Night-vision goggles and buck-hunting rifles: You know, for kids!

We try out Jakks Pacific's hard-core selection of stealth and hunting toys for the holidays. Would you buy them?

Sheepishly preparing to hunt innocent virtual deer. Sarah Tew/CNET

Toys just aren't the same as when I was young, when a Rubik's Cube and a Greedo action figure were enough to get me through a Sunday. Jakks Pacific, makers of many a plug-and-play retro-gaming peripheral and children's toy, has some new wrinkles up its sleeve for the holidays, and we got a chance to get our hands on some of the new stuff in the CNET office.

On the more controversial side, Jakks' new product in their direct-to-TV plug-and-play games line is a low-cost all-in-one version of Big Buck Hunter Pro. In case you've been away from bars for a while, the popular arcade game is a rifle-shooter light-gun game involving hunting for deer. This home edition, unlike PC and console games before it, consists just of the plastic shotgun--which has the game software built-in--and a wireless IR bar that sits atop the TV like the Wii's sensor bar. But is this something you'd want in your home?

Load the IR bar and the shotgun with batteries and you're set for some marksmanship. Unfortunately, the gun's mechanic is identical to the Wii-mote's--in other words, pretty laggy. Instead of being a quick-triggered pro, we shot our fair share of innocent does. Besides hunting, there are more innocuous minigames that don't involve the slaughter of forest creatures. While Big Buck Hunter has an ESRB rating of "Teen," it's really up to you to decide whether or not pump-action buck hunting is appropriate for your home or is best left to an adults-only basement bar. Then again, considering games like Modern Combat and Resident Evil 5, is this really a threat? A turn-based multiplayer mode for four players and three different adventure treks at least turn this into the Duck Hunt that Nintendo will never release. Big Buck Hunter Pro is available later this month and runs $49.95.

Being Sam Fisher. Sarah Tew/CNET

While its Eye Clops line of high-tech toys isn't new, it's still not on the radar for most who aren't toy folks. Other products include a mini projector and a plug-in TV microscope. I wasn't aware Jakks made night-vision goggles, but Night Vision 2.0 is a real, handheld set of infrared goggles that allow you to see in complete darkness for $59.99. Improvements on the last iteration include a double-eye viewfinder with a focus wheel, although the image we saw on the square display appeared 2-D. Flipping the power switch after loading up with AA batteries, we could make out stacks of boxes and laptops, as well as ceiling details, all while feeling like we had dropped into Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. The display can be altered to a green or gray color filter, depending on your stealth mood. Long-range and "stealth mode" adjustments control the high or low-beam intensity of the goggles--while long-range looks like having high-beam headlights on, the central external array of sensors glows a faint red, making you visible. Stealth mode turns off all lights but gives you shorter range. While everything looks black-and-white in darkness, the scope can actually make out colors in daylight (not that you'd use night-vision goggles in daylight, but who knows?).

The idea of outfitting kids with infiltration gear is a little creepy, but with the box's promise of "owning the night" and exploring nature, why not? The goggles have a range of 50 feet and require adult supervision, which will be easier said than done.

Make sure to check out the gallery below.

About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

 

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