video gamer. I know NOTHING about the things most gamers are interested in and so this review is from a very different and very novice perspective. I will not talk about graphics because I'm pretty sure any lacking would be on the part of my computer. Also, this game came loaded on a disk for WIndows (is CD-Rom even still a thing?) so the fact that I have a DVD drive on my computer was a plus, but might also reflect that the version I was playing is a couple of years old. Regardless, from my limited view as a non-gamer with only appreciation for the laser tag aspects, I must say I really like this video game!


The first thing I did after installing it was set up my player characteristics.


I typed in my player name and could choose whether my character would play on the red or green team...I chose red. And then the aesthetic of the character body gave an option for different hair colors or whether to wear a "Lazer Tag" type helmet or not. My only gripe about this was there appeared to be only male character images to choose from. Let's not forget that...


While the helmet resembled "Lazer Tag" (or possibly even a nod to Photon) the vest imagery was very reminiscent of LaserTrek, as was some of the cover artwork, so I imagine that to be the system that most inspired the look for the characters in the game.

This could be a multi-player game or you could play against multiple computer opponents in a choice of game modes and laser tag arena maps. Let me say, this they got spot on! And even though I there was a learning curve in me figuring out how to use the arrow key to move and the mouse built into my laptop to aim and fire this was a very impressive to me as an on screen representation of a 3D laser tag arena. As there are references on the packaging to video drivers and 3D accelerators (of which I know nothing) I imagine if you have those resources it would be even more realistic. But from my point of view this really captures the first person point of view while maneuvering through a laser tag arena.


Although there were several arena designs to choose from including Roundabout, The Pit and Fort Z, my favorite was the Blacklight Classic arena. It really looked like an arena I might play! With diamond shaped window cutouts for sniper shots and realistic angle-cut barriers this was to me the map that seemed closest to a real life location. Although they all had options for bounce pads to get you quickly between floors in the arenas, some seemed a bit less authentic than this one. Not that I'd complain if I got to experience a real world counterpart to any of them!


The game choices were also on point. Although I only played the Team Match and Free For All games, I appreciate that there are Domination, Duel and Mega Target formats to choose from as well. Since I am a beginner video gamer (and only just getting a handle on Domination in real arenas) I started with what I was most comfortable with.


The team match plays pretty closely to what you'd expect. If you are playing alone the computer will generate both teammates and opponents. If your goal is the high score you have to play better than the simulations for both sides! Moving forward, backwards and side to side with the arroe keys gave me direction. Using the mouse pad I was able to adjust my aim (using the X on the screen as my guide) and a single mouse click to fire my phaser. As your view is in first person the phaser is the only part of your character that you see on the screen. It took me a little while to get the hang of this, but once I did it was very clear how to target an opponent to earn big points by depleting their energy and tagging them out, which results in the player being "teleported" out of the arena to return after a few seconds in another location. There were also gem stations positioned throughout each map that can replenish energy (a variation on power-ups). If an opponent tags you out then your character would deactivate for a few seconds just like in a real laser tag game.


At the end you will see a scoreboard that reflects not only final score ranking, but also shots, hits and accuracy, just like you might expect to see in a real arena. I must say, this was a really good simulation of laser tag with all these little details included. I'm impressed! And I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who enjoys laser tag.


Comments or Questions?


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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cool With It

Ok, I'm cool with it. 

I'm also over it. Moving on and back to actually playing laser tag just to enjoy it! :)

Comments or Questions?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How Does It Feel?

Remember those skater kids from the movie Dogma? I think I played tag with them the other night!


Tuesday night in Albany can be exactly as hit or miss as...well...THURSDAY night in Syracuse (members night, enough said). So when I arrived and found that my only game option was to play with a couple of young kids I said "well, I'm already here, I'll just go in with them and be a target." That was before those Dogma teens showed up to join the game. That changed the picture a bit. So I said to the young ones "let's team up and play against them" figuring that way I could actually play a real game. And indeed that's what happened. And that's when I started to notice the resemblance to the kids in the movie.


The first similarity was that they traveled in a pack, even during the game (which of course that made them easier targets). Second was the viciousness of the girl with the long red hair. She was simply not having it. At one point after I had tagged her a few times she got a shot against me and while my pack was down she got right up in my face shouting "How does it feel? Yeah, how does it feel?" Tough talk? Lol..."it feels" like I was going to take a particular interest in tagging her for the rest of the game!


Fortunately it was not long before I was able to turn my attention to a more competitive target when Mason entered the arena wearing a pack and giving me a way better challenge. When I noticed his arrival I said "now we have a real game!" and mostly focused on playing against him. Of course when I crossed paths with the teens I still took my shots. The girl continued her smack talk, but hey, she had a phaser, not a hockey stick. Bring it on! In the end I had the high score so...ask me again "how does it feel?" :)


I actually really enjoyed the competition, even with the extra commentary from the peanut gallery. I only got a couple of games in because it was the night before the 4th of July holiday and VERY hot so nobody else showed up. But there's one thing that can make a night like that totally worthwhile...


New tag swag! Yes, ZG has gotten in some new t-shirts with perfect timing. I'll be wearing mine in a couple of weeks when I play in the Glendale Open in CA because now that FJ is closed this is my home Zone site, so I will proudly represent Albany now...and that feels pretty good to say. :)



Comments or Questions?


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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Change of Scenery

If you’ve been following the last couple of weeks you can probably tell I was really due for a change of scenery. So this weekend I drove out to Queensbury and enjoyed both a change in scenery (and system) while playing some Cyber Blast out at Adventure Family Fun Center. What a great time! I haven’t played here in about a year, but it all came back to me as soon as I walked back into their space themed arena.

I chatted with owners Dexter and Justin for a bit before heading in. I did not realize there was a management transition since the last time I was here. I appreciated them honoring the previous wristband deal when I asked about it because I was definitely able to get my fill of tag after driving the two hours to get to this site. The first game out I played in a group that included another player who has tagged in multiple states (Van) and Hayden, who is one of the veterans of this site among those who joined in to start at 7:00. Hayden especially gave me a very good challenge! He commented that he had not sweat that much in a laser tag game to which I had to giggle and say that means he wasn’t really playing tag before. Just kidding.

But it was more rewarding to come out victorious from a game like that where it was well played and hard fought. Then I looked down to see for the first time the name on my pack. I had not been able to sign in with my Cyber Blast card from Ohio, so I just played under the pre-assigned name given to the vest I chose. I literally could not believe that THIS is the one I picked up.

Sheesh! There is no escape…LOL! So I decided that a coincidence like that had to be fate and I used this pack for all the games I played the rest of the night. Although there were smaller groups coming through, there were different players showing up all throughout the night, so it was unlike my usual haunts where the same group plays all evening. I enjoyed the variety. And Hayden, even though we left our game count at 2:1 I will happily accept the challenge of another good competition with you next time I pass through. In reality the difference in drive time for me is only about a half hour more than the drive to Syracuse, so during the summer when things tend to get quiet at my home site I will certainly come back to play here because it’s in a touristy area that will make it a much busier summer location (as I realized when I was frequenting this spot last year). And next time maybe I’ll make a day of it and pack a lunch since I picked up some new tag swag in the form of an insulated lunch bag.

Gotta love the tag swag! One of my projects for the coming week is to get my collection in better order to showcase some of the cool stuff I’ve brought back from my adventures, so watch for pics of that soon. In the meantime, thanks to Adventure Family Fun Center for being well worth the drive on a VERY hot summer night!

Comments or Questions?