Review: BoomCo Halo Combine Needler
I was very interested to see the recent release of Halo branded BoomCo blasters–both because it's always fun to see new stuff, plus the fact that Mattel are continuing to back their new brand enough to snag the lucrative Halo brand! Their starting lineup consists of the UNSC M6, the UNSC M7, the Marine Blaster ASC, the Covenant Plasma Type-25, the Covenant Carbine, and Covenant Needler. So far, all I've spotted locally in Oz are the M6 and the Needler, and as the M6 looks kinda basic, I picked up a Needler!
First up, I have to say that I'm generally pretty impressed with the design and quality of the BoomCo blasters. They're very obviously trying hard to take a chunk of the market share away from Nerf, and I really hope they manage it. Some healthy completion between the two can only benefit the end consumer. That said, I might wish they'd try still harder, and also recognise the buying power of the slightly older blaster enthusiast! Ah well, in time perhaps this too may come to pass… 😉
So, first impressions. The packaging is decent, standard "exposed" blaster in a half box. As this blaster has a slight lighting effect, Mattel have been good enough to include batteries and a test mode to show it off to a potential buyer. In this test mode, pulling the trigger makes the darts stored on the top of the blaster light up briefly. More on the lighting later. Unpacking the blaster is very easy, just need to deal with half a dozen tape covered tabs, plus three rather unusual clips (see photo), which just require a quarter turn counterclockwise to "unlock". They're actually connected all the way through into the blaster. I'm not sure if this is intended as an anti-theft mechanism or just trying to simplify the unpacking, but I think it's a good touch. As well as the blaster, the 16 darts and a target are included (always happy to get a good complement of darts). The darts are purple, this seems to be the Covenant colouring decided upon by Halo/Mattel.
Once it's out, the Needler looks pretty ferocious! Definitely happy with the visuals, it really looks authentically alien and mean. It has eight darts ready to fire in a circle at the front, and storage for eight more on top, looking like spikes or needles. It has a quite cool lightning mechanism too, which slowly pulses to light up the stored darts. It also works as an ammo counter–each pull of the trigger turns off one dart light, making it nice and easy to see at a glance how many shots you have left. Pity it's done via trigger pulls instead of actual sensors in the loaded dart section, but it's still pretty cool. The blaster is cocked by pulling back on the underneath section, however it then stays locked down/back until you fire, unlike most other blaster cocking mechanisms, and takes a little getting used to. After firing, pushing the cocking handle forward also rotates the next dart into place (the topmost slot is always the next to fire). For some reason the barrel spins 315° counterclockwise instead of just 45° clockwise to get the next dart into position, I'm guessing just for effect. One thing I really don't like about the cocking mechanism though is how loud it is! I seriously thought I'd broken something the first time I cocked it, especially when combined with the cocking arm then not moving forward again until after you fire. I'm used to it now, but it's still way too loud.
Firing the Needler is definitely a bit strange… because of the shape of the top part, you have no clear visual indicator of how high you're actually aiming the blaster. Even after firing 16 shots off, I still find myself shooting on a far higher angle than I'm intending. Maybe that's deliberate though, as it leads me into the most disappointing thing about this blaster: shot distance. As I'm unfortunately stuck with de-powered retail versions, this is the wimpy 15 meter (hah!) blaster. Except it's not even up to that task. Eight shots, fired flat from shoulder height, hit the ground after seven meters. I've got stock Nerf blasters that fire flat at that range, no problem. Hell, that includes de-powered Mega blasters! Did Mattel even try to get the higher performance blasters into other countries, or did they just assume that they had to drop 40% of the range off in order to sell them here?
Anyway, in summary, this is still a very cool looking blaster, being very different from anything else on the market. The lighting mechanism is not something I've seen on any stock blaster before, and so if you're not too concerned about the performance, then this could be the blaster for you!