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Previewing Helios 2 Before the "Launch"

When I heard that the laser tag arena at Launch Trampoline Park of Lansing, MI was on track to have the first completed installation in the United States of the new Zone Helios 2 system I immediately made plans to travel to Michigan so I could be among the first people in the nation to play. Little did I know that there was actually a race to first with arenas in Texas and New Jersey having installation completed just hours after Lansing! But these three are all among the very first Helios 2 sites in the country and even though another arena was technically open to the public first, I still think it is amazing to say that I got to play at the first installed Helios 2 site in the U.S. which made it totally worth the effort to travel there this past weekend.

Launch Lansing is not yet open as of my writing this post, however they plan to be very soon...keep your eyes open for them by mid-February 2019. My experience was particularly special because owners Val and Matt Dalson were kind enough to allow me an advance preview of their site and newly completed arena even before the place was officially open. I want to extend my thanks to them and also to the staff who were there to greet me when I arrived at the new Launch located inside the Meridian Mall in Okemos, MI.

Chris and Peter were the first people I met upon my arrival. I told them a little bit about my laser tag adventures and then, along with Sam and Christina, we made our way to the entry door to their Fury Laser Tag Experience.

We entered the vesting room and I was really psyched up to see the packs ready for action. This was exciting!

Every time I put the vests on I'm appreciative that I don't have to lift it over my head. The vests are very comfortable. Peter asked me if the clips felt right to me and I assured him that they did. As we suited up for the game I half-jokingly volunteered to give the briefing. They took me up on my offer and I gave them my speedy recitation of the rules...

After the camera was turned off, then I rapped the rules...but we'll save that for another day! :)

Then the time came to begin the first game! I went into the arena sight unseen, so this video gives you a little peek at how things went as well as a walking tour of the arena.

The equipment is very comfortable to use. As someone who has spent a lot of hours with the Nexus style phaser it felt familiar in some ways. You can opt for using a Zone hold and grip the top of the phaser or hold it from below to cover one of the sensors on the bottom. This just feels right to me and more natural than some other styles. However the new design has some very distinctive features. The body of the phaser is significantly longer and the blue extended tip has a sensor on the inside so you can shoot right down the barrel. It's got a good half inch laser beam and felt very spot-on accurate. There's an easy touch circle on either side just above the trigger which allows you to toggle between modes comfortably whether you are using your right or left hand.

Another significant point to note with Helios 2 that you can see here is having the speaker right on the phaser itself. The sound quality was very good!

We experimented a bit with the dual firing modes, going between the shotgun and blast options that you can see on the nice color screen at the back of the phaser.

I think they currently have the shot speed set a little faster than it is at my home site, so I enjoyed getting to play around with that timing. We all took the opportunity to try things out between games in the vesting room...Peter got a kick out of realizing he could take out four players with one shot!

Then I wanted to see some of the back end elements. This system can be controlled using a cell phone, but they showed me another controller that looked a little like a car starter.

Besides allowing the game master to deactivate a player if necessary this also allows them to do utilize a very smart new feature...pausing the game.

Check out the new HAL box (named for the movie computer you think) and notice that there are two buttons. One will still start and stop the game, but the other now allows them to pause a game without losing data. I remember a tournament experience I had with the Ascendance team a few years ago where that would have been a VERY handy feature, so it's nice to see it here.

We played again and took a few pics in the arena. You will recognize immediately that it's a Creative Works design.

I had such a great time getting familiar with the space. If you like Zone already you will appreciate that the game feels the same as you expect.

I can't tell you how happy it made me to be among the first people getting to see the arena and try out the system. This was a great time and the staff were terrific! I thank them so much for allowing me this advance preview of Helios 2.

When we had our fill and the staff had to return to getting things ready for the grand opening Peter took me for a tour of the rest of the Launch facility. They will have food available (including pizza, dessert and more) as well as plenty of cool activities for all ages. There are areas for dodgeball...

Xtreme Dodgeball...

A ninja course...

...and a Battle Pit that will be for a jousting kind of activity. That looks REALLY fun!

And of course, trampolines! I got a bird's eye view of it all from their upstairs observation deck where Peter told me a bit of the history of Launch.

He explained to me that the concept for Launch was a collaboration between Rob Arnold and Ty Law (a three time Super Bowl Champion with the New England appropriate that I got the tour on the big game weekend). They started the first Launch business in Rhode Island so that they could take the trampoline park idea to the next level for their kids to have a high energy place to play. Well, based on what I saw, I'd say mission accomplished! There are Launch franchises in quite a few states and I am excited that there is one opening soon in New Jersey that will also have Helios 2 so I'll get to experience this system again before too long. Maybe next time I'll even try the trampolines!

Well, I always enjoy a unique laser tag experience and I thank Launch Trampoline Park of Lansing for providing me with exactly that. Helios 2 is great and I hope that it attracts a lot of laser tag players (I know they'll be seeing many players from Fort Wayne very soon) and I wish them lots of success. I'll definitely return the next time I pass through Michigan!

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