Disclaimer: This is our first immersive VR parlor.
Our Mission – get onto Mustafar, the volcanic planet home to Darth Vader’s castle, and recover imperial cargo. Stepping from our ship, disguised as Stormtroopers, were greeted with a wave of heat and smell of brimstone.
How is this possible? The VOID – that’s how.
Located in Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA, the VOID is an immersive virtual reality experience meant to transport not only you, but up to three other companions to a select realm of your choosing. We stumbled upon it by chance, and after a quick google found it to be right up our alley. After all, we had just finished up at Black Spire Outpost in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, why wouldn’t we want to continue our adventure?
Quick sidebar: We are proud owners of the Occulus Rift, and most recently of the Rift S, so virtual reality is not new to us. Locally, we have a few VR arcades where they set you up in a room while you can play with supervision. Since we have one, I have never had an interest in attending a VR experience. The idea of people standing by watching us bump around just sounded embarrassing. But the reviews and the apparent high quality of VOID’s “Secrets of the Empire” seemed too good not to pass up. VOID is also running a promotion for “Buy 3 tickets and get the 4th free”, which meant that we are able to split the cost at a lower rate. Check out their website for additional promotions.
Back to the story.
We arrived at our reservation, and from the start the team made strides to get us into character. After signing our lives away to electronic waivers, we were asked to summon the force within us to open the door. It took a minute and some epic power poses but we found the power to do so. We were Greeted by Captain Cassian Adar and given our mission: disguise ourselves, retrieve cargo from the empire and return it to the growing rebellion. After, we were able to select the color of our disguise and were escorted to the hangar. It was essentially a locker room to store loose items, bags and accessories where they provided one of the players a key. They outfitted us with weighted vests and helmets that tightened to fit.
Ok. I’ll say it, we felt pretty badass.
Each player is scanned into the system before entering the course (an anti-theft measure); as the building is more or less a series of rooms that you maneuver through; in what appeared 2 or 3 groups at a time. We could hear people laughing and screaming ahead of us, which added to the building excitement.
Once fully equipped we boarded our ship.
I won’t go too in depth on how the story goes, because if you do this we want to make sure you have an authentic experience as possible. But here were the highlights.
The Gear Was awesome
We are fighting The Empire, and being new recruits we obviously took a few hits. The vests were weighted to feel like combat gear; and were outfitted with haptic feedback, causing a vibration to each part of us that was bumped or hit. Half way through our mission we were armed with blasters, which had a reload function and two triggers to alternate between. Being the coordinated individual that I am, I accidentally shot off my blaster and the world reacted, troops immediately descending on our position.
We had technical difficulties
Proof that these kinds of experiences are still being tested out, we had a bumpy start. About 3 minutes into the experience my headset began to flicker in and out, until ultimately I was white screened with a static snow storm. They have a system in place for this. The instructions were to stand up (as there are sections that require you sit) and raise a hand. There is a crew that controls the simulation over head and they responded quickly. They had the rest of our party remain immersed as they inspected my helmet. However, in the end they ejected us to refit me with new gear that caused no further issue. Honestly, we didn’t mind the technical issues. Why?
It was short
While the set up did well to move you into the right headspace; once past the outfitting stages and our visor issues, the actual VR was short. From the last time we looked at our watch to the end, the experience probably only lasted 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind we reset, and honestly were slow moving between rooms. We probably weren’t the rebellions best hope – at every opportunity one of would be making some obscene gesture or crouch dancing like in Call of Duty.
it was an authentic environment
The props we were able to interact with throughout the mission are prime. They are a mix of generic blocks and to-scale replicas of characters from Star Wars. The only reason I know that it’s a to scale replica is because I had to lift my visor for the above mentioned maintenance. These were as high quality as any sculpture I had seen in a Disneyland park. (Star tours, Millenium falcon, etc)
During the simulation they provided bursts smell, heat and wind in addition to the surround sound of your headset. The floors were programmed with vibrations and tilts that made everything feel very real. In addition to the atmosphere, everything you interacted with was physical to the touch. A lever, a button? It was on the wall too.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND IT?
Yes! Especially with the promotional they were running. It was fun, memorable and definitely something worth sharing with our friends. At first, we both felt like the cost was steep for time spent in the experience – but in reflection I realized this is the first of its kind and I really would do it again.
VOID has been around since 2015, and offers other experiences at various locations, including Ghost Busters, Wreck It Ralph and a Demonic Twist of the Chicago World Fair.