The folks at Smartypantz invited us to try out their new VR escape room Space Station Tiberia and I was very excited to combine two of my favourite things in the world right now: Escape Rooms and VR.
Now my VR experiences up to this point have been mixed. I own a PSVR and I have liked almost every game I’ve bought or tried. Doing VR in my own basement has been lots of fun and sometimes it can be a very intense and immersive experience. I’ve also tried out the HTC Vive and Occulus Rift in other environments and have found that, while the VR experiences were very strong, the physical weight of the VR headset and wires and stuff like that has made me feel a little bogged down and sweaty. The VR escape room at Smartypantz is different from any other VR experience I’ve done because it is essentially wireless and you are basically free to roam a large area in the room without worrying about tripping over cables and wires. You wear the rig on your back like a female Ghostbuster.
Space Station Tiberia is not just a video game. You really do roam around and interact with puzzles and challenges that are purely virtual. There is nothing in the room but the participants and the wizard in charge of your VR. This is another thing that is very different from most other VR experiences: there were 4 of us in a room all experiencing the same VR escape room. So we were together both physically and inside the virtual room. The feeling of being wireless and free to walk around freely in the room was such a cool one that it cannot be downplayed. It’s fun!
As far as escape rooms go, this is a pretty standard escape room. There is a challenge to complete and puzzles to solve all in a cooperative manor. A space station setting was a great idea because you have the added bonus of interacting with objects in a zero-gravity setting. Objects like flashlights and fire extinguishers can be tossed from partner to partner just like astronauts on the real space station probably do it.
If you haven’t tried VR before then I recommend this being something you should try. There is less of a learning curve because the experience is more like an escape room and doesn’t have lots of buttons and motions you need to get used to like a VR video game.
If you like escape rooms then you should give this a try as well. Escape rooms are all about a certain kind of escapism and while this provides a cool environment and trippy way of interacting with objects in the environment, there is a tactile feeling that is lacking in a VR room. You don’t get that feeling of putting a key in a lock or clicking open a combination properly. You don’t get that feeling when a secret door opens behind a bookcase either but you do get to feel like you’re in a space station high above the earth and working to solve problems in zero gravity.
This isn’t something that is going to replace traditional escape rooms but it is something that is dove-tailing as traditional escape rooms evolve in their own way. VR escape room designers can essentially create endless scenarios for users in the future and escape room businesses can save time and money on designing and rebuilding their rooms.
Our reviews of Smartypantz rooms have been mixed thus far but this VR experience was pretty solid. Glitches were minimal and the controls were easy to use. In the future I hope that they incorporate sound more into the experience. It would be cool to have some intense background music going on or it would be fun to be able to communicate with the other players through a comms system, rather than just shouting instructions to them in the room. These types of improvements will come very soon I believe but for now the VR escape room theme is something I would definitely try again.
Space Station Tiberia costs $35/person and the experience lasts about 30-35 minutes. It’s definitely best to go as a group of 3 or 4. Smartypantz also has special deals if you book a traditional escape room along with your VR room where you can save a $5 or so per person.