by Yustin Riopko
PINEVILLE – I could barely hear my partners as the roaring helicopter air-dropped our gyrosphere into the dense jungle. I wasn’t exactly sure what we were doing or where we were going, but I knew I had at least one job: scan all the dinosaurs.
We rolled down a hill to an abandoned camp, pointing and clicking our devices at some flying Pterosaurs and a long-necked Brachiosaurus that leaned in so close, I honestly got a little scared. Next, following an agile Velociraptor, our vehicle emerged into a wide-open plain.
Our vehicle teetered onto the abandoned railway in the station and began to roll – right toward a gap in the track.
A dot appeared in the sky and grew until it took the shape of a quadrotor helicopter coming to our rescue. It reached us just as we fell off the broken track and a giant razor-teethed Mesosaur exploded from the murky depths. Jerked upward by the helicopter’s clutches, we barely escaped the jaws of the 15-ton sea monster. The world faded to white as the original “Jurassic Park” soundtrack swelled in our ears and we were congratulated for our hard work.
I took off my headset and looked around Dave & Buster’s restaurant and arcade to readjust to the real world.
Dave & Buster’s locations around the country opened up their first virtual reality experience, “Jurassic World VR Expedition” on June 15. And it feels very real.
The “ride” is a stationary four-seat cart that tilts, rumbles and rocks to immerse you in the 360-degree 3D video and audio you see and hear through the attached HTC Vive headset.
You can’t see the others on the ride with you, but you can see their headsets and wands used to aim and scan dinosaurs moving in real time.
You can get your hands on a similar headset and play VR games on an Xbox, PlayStation or computer. But Pineville D&B’s General Manager Jim McGann thinks technology like their company-exclusive “Jurassic World” is more immersive.
“I don’t think you can put that platform at home,” McGann said. “And that to me feels more like real life. A lot of our clientele are gamers, so they play at home all the time – but they still yearn to come to a place like this where they have everything at their fingertips and it’s a bigger, better version.”
Although it’s currently the only VR title, “Jurassic World” isn’t the only one of Dave & Buster’s roughly 150 that’s more immersive than home gaming. “The Luigi’s Mansion” vacuum controller physically clatters when you suck up coins, the “Dark Escape” horror shooter booth features surround sound jump scares, and the multiplayer-enabled Mario Kart machines feature mechanical steering wheels and separate pedals for gas and brakes.
However, Special Events Manager Yarie Maldonado believes the point of Dave & Buster’s goes beyond fun and immersive games though.
“People can go to any arcade, but when they come here, they’re looking for that overall experience we provide,” Maldonado said. “Everything from our food, our drinks, our games – we like to unify it and give people the full Dave & Buster’s experience.”
“Jurassic World” may be the first Dave & Buster’s VR game, but amusements manager and machine operator Roger Henry said it won’t be the only one. Henry said the company designed the machine to be updated with new software, so the pieces are in place for new immersive and exciting experiences. He also confirmed future games will be associated with movie releases.
As far as what’s next, Henry made this guarantee: “I don’t know what movies are coming up, so I wouldn’t be able to tell exactly, but it’s going to be something exciting, I know.”
The new movie, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” hit theaters June 22.
Want to go?
Dave and Buster’s is located at Carolina Place Mall, 11049 Carolina Place Parkway. Call 704-969-1600 for details.