Last week, TheGamer was invited to Dreamscape, a virtual reality experience in Los Angeles that is steadily growing a massive following. We had the opportunity to try out all three of Dreamscape's current selection of adventures, and we're absolutely blown away by the immersion and attention to detail put into the attraction.
Dreamscape isn't your typical "4-d" tourist trap you might find at the mall by Disneyland either. From the moment you enter the venue at the upscale Westfield location in Century City the experience has already begun. After checking in for your scheduled experience (which fill up daily) and selecting your avatar, you'll be given a novelty-sized ticket and invited to relax in the lobby. This space is a mini-museum filled with relics and artifacts of VR history as well as clues and references to all the amazing things you're about to see.
Already, Dreamscape is demonstrating their eye for detail and desire to create a fully realized experience that is artfully purposeful, rather than an entertaining diversion. Much of the credit for Dreamscapes vision belongs to the creators, who know a thing or two about creating incredible experiences for audiences.
An Impressive Pedigree Of Ground Breaking Story Telling
Among Dreamscape's founders, several have impressive backgrounds in film and entertainment. Walter Parkes, former head of Dreamworks, has been writing and producing blockbuster films for decades, including Wargames, Men in Black, and Gladiator. Another founder, Bruce Vaughn, is the former Chief Creative Officer of Disney Imagineering. Together they represent the harmonious bond of cinema and immersion technology at Dreamscape.
Dreamscape can be likened to a theme park ride wrapped in a movie theater experience. This is intentional: Dreamscape aims to be a destination entertainment experience for families to spend time together; the next evolution of going to the movies. After playing through all three shows, it's evident that Dreamscape has developed undeniably successful formula, with a strong foundation to expand.
From Deep Sea Exploration To An Alien Safari
Groups of six are taken in to one of several loading areas based on the experience they have chosen. A guide walks everyone through attaching the hand and foot sensors, a backpack computer, and the VR helmet. Everyone then enters a dark room together and, after a short calibration, the experience begins.
The Blu: Deep Rescue is a deep sea journey that takes participants on an adventure to save an entangled whale. After some time getting used to your virtual body, everyone stands on a platform that begins to descend into the water. What The Blu does best compared to the other two is giving players the ability to interact with the physics of the world even on the smallest scale. As the water rises in the chamber, explorers can kick at the water and splash each other. Once underwater, little floaties and debris can be affected with the wave of your hand. Jets spewing bubbles can be redirected with your body, and plants react to being touched. These small touches go a long way at making both an immersive experience, and one that encourages experimentation. Pushing the limits of VR is a natural tendency, but The Blu does an incredible job at giving as much freedom as possible, thus creating a more complete illusion.
Alien Zoo incorporates more physical objects in the world, like creatures to pet and balls to throw (you can play fetch with some adorable cat-frogs) as well as a thrilling horror-sequence. All of the Dreamscape experiences are family friendly and mild, but Alien Zoo has hints of what may be done in the future with horror. Despite all of my reason and logic, I must admit, Alien Zoo scared me at times, in the best way possible.
The pièce de résistance of Dreamscape, without a doubt, is Curse of the Lost Pearl: A Magic Projector Adventure. The "Magic Projector" is a format, or theme if you will, that Dreamscape intends to incorporate into future experiences. You begin in small room surrounded by antiques preserved in glass cases when a black and white film begins to play on the wall. Stepping through this magic projection transports you into the film itself, as the black & white world suddenly shifts into full color like The Wizard of Oz.
Suddenly the group is wandering through a booby trapped tomb, separated into two groups and trying to find the way through twisting corridors and spider-ridden chambers with only a flaming torch for protection. The show utilizes space in a way that makes you feel as though you're traveling deeper and deeper into the tomb, despite never leaving the actual room you first entered. It all ends with a wild action sequence and a last second escape that had our entire group cheering and celebrating.
The Future Of Destination VR
Dreamscape opened their second location in Dallas last month. The Dallas Dreamscape is co-branded with one of their biggest investors, AMC Theaters, to further coalesce the theater experience. In June, Dreamscape announced an upcoming Men In Black experience, called MIB: First Assignment, that will allow audiences to ride intergalactic hoverbikes as MIB agents on a top secret mission.
Other movie tie-in experiences are in the works as well, and hopefully, sooner rather than later. Audiences are clearly receptive, as the Westfield location boasted a 94% utilization rate all summer, essentially meaning the attraction was completely sold out.
VR at home is unfortunately still cost prohibitive for most, and that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon. While affordable options do exist, like the Oculus Go, the experience pales in comparison to what Dreamscape is offering.
If you would like to know more about Dreamscape, you can visit their website. MIB: First Assignment is due later this year.
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