I want to start by apologizing in advance in case I get a little gushy. I’m still running on an adrenaline high from this crazy cool experience.
Just off Whyte Ave, BreakoutVR is a new virtual reality games room. The short and sweet for those of you who are easily convinced is this: BreakoutVR is mind-blowing. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to jump straight into your favorite TV show or game, this is as close as you’ll get. The first game scenario I stepped into looked like a scene out of Star Wars, except I was standing directly in it. I was so shocked about how real it felt that I laughed hysterically for about five minutes straight.
Now for the longer version…
I’ll warn you that you need to go into BreakoutVR with a little imagination. Located at 10107 81 Ave, it’s easy to find, but when you first walk in, you’ll be underwhelmed. I’m not going to lie; it didn’t look very high tech, and I wasn’t expecting much. The walls are all painted dark – and a little banged up from being walked into by gamers – and aside from some computer towers and small screens hanging out on the walls in the booths, there’s not much going on. But then, you don’t come for the reality, you come for the fantasy. And this is a place that delivers on fantasy.
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I got strapped into the game with the help of Kai, the owner of Edmonton’s BreakoutVR. If the name of the place sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Breakout2 is an Edmonton escape room also run by Kai, and he also has a wildly popular BreakoutVR venue in Vancouver. So this guy knows entertainment. He knew the 42 games inside and out, and he explained why he decided to go with a brand of VR tech different than the popular Oculus Rift. After some pretty extensive testing (umm… hello? Cool job?), he went with a system called HTC Vive. It costs more, but the price is well worth it, Kai says. Since I’ve never tried the Oculus Rift, I have to take his word for it.
As I got set up, my four eyes quickly became six. The VR goggles went over my glasses no problem. Unless you have really huge frames, there’s no need for contacts. The goggles have this really nice padding around them too, so they aren’t like wearing snorkel gear.
While glasses aren’t a problem, you do want to wear appropriate clothing. Coming straight from some business meetings, I was wearing a fitted blazer, and I regretted it instantly. Wear comfy shoes and clothes that are loose and layered – because trust me, you’re going to get hot. It doesn’t feel like you’re moving much while you’re in there, but you definitely are.
Once you’re in the game, everything else fades away. I could still hear the people around me talking (when I wasn’t wearing the headphones, that is), but it was like being on the phone with them. I couldn’t see anything except this new world around me. Complete immersion. It blew my expectations out of the water.
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The games themselves are completely interactive. I tried out a bow and arrow game, and while one controller was for holding the bow, I had to reach back with the other to grab an arrow from my “quiver”, and then string it on the bow before releasing it. It felt like I was back in archery in summer camp, except a little easier to execute.
To give me a feel for just how realistic the experience can get, Kai loaded up a game that takes you into a cityscape. I rode an elevator up to the top floor of a skyscraper. When the doors opened, there was only a wood plank to walk out on, and then a massive plummet to the ground. I’ll start by saying I’m not particularly afraid of heights, but… I couldn’t do it. I got all freaked out and started hyperventilating. Even after telling myself that I was actually standing on solid ground in a building in Edmonton, and the guys talking me through it, I still just could not venture out past the first two steps on that ledge. It was total and complete mind-blowing.
I won’t go on and on about the games, because it’s something you have to experience for yourself to appreciate. But before I go, I’ll leave you with a few insider tips to make the experience even better:
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You can choose from 42 games (plus an interactive google map that lets you fly over pretty much any city in the world from any angle). Three of the most popular games are:
- Arizona Sunshine – a zombie shooting game. Think Walking Dead. Now think you’re in it. Done.
- Smashbox Arena – a dodgeball game (with dodgeball blasting guns) that’s going to get you sweating as you duck for cover. Who said gamers are lazy?
- Rec Room – A big hit with the kids, with all kinds of interactive games to try out. BreakoutVR is for all ages, so bring your kids down to try it out. Just be prepared to hear about it for months on end.
Multi-player is an option for some games. You’re not going to be in the same space (obviously that would get a little crowded as you both flail around blindly), but they can set you up for communications so you can talk to each other and block out other noise.
There’s no food or drinks served here (except energy drinks, of course) but just off Whyte Ave, you can stop in almost anywhere for a bite to eat. I’d suggest grabbing something beforehand. Just like home-gaming, VR gives you the munchies.
Parking out front is free for an hour on the angle parking side, and free period on the parallel parking side.
Hours are as follows:
- Monday – Thursday: 3pm – 9:30pm
- Friday & Saturday: 12pm – 10:30pm
- Sunday: 12pm – 6:30pm
Call to book ahead, or stop in for first-come-first-serve. If you’re bringing a party (up to 11 people can play at one time), you’ll definitely want to call to book.
Weekends are busy, but they staff more people for help and support. Weekdays are much slower, which is nice if you’ve never tried it before.
Most people spend at least an hour here, but it goes by super-fast. I’d recommend blocking off two hours if you want the full experience.
They also have a few promotions running right now:
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- Monday to Thursday you can get your second hour for $15
- Buy 4 hours get 1 free, or buy 10 hours get 3 free
This is the future, and the future is so cool. I walked out of BreakoutVR feeling like I’d just woken up from a wicked dream.
Is it overkill to say I’ll be going back?
Top three game list:
Arizona sunshine https://youtu.be/FdhDUrytPYY
Smashbox arena https://youtu.be/jP0NDgwxSc8
Rec room https://youtu.be/oJTFYVVQCkI
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Edmonton travel edmonton promote bussiness.Edmonton’s Best Virtual Reality Centre Is Completely Mind-Blowing