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Hyperkin Hyper Blaster Gun Review: The NES Zapper Meets VR

by David Jagneaux • December 14th, 2017
Platforms: HTC Vive
Positives

- Great, sturdy form factor
- Good controller design
- Excellent button and trigger response

Negatives

- Requires a Vive tracker to use
- Limited software support
- Lack of long-term usage

The peripheral market is a bizarre one. In the case of established platforms such as the handheld and console gaming markets you had things like light guns in the early days, plastic guitars, and even bongo drums. At one point in time there may have even been a lot of money to be made selling specially designed plastic peripherals that were created to work with only certain games, but after spending some time with the Hyperkin Hyper Blaster gun I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.

Don’t get me wrong: the Hyperkin Hyper Blaster is a great little device. Once it’s all setup and good to go games like Duck Season, Operation Warcade, and Practisim all play great and feel even more immersive. Looking down at my hand between levels in Duck Season and seeing what resembles an NES Zapper and feeling the same gun in my real life hand was just fantastic. It really felt like being inside the game like never before.

The Hyperkin Hyper Blaster gun works by having you attach a Vive tracker to the top. In doing so the gun is tracked in VR just like one of your Vive wands. The trigger and other various buttons work just as you’d expect, creating a much more natural and tactile experience. Holding the grip of a gun and pulling the trigger back on something that’s designed to feel just like a gun is much more convincing than an awkward shaped wand.

Tracking with a Vive tracker is, as expected, flawless. I never had to worry about any drifting like you see on PSVR with the PS Aim controller and it always responded accurately. The technology from a functionality and features perspective is great, I’ve got no qualms with it at all. In fact, the games that do use the Hyper Blaster are certainly better because of it. Duck Season is the real standout among the bunch, but even Arizona Sunshine is experimenting with support right now and The American Dream will be as well.

But I just really, really wish the gun worked natively with the lighthouses and Vive headset without the need for a Vive tracker screwed on top. I get the requirement from a technical perspective and it makes sense, but it’s an unattractive and wonky solution. The gun feels a little top heavy with the puck on top of it and dramatically inflates the setup process — not to mention the hefty price tag.

Realistically a gun peripheral that only works with a handful of games shouldn’t cost a whole lot, you’d think. Unfortunately, the Hyper Blaster is the exception to that rule. You currently need to drop $150 to get your hands on one of these guns. Granted, the package also contains a Steam code for Duck Season and a Vive tracker, but that price point is just too high for most reasonable people.

Final Recommendation: Niche Status

I’m honestly not sure the VR peripheral market is going to be that appealing to most people. Given the presumably small market size of the HTC Vive specifically and the need to not only own specific games that support the gun but also the need to use it with a Vive tracker as well, there’s a tricky niche of a niche situation that likely isn’t sustainable. I don’t think I’d recommend the average, every day consumer to rush out and buy a Hyper Blaster, no matter how great it works and feels.

The two scenarios in which I think buying a Hyper Blaster makes sense are if 1) you want to use them in your VR arcade, or 2) you really want a Vive tracker in and of itself. In the latter case the gun is coming along cheaply since Trackers alone cost $100. But other than that, I just don’t see it. If you own an HTC Vive at home right now then you’ve already got the Vive wands and those are honestly good enough for most VR experiences.

You can purchase a Hyperkin Hyper Blaster with a copy of Duck Season and the required Vive tracker in a bundle on Amazon for $149. Let us know what you think down in the comments below!

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