If you’re in one of the UK’s biggest cities this Christmas and you fancy doing something a little bit different with the kids (let’s face it, they’re probably sick of Christmas markets by now) then you could try taking them on a virtual reality journey with Immotion VR.
As we’re not going to have a traditional Christmas this year (we’re heading to Japan) we took our kids along to the Swindon branch at the weekend to try out some of Immotion’s VR experiences as a Christmas treat. Read on for our full Immotion VR review!
Immotion VR review
What is Immotion VR?
Immotion VR is a growing company that offers cutting edge Virtual Reality experiences. There are several different kinds of experiences that you can choose from, from cinema type rides where you sit back and relax, to more interactive games. Immotion VR have stores in shopping centres in some of the UK’s biggest cities, making them easy to reach.
What does Immotion VR offer?
Immotion VR have invested in the latest VR technology to design different interactive rides and experiences. Each person wears a VR headset and the visuals are matched by the motion of the equipment.
There are a variety of experiences, aimed at different age groups – both kid-friendly and more grown-up scenarios. At the larger locations there are up to 12 spots on different types of experiences. There are Cinema Pods (suitable for all), racing cars with unlimited track including F1 tracks like the Nurburgring, shoot’em up style arcade games, and more. Some of the equipment that we didn’t see include VR Fire, which is a rotating gun turret for a shooter game, and VR Explorer which hooks you up to the equipment and allows you to run and jump in the game while staying in the same place in reality.
The experiences aren’t classified or rated like a film would be, so if you’ve got small children and you’re not sure which experience to go for then ask the staff who will advise you. The final decision is left with parents (I probably wouldn’t let the kids near Affected: The Manor or Jinxed!).
Our experience at ImmotionVR Swindon
The Swindon branch of Immotion is one of the shopping centre pop-ups, and it’s located on the top level of Brunel Shopping Centre. At Swindon you’ll find four VR Cinema Pods, two cars and a free-standing Space Pirates shooter game.
We were greeted by Imogen and Sam who were super helpful and friendly, and answered all of our questions about ImmotionVR. They put the kids at ease and explained what would happen during the experience, as our kids didn’t have a scooby about VR technology!
We were looking forward to trying out the Elves Power Christmas experience which is suitable for small kids, and is running for the Christmas period 2018. In this VR experience kids have to help some of Santa’s Elves deliver Christmas presents. Unfortunately the program had not been delivered to the Swindon branch when we visited, although the staff were expecting it at any time. I think we were a bit too early! The kids didn’t mind and so we tried out some of the other experiences instead.
VR Cinema Pods
The pods are egg shaped, gleaming white with electric blue lighting, so they look suitably futuristic. They’re also very comfy. The VR headsets are adjustable and padded, and light enough for small children to wear without discomfort. The pods are paired so that two people can have the same experience at the same time.
If you’ve ever been to a theme park with a VR experience, then you’ll know that slight movements combined with changing visuals on a screen can really help you to feel immersed in the experience. The ImmotionVR visuals are good, and you can look around you to about 180 degrees. Sound comes from two speakers at head level in the pod, and they’re unobtrusive when you’re not in the pod but clear as a bell when you are.
The VR Cinema Pods are suitable for everyone – provided that small children will wear the headset. The boy is 3 and he sat happily in the chair but wouldn’t wear the visor – he didn’t like having his eyes covered. He’s not used to wearing goggles or anything so he can’t be blamed! However the 5 year old girl wasn’t nearly so fussy and she had a couple of goes on the pod. The Cinema Pods are great for small kids as you don’t need to control them and you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Dragon Island and Legend of Lusca on the Cinema Pods
We weren’t sure which experiences would be suitable for our daughter so we deferred to the staff to choose for her. The first experience Imogen recommended was a ride on the back of a dragon, through a fantasy world. The husband took this ride with the girl and he said it was good for small kids, and that the world was similar to Pokemon. As a Pokemon fan, the girl loved this experience and wanted to do it again straight away.
I decided to take a ride with her the second time and we chose an under the sea experience, the Legend of Lusca. The pods tilt with the visuals so as we plunged into the sea we really felt as though we were descending underwater. We were taken on a tour around a coral reef and into a shipwreck before going back to our boat. The movements were very gentle and added to the 3D visuals without distracting from them.
The underwater adventure was also suitable for kids, although ones perhaps a little older than the girl. There’s one part where a shark takes a snap at you, and you also have a rather close encounter with a giant squid. The shark was too much for the girl and she took her headset off, but she still said that she enjoyed her trip underwater!
Imogen and Sam also demonstrated how the cars and the shooter games worked, as the kids were too small to try either of these games. The fun thing about the car and the shooter was that an observer could see what the player was seeing on a screen. There’s loads of track to choose from for the racing games, and in some stores there are also Tron-style bikes which look fantastic. Of course, both the bikes and the cars move and match with the visuals. There are more shooter experiences to choose from too, and some of these can be played with team mates.
Know before you go
Where can I find Immotion VR stores?
There are Immotion VR sites across the UK. The biggest stores with the most experiences are found in Wembley, Bristol and Manchester. As Immotion is expanding there are several smaller sites like the Swindon pop-up that we visited. These pop ups can be found in shopping centres so they’re ideal for a quick break from shopping! You can get a full list of their stores and book your slot online.
How much does it cost?
There are several different ticket types depending on what you’d like to experience. At the larger stores you might want to spend a bit longer trying out several experiences. This costs £30 per hour. A half hour session costs £20, or you can try individual experiences for £5 each. Each experience lasts roughly 5 minutes, although some, like the shooting, might take longer if they’re based on how many hits you get. If you’re in a big group or you’re pressed for time then it might be worth pre-booking your slot. Otherwise you can just drop in if it’s not busy.
Who is Immotion VR for?
You need to be pretty mobile to use most of the VR equipment. Some of the games aren’t suitable for kids under 8, and as we discovered, small kids might not like wearing the visors, no matter how comfy they are. However as long as you’re happy to wear the visor then the VR Cinema Pods are suitable for most people, including small kids. The Harnessed platform at Bristol has height and weight limits.
The girl really enjoyed her experience on the Cinema Pod. It’s a shame the boy wouldn’t wear his headset because I think he’d have loved it too. Perhaps we’ll have to take him back in a few months and try again. New films are added to the Cinema Pods regularly, and some are aimed at small kids, like the Elf Power Inc Christmas special.
I think that older children, 8+ which is the target market for Immotion VR, would really enjoy the racing, shooter games and other experiences offered. Our kids were just a bit too small to get really stuck in to the experience. But overall we felt that the staff were friendly, the equipment looked pretty cool and was well looked after, and the whole VR experience was good fun.
While an hour long slot sounds expensive at £30 (especially if there are four of you) the pricing structure is quite flexible so if you only want to have one or two goes it’s not too bad – you’d pay the same for a funfair ride. So in conclusion, we’d recommend the cinema pods for everyone, and older kids (and adults) would go nuts for some of the other games.
And make sure you try out the Elf Power Inc this Christmas – it does look super cute!
Disclaimer: we were offered a free experience at Immotion VR in exchange for an honest review.
Have you ever experienced Virtual Reality? Is it something you’d like to do? Let us know in the comments!
We also tried virtual reality in Rome at the Baths of Caracalla. Click here to find out how VR is transforming ancient sites!