There’s a first time for everything, and this weekend I had my first ever experience of virtual reality gaming! Escape Reality has had a selection of escape rooms in The Printworks in Manchester for a little while, but they have just added a state of the art VR arcade too, and me and Craig were invited down to try it out.
The idea of Escape Reality VR is you get a private room (or “portal”) for you and your party, complete with a game master to host your session. Groups of 2-4 players are recommended, because even though there’s plenty of space in the portal, only one person gets to wear the VR headset at a time. I felt like our party of 2 was just perfect because we both had lots of time using the headset and got to play plenty of different games. The portal does have a big screen too, so you can view what the player is doing and seeing, even if it’s not your turn.
As VR first timers we were given the standard newbie experience, with a taster of different types of experiences and games. The session is completely flexible and tailored to your team, so if you are more experienced you could play more difficult games, or if you love a particular game you could request to play that for the whole session. Our host, Cole was very patient at talking us through the technology and each game, and also very accommodating to what we wanted to do in the session.
Here’s how our complete beginners’ session went:
I was first under the headset, and was dropped into a scene to get used to the feel of being in another world and using the hand controllers to interact with it. It was weirder than I expected, and it’s surprising how easily your other senses are tricked into believing what you see! I also played a short flying game, which was loads of fun but also very disorienting as it really did start to feel like I was actually flying around! Craig then had his first introduction to a VR world, and he was also talked into to trying a short “horror” experience! This wasn’t for the faint hearted – I found it pretty creepy just watching on the screen without being immersed in it.
Then we moved onto some more interactive games. Firstly a fun little cartoonish archery game, which Craig loved, and then a more realistic-looking shooting game in space, with guns, drones and spaceships. This was loads of fun, and turned a little competitive when I was more successful than Craig on his first go! I think this game has a lot more to it than the part that we played, and it would be a fun one to explore more of (although potentially stressful and terrifying!)
Then we played a collaborative puzzle game, where the headset wearer was sat in front of an active bomb, and whoever wasn’t wearing the headset had to talk them through the process of diffusing it using codes in an instruction manual. This was a nice change of pace and it was nice to both be involved in the same game at once.
Then finally, the most fun of all – Beat Saber. This was a bit like old dance mat games I’ve played in the past, but instead of moving our feet we were holding 2 lightsabres, and had to slash through coloured blocks in time to music. This allowed me to combine 2 of my favourite things – Star Wars (i.e. playing with lightsabers) and dancing (specifically to Bohemian Rhapsody and Michael Jackson tunes). I can definitely see myself going back to play this game for a solid hour, it was so much fun! (Although I’m not sure I looked as cool in reality as I felt swinging my lightsabers.)
We both really enjoyed our first virtual reality gaming experience. The beginner session was great for both of us because even though Craig is a much more experienced gamer overall, he was still a VR newbie. The games were easy to pick up and we played a nice variety, and I loved trying something so different to what we’d usually do on a weekend! It’s a great idea for an afternoon or evening activity with a partner or a few friends, as Escape Reality have a nice bar area for debriefing after the session. At £34 for a portal, I don’t think it’s too pricey. Plus they are located in The Printworks, where there are plenty of dining and drinking options once you come out.
Disclosure: This was a gifted visit. The opinions stated are honest and my own.