The Virtual Arena: The LBE VR Reopening Perspective

Covering the immersive Out-of-Home entertainment scene for VRFocus, in his latest Virtual Arena column, industry specialist Kevin Williams, starts the first of his visits to re-opening VR and Immersive entertainment venues – with exclusive access to a brand new videogame from Vertigo Arcades. In these features reporting on the latest experiences, and the new conditions that the international LBE business is adapting to. 

After over 100-days during the COVID-19 lockdown period and the VR amusement and attraction market starts to tentatively reopen for business. In what will become a regular series, KWP has been invited to attend many of the planned international commencements of these businesses. But like many of the coming coverage, this first report is more a review of a brand-new release in the LBE VR scene than just a site visit. 

Revealed last month, Netherlands-based Vertigo Arcades – the location-based entertainment arm of Vertigo Games – announced the launch of its new free-roaming (Arena Scale) game experience Ghost Patrol VR. This is the third arena scale title from the company – famous for cross-platform success with Arizona Sunshine and its new Corsair’s Curse title. Vertigo was one of the first to see the potential of LBE VR business, promoting game properties. Ghost Patrol VR is a new direction and marks the representation of third-party developed content, working in cooperation with Crazy Bunch, the German developer behind this great experience.

Based on Vertigo Arcades’ ‘HAZE’ software platform for facilities operating Arena Scale VR attractions, the system handles the loading and operation of the four-player games. Compared to the older-player based zombie-blasting content, Ghost Patrol VR has been created to offer a great family experience, aimed at players between 12-15-years of age and older. After booking their session and naming their character, the players don the VR hardware and are transported to a haunted mansion, navigating the rooms, corridors, and haunted elevators, working as a team to blast the spooky opponents and collect gemstones in a haunted wave shooter extravaganza.

From the start Ghost Patrol VR offers a great playing environment, with the HTC Vive Pro and controllers, and a PC backpack computer, the player is prepared for action. The game uses both controllers, with one used for their “Hue Blaster” and the other for their flashlight. Moving around the rooms, the players are accosted with flying furniture and then hoards of Pink or Blue ghosts – the players must match the colour of their Hue Blaster to the corresponding apparitions. During the 20-minute experience, players navigate the floors of the building, using elevators, secret passages, and portals – the game culminating in a satisfying boss battle.

Of the considerable number of Arena Scale VR experiences, we have evaluated, this was a well-polished and highly enjoyable videogame, and even in this final release version the companies are continuing to tweak the experience. The game giving off Nintendo Luigi’s Mansion vibes but still being able to be its own unique experience, with a fun and colorful cartoon graphical style.

The team behind the game were kind enough to video conference with us to give some detail regarding the launch of this new product. Vertigo Games’ CEO Richard Stitselaar and Producer Paul van der Meer revealing that they have licensed their platform at some 700 venues across 40 countries. And are working with operators as they come back on stream to license this latest game. For this chance to try the brand-new experience, the Escape Room and VR game operator Wing Entertainment were kind hosts at their Omescape London Aldgate venue. They had the latest installation of the Vertigo Arcades setup, offering a selection of all its titles and having just upgraded to include Ghost Patrol VR to their library.

The Escape Room’s at the Omescape venue will be remaining closed under the current level of advisory, but the VR element of the site is now opening to take private parties and hires, able to accommodate current COVID measures to their operation of the immersive entertainment. This VR element, a vital addition to many Escape Room operations is a lifesaver in being able to continue business. 

We would like to thank the team at Omescape for the chance to be the first to experience the fun of the new arena scale game, and for the Vertigo Arcades team for video conferencing with us and walking us through the development process. We will look forward to reporting more on the next new releases on the platform coming this year.

Of the other venues coming back on stream, and one such re-opening was held at Universe Science Park, in Denmark, a visitor attraction site, and the location of the “World FirstParadropVR attraction, installed back in 2018. Now with the lifting of COVID measures, the visitor attraction has reopened the building where ParadropVR is situated – developed by UK-based Frontgrid. The attraction offers riders the chance to virtually soar over the landscape, controlling their own paraglider through the virtual landscape with exhilarating speed whilst playing a game; riders scores are then ranked on a mobile app leaderboard. 

The ParadropVR system employs a unique rise and surge motion platform, lifting the player physically, and so totally immersing them in the experience. The Universal Science Park team have limited the number of riders to accumulate in the attraction building, and are employing best practise hygiene procedure regarding operating the VR system, but confirm that the interest to ride the experience has not diminished from the guests to the venue.

This ends the first part of our coverage, with the next facility report, and other new developments, coming in a few days from European VR venues coming back to life. See you soon.

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