I have visited “Smarty Pants”, for their logic-focused escape rooms before. They are the only such type of experience in Vancouver to be featured on Canada’s small business investment show, “Dragon’s Den”. Their themed event rooms come with rich backgrounds, hosted by dedicated actors in costume. They focused on the “logic underlying where you are, how you got there and why you’re trying to escape” (as per their website). It is challenging, yet fun. Not scary, but instead you get more of an exciting and nerve racking feeling, as your adventures include a ticking clock.
But today I was invited back to try the next generation of escape room. “Smarty Pantz” is the first in the city to be offering the experience in virtual reality (VR). Currently they only have one game to choose from, but are working to bring you more. And the best part? This escape room needs minimal set up, less resources in props and actors; for just as an engaging time, if not more.
Although there is something to be said for the ability to search for clues in a room set up with booby traps and secret hiding spots, with your own two hands. To read about my original visit and what it is like, click on the link below.
Like all of the other escape room themed establishments, if this is your first time with them, you sign a liability waver before you are ushered in.
The VR experience is the “SS Tiberia 4”. And like the regular rooms it comes with an elaborate back story to better take you into the imaginary world they have concocted. The plot is: you are a team of astronauts floating in space in a malfunctioning spacecraft. Your mission is to stop an asteroid from hurling itself towards the earth, where you and your maximum team of four are the only ones in its way. But first you have to fix your ship.
Other than that you don’t get much more information on your objectives, so it is best you pay attention to your host for clues. And after a quick safety lesson, you are strapped in and geared up. A back pack gets pulled over your shoulders and strapped in around your waist, head gear with goggles get tightened around your head, and remotes are tethered to each of your wrists as you grip two controllers. The latter enact as your virtual hands. Animated fingers that close and grip with a squeeze of a button.
I won’t go into much more detail here, as to not spoil the challenge or ruin the experience for you, that is if you take my advice and go. But I assure you it’s worth your time. I have never experienced anything else like this. Realistic enough to have you walking into walls, and trying to climb on to imaginary crates. Enough that you are given a warning that none of it is real, and that the room is as empty as it was when you first stepped in.
Your host stays within the room to help guide you and steer you in the right direction, should you get stuck. They watch what you are doing and how you perceive it through your VR goggles, on a television monitor.
Sadly one of our party of four with glasses wasn’t able to participate, as she was unable to view the 3D world within her goggles, with and without her glasses. So she sat out and watched our 30 minute trial unfold from the television as well. We could have used a fourth for the brain power, but I suspect watching it is a different kind of fun.
In the end were given multiple do-overs and still managed to fall short at 86% completion. It was mentally and physically challenging and therefore a more engaging and fun time than I originally anticipated.
Hopefully my review is enough to peak your interest and have you heading down to “Smarty Pantz” yourself, to give this space adventure a shot. It is definitely worth your time and your money to try the technology that will be revolutionizing escape rooms for years to come.
100-289 Abbott Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2K7