First and foremost, I need to admit that I’m a gaming novice. The idea of VR freaks me out a little, and every time I try to play any kind of action game, it results in me throwing the controller across the room, saying the game is stupid and giving up. Nevertheless, when the opportunity arose to take part in London’s new immersive VR experience Otherworld, I though f**k it, let’s see if I can redeem myself.
“Welcome to The Otherworld”, a uniformed attendant chimes as we enter the venue, neatly tucked under Haggerston's railway arches. Reminiscent of something from Charlie Brooker’s brain, the space is made up of rows of white pods, with all-white floors, tables and a bar at the end, illuminated by coloured lighting. The smiling staff, attendants or tour guides (depending on how you look at it) are all dressed in a uniform of white overalls and chirpy demeanors.
As we settled onto a bench, we were guided through the iPad/manual which included a bar and kitchen menu, instructions on how to use the controllers and a map of ‘The Island’. This acts as a central hub, it’s where you're dropped into, and it’s where you choose your games.
We surveyed the map, which is split into four seasons to represent varying difficulty (Spring is the easiest, Winter the most difficult) and made our decision on how we’d fill our 40 minute slot. Of course, my partner threw me in at the deep end, and opted for Arizona Sunshine, a survival game where you fight off hordes of zombies, and Superhot, a Matrix-like game where you can bend time and beat up baddies.
After a quick brief, it was time to go. Clutching onto the controller with clammy hands, I was secured into the headset and before I knew it, I was closed off from the outside world and the multi-sensory adventure began. Recreating warm and cold climates with flushes of air, and surrounding you with what’s going on in the game, the experience feels exactly like you've been dropped into another world. We could even talk to one another and cry for help to the outside world if we needed it.
Zombies didn't stand a chance against us as we let it rip while surviving the first stretch of Arizona Sunshine, which was ridiculously fun, even if I did accidentally kill myself a few times. We then squeezed in a bit of Superhot, and swerved away from bullets before punching baddies who would shatter into little pieces. Nevertheless, time flies in the pod and before we knew it, we were done. We stepped out, blurry-eyed and slightly dazed, astounded by what we'd just experienced.
This immersive experience is easily addictive, providing thrilling mini-quests in a virtual world that even the most inexperienced of gamers (like me) can enjoy. With its unique atmosphere and fairly-priced game packages, Otherworld is a transcendental adventure that everyone needs to try.
Otherworld is open Sunday to Thursday 11am - 11pm and Friday to Saturday 11am - midnight, and is located at 336 Acton Mews, Haggerston, London E8 4EA. Game packages for two people range from £14 to £29 depending on time and date.