Games I Own: Nerf Arena Blast Demo

Written by Joe Martin

June 30, 2010 | 10:10

Tags: #demo #fps #games-i-own #multiplayer #nostalgia #unreal-engine

Companies: #nerf

Yes, you read that correctly, the Nerf Arena Blast Demo – i.e. not the full game. It came on a coverdisk for a games magazine years and years ago and is one of three demos that I’ve hung on to without ever bothering to pick up the full game.

Released in 1999, Nerf Arena Blast was one of several forays that Nerf made into the games industry and is essentially just a brightly coloured FPS that swaps out the usual assault rifles and rocket launchers for Nerf blasters. I’ve never played the full game, but the demo featured two levels and gamemodes – one a straight deathmatch, the other a scavenger hunt variant, both against bots.

Nerf Arena wasn’t a fantastic game, at least if the demo is anything to go by, but it’s not as bad as you might expect. It was built on the original Unreal engine, which leant it some smoothness and graphical aplomb. It was also a lot faster and more fun than you’d think – mainly because the lurid neon levels were full of shortcuts, secrets and jump-pads to keep things interesting.

Still, it was by no means a spectacular game and the reason I’ve kept it around for so long isn’t anything to do with the game itself, not really. I’ve not even thought about actually playing it for a decade.
Games I Own: Nerf Arena Blast Demo
Oh my, the graphics haven't aged well

Instead, the reason I’m so attached to Nerf Arena Blast (and specifically the demo) is because of the memories the game conjures for me. To me, Nerf Arena isn’t a game, but a memento that, like an old love letter or champagne cork, is treasured purely for the purposes of indulgent melancholy. The summer of 1999, when the demo came out, was a time I remember fondly for all sorts of vain, personal reasons that are none of anyone’s business and that probably nobody would care about anyway. Suffice it to say that it was a long, hot summer and that my 14 year old self was busy and happy. When I wasn’t busy then I was usually playing the Nerf Arena Demo to pass the time. It was quick to load and easy to play and that’s all it needed to be.

So, while Nerf Arena wasn’t a great game, it was good enough for me at the time. Something about the garish purple and yellow levels highlights the nostalgia and puts all sorts of memories back in my head – like the sun-warmed panels of the massive, rickety desk that I used as a kid. Too big to take with me into any of my subsequent abodes, the desk got left behind when I went to University. I still miss it, occasionally.

Games I Own: Nerf Arena Blast Demo
The later updates really...nerfed...the game

Eventually the season ended and a new year bought new games and new memories with a different tone – Deus Ex came out the following year and I quickly descended into a phase of leather jackets and hating ‘the man’ – but I’ve kept the Nerf Arena Demo since.

All this likely doesn’t mean much - trying to make these memories meaningful to anyone else is a step beyond the remit of even this self-indulgent blog. Still, I do find it interesting how people can end up attaching significance to even the simplest or most unlikely of things. It happens all the time, though maybe I’m a bit more melancholic than most by nature – Gareth’s Vintage Computing article spawned loads of memories about my Father, for example. Suddenly I was a kid again, playing on the Amiga we had back then.

I’d be interested to listen to some of your own nostalgic indulgences, so drop your own memories in the comments below.
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